Thank you Wit, Thank you Facebook

Stepan Parunashvili
Stepan ParunashviliMar 18th, 2019

It all began with an email. I saw a small startup with an esoteric domain name, and even more esoteric technology. They wanted someone who knew Clojure, Rust, ML, React (before it was cool). I knew Ruby and Javascript from hacking on my own projects. But hey, we gotta go for what we want 🙂

From that email, I discovered a rag-tag group of people, out of which 3 of us were learning Mandarin, and all of us were new to the U.S. We were weird in the same way, and that was energizing.

In the interview we worked together and grabbed drinks afterwards. I was slightly under 21 at the time, but thankfully because the U.S. has their date format MM/DD/YY, my Canadian passport of DD/MM/YY got me through.

The day I met them, I knew this was the place for me. The CEO Alex and COO Laurent were friends for over a decade, and leaders where I would learn from every conversation. The CTO Willy was one of the most talented engineers I had met. The first engineer Oliv took care of me like a brother. Martin was the most fearless engineer I had ever met, and one of the most caring friends. Julien became a partner, as we grew together in every way. We were joined by some of the most talented people I’ve ever gotten to work with: Anthony, Alexander, Jen, Aric.

The Fateful Email

Soon after, we got an email from Facebook. Now, we weren’t looking, but when David Marcus and Zuck send an email, you take the time to answer. 2 months, and a few amazing lawyers later, we made it to Facebook

Is this the end or the beginning? Definitely the beginning

The Journey Begins

When we came in, we got bit by the Facebook bug. Everyone was optimistic and went for world-changing results. Even a mission like “create an Assistant that can answer any question” was plausible.

So, we tried 🙂. We iterated and iterated, and the team expanded. We stole Daniel away from an enticing offer from Google. Not sure how much he knows, but I felt like we hit the jackpot when Spencer joined us. Kemal came to change the game, Prince, Jing, Loredana, Henry, Sean, Brian, Cody transformed us into two dream-teams.

This could only have happened at Facebook. David, Raymond I’m humbled by your belief in us and in your leadership of Messenger.

Our teams built M, which soon turned into M Suggestions, now servicing millions and millions of users every day. We took Wit forward and built it into a tool that’s used by over one hundred and eighty thousand engineers.

Days before F8, there was some seerious work to do. Champagne helps

As we grew, Messenger grew with us, and we became a whole family. Yoram became our director, one of the best mentors a I could have asked for. Nick, Helen, Rajesh, and Weihu became my managers, and some of the best coaches I could have asked for.

The core team expanded too. We nabbed Aleka, and she brought care and true ownership to the entire Wit experience. Jason joined and infused a fearless spirit into the team. Marion helped give Wit a real voice.

Alongside Wit, the M team grew. Anthony & Yarik were phenomenal technical leaders, Yi Tong, Christopher, Mo Mo joined

Plus, we had some of the best interns. Tony and Pasha are blazing away at Facebook as we speak, and many are on their way.

A full on family was formed

The Journey comes to a close

After 5 years, and my entire 20s, I began to think about the next chapter. One question I would ask though was this — are we ready?

I’ll tell you when I knew without a doubt:

Every year, the Wit team would go to our favorite restaurant, Da Sichuan.

Alex carries back Da Sichuan’s Ma Po Tofu sauce to France

Last year, we went as the a whole new team.

And heck, if that’s not enough, the team joined in on Georgian traditions…

I saw Wit was ready, and I knew in my heart I was ready too. I came to Wit as a kid, and I leave as an adult. I’m grateful for every moment.

In my internal post, I left a piece of advice for those at Facebook, and I thought I’d share it externally too:

Work and life is what you make of it. Come in with a positive attitude, come in wanting to change the world, come in wanting to make life long friends, come in ready to learn and grow. Do this, and watch how reality forms around you.

Thank you 🙂


You may be wondering — what’s next? The short answer: Airbnb — I’m thrilled to be joining, and there’s a whole story about choosing — will write that up in a bit.