Regina Dugan, head of Facebook’s secretive Building 8 research lab is leaving the company after just 18 months, she said in a post on the platform. She said it was a “difficult decision,” and that she’d be “building and leading” a new, undisclosed endeavor after she leaves in early 2018.
Dugan, who has a PhD in mechanical engineering from the California Institute of Technology, ran the Advanced Technologies and Projects lab at Google before joining Facebook in April 2016. What seemed to give her particular credibility in the eyes of CEO Mark Zuckerberg, was her time as the head of the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, which played an important role in breakthroughs such as the development of the GPS, and the internet itself. At Building 8, she oversaw Facebook’s new hardware projects, all of which are still under wraps.
Her departure means one less powerful woman in a company where women make up 35% of the workforce, and 28% of the senior leadership. Facebook lately has publicly talked about the need for more diversity among its ranks, and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg last week said the company plans to add an African-American member to its board of directors. The company’s eight-member board is all white and includes two women, including Sandberg.
Dugan, who was particularly visible at Facebook, has publicly talked about diversity leading to better innovation. “You have to get to the place where you aren’t made comfortable by the fact that everyone is the same, but rather feel inspired by how different we are. We get better problem-solving that way,” she told a Fast Company conference last November.
In April, at Facebook’s F8 developer conference, Dugan spoke about the company’s goals to make the integration of humans and technology more seamless, detailing a technology that would allow humans to type 100 words a minute by simply thinking them.
“You have many thoughts, you choose to share some of them. We’re talking about decoding those words, the ones you’ve chosen to share,” she said, as Quartz reported at the time. “The ability to send a quick text without taking out your phone, or respond to an email without leaving the party.”
Here’s her full talk:
In a statement sent to Quartz by a Facebook spokesperson, CTO Mike Schroepfer said that Dugan built an “amazing team” that “will feel the positive impact of her work for years to come.”
Dugan said that people in the tech industry have “greater responsibilities than ever before,” and that “the timing feels right to step away and be purposeful about what’s next, thoughtful about new ways to contribute in times of disruption.”
Here’s her post announcing the resignation, in which she quotes John F. Kennedy: