Leaving Sardinia «is an act of courage» but in Silicon Valley, on the other side of the world, «I brought a lot of my Nuoro DNA». Francesco Fogu, 35, lives and works in San Francisco where he is director of Product Design for Meta, the American multinational that controls Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger. But his name is also linked to MarketPlace, the buy-buy section of Facebook: it was he who designed and founded the famous virtual showcase known throughout the world.

After studying at the University of Sassari, Faculty of Architecture, he started traveling at the age of 18. Stops in Austria for Erasmus, with an in-depth study on Interaction Design, and then Iceland. «Today I am the result of training due to various cultures and this aspect is reflected in the team that I have built within Instagram where people from various corners of the planet interact and it is a great wealth, it allows you to see reality from different points of view."

Sardinia-San Francisco one way?

«Yes, but without forgetting who I am and where I come from. Nuoro has given me so much, it has formed that DNA that I carry with me every day both at work and on a personal level. There are some aspects of Sardinia that were fundamental in understanding my passions and applying them in my profession."

Which ones for example?

«My land is a somewhat remote place where time passes slowly, but there is a very lively interest in the language, the territory, the culture. I acquired resilience there, in the sense of strength and attachment but also flexibility and adaptability. I understood how to work in companies, with the ability to resist external stress while maintaining your original identity. And over time your idea grows stronger."

What does Meta's Product Designer do?

«Actually, I ended up in the technology field a bit by chance. I have always had an interest in the human sciences and over time I understood, after my studies, where I could direct this passion. It is a fairly new job for Italy. The Product Designer is someone responsible for creating new features or services. The mind of new ideas to ensure that the company evolves and remains relevant."

What skills are needed?

«You must know how to read market needs, understand what is missing on Facebook or Instagram and create something new to satisfy users' needs. It's a technical and artistic job, I like to think of my team as a forge: sensing trends and devising proposals for new features is the fulcrum."

L'Head Quarter di Meta (foto concessa)
L'Head Quarter di Meta (foto concessa)

L'Head Quarter di Meta (foto concessa)

What is the most difficult aspect?

«Knowing how to create services that can be used by everyone, with every language and for every level of education. They are products that must be available to 2 billion people, because this is the number of users who interface with my products every day."

How do you get to a job of this level?

«With experience and combining creativity and technique. This is what I suggest to aspiring designers. I always recommend internships in various countries that have different cultures, with full immersion in companies to understand how products are built. This is how I started, in small businesses, then the multinational Paypal and finally I arrived at Meta. These are skills you build over time."

Today we talk more and more about the dangers of social networks.

«They have opened a window on the world. Anyone with a smartphone, a smartwatch, a computer can go and find out what's happening anywhere. But the negative aspects are one of the focuses of the teams whose mission is to create a positive and safe environment for our platform. The role of this team, which identifies itself as Well-Being , is to provide tools so that users stay away from unpleasant situations and feel at ease. Obviously to express oneself in a civil manner."

All this often doesn't happen.

«And this is precisely where our role comes into play, ensuring that those who use social media have the right weapons without at the same time imposing a voice that can divert ideas».

L'Head Quarter di Instagram (foto concessa)
L'Head Quarter di Instagram (foto concessa)

L'Head Quarter di Instagram (foto concessa)

In recent weeks we have witnessed increasingly frequent phenomena of attacks via social media, Chiara Ferragni being one case above all. Is there any filter?

«For years my team has been using artificial intelligence to detect bullying and other harmful content, and my role is - in addition to creating detection tools - also to design and launch new features to make the community capable of protecting itself. Chiara Ferragni is an influencer who has very different needs, so we need to design tools for creators with millions of followers who need to be able to control millions of pieces of information. And at the same time offer similar tools for others, to defend themselves from unwanted situations but at different levels."

How does it work in practice?

«We use filters and a two-channel approach: artificial intelligence, which screens the contents of the platform, and the controls available to users».

Who is most at risk?

«There is no real target, rather people who are more vulnerable than others, such as young people. I'm talking about girls and boys aged 14-16 who have created an account for the first time, are showing themselves to the world and are not equipped with tools from a protection point of view compared to what an adult can be. We have a specific team that designs solutions specifically for the youngest."

However, how can social media be used well?

«I often give an example that concerns me directly. For years I tried to explain to my grandmother what my job consisted of. Then I gave her an iPad and since then a world has opened up to her. My grandmother lives in Nuoro, she is 92 years old, and today she keeps up to date on everything: she follows me on social media, she "likes" my photos, and every Saturday she calls me via Messenger. Without social media none of this would have been possible."

You left Sardinia with a dream in your suitcase, would you do it again?

"Absolutely yes. I was born and lived in Nuoro, I have always had great appreciation for this city with such strong values and where culture is rooted in everyone. It gave me the dream of being able to use art and knowledge in a global working context. I would do it all again but for nothing in the world would I lose my DNA, respect and courage to preserve traditions. Nuoro was a point of inspiration on an artistic level."

Francesco Fogu (foto concessa)
Francesco Fogu (foto concessa)

Francesco Fogu (foto concessa)

Nothing to do with the USA?

«Americans do not enjoy all these privileges that I carry with me every day. This is why I feel a bit special, I am a citizen of the world with Nuoro roots, with strong Sardinian values, and on the other hand I apply these characteristics to technology."

Is emigration still a verb that carries with it a note of profound nostalgia?

«I am the person I am today because I had the courage to leave Sardinia, emigration always has a slightly negative connotation but they are efforts you make which will then give you the tools to adapt to new situations. If I had stayed I would never have had certain opportunities, but I don't say this with a sense of criticism."

How do you see Sardinia from Silicon Valley?

«I see a future of hope, it is a land that can give so much, it is unique. It has a perfect climate, enviable and respectable traditions, space, culture. We just need to understand how to exploit all this, and it is an island that must learn to evolve in many fields."

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