Strategy What it's REALLY like to work at Facebook

  • Published:

An inside look at what it's like to work for the Facebook, which was just named Glassdoor's best place to work in the US for 2018.

We spoke with Facebook employees to get the inside scoop. play

We spoke with Facebook employees to get the inside scoop.

(Glassdoor/Facebook)
24/7 Live - Subscribe to the Pulse Newsletter!

• Job site Glassdoor has declared Facebook to be the most desirable place to work.

Employees cited the tech giant's impact, culture, perks, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg as huge draws.

• Business Insider spoke with two Facebook employees to get a better sense of what it's like to work at the tech giant.



It's official — Facebook is the best place to work in the US.

Glassdoor just came out with it's annual ranking, and employees say they love the tech giant's mission, culture, perks, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

To see what the big deal is all about, Business Insider spoke with two Facebook employees, product design engineering director Caitlin Kalinowski and prototyping engineer Spencer Burns.

Kalinowski works for the company's virtual reality division Oculus. Her team is responsible for designing and helping to manufacture the physical parts that go into making Oculus products.

Burns works in Area 404, the company's hardware lab. He helps engineers design and manufacture prototypes using CnC machines, 3D printers, and other advanced technologies.

Here's what they had to say about what it's really like to work at Facebook:

Employees say there is no typical day at Facebook

Caitlin Kalinowski at work. play

Caitlin Kalinowski at work.

(Elizabeth Gilmore)

There's no such thing as a routine day at Facebook, according to Kalinowski and Burns.

Two thirds of Kalinowski's team is based in Seattle, so she typically flies up there at least once a week. Her days often include design reviews, checking up on the progress of products and designs, tons of one-on-ones with direct reports, and meetings focused on improving cross-functional communication.

For Burns, the day starts with a visit to Facebook's on-site gym for a group fitness class like yoga or Spartan SGX.

"After that, I'll usually go and get a little bit of breakfast at one of our cafés and get a coffee," Burns told Business Insider. "I definitely have to have my morning coffee."

Then it's off to the lab, where he checks in with colleagues to see if there are any pressing matters to prioritize. From there, he might be working on programming and running CnC machines, designing components for a project, or going to design review meetings to help engineers.

"My work life balance is normally really great," Burns said. "I'm normally not here very late. I work very reasonable hours."



The hiring process can involve everything from a full day of interviews to a call from Mark Zuckerberg

Spencer Burns at work. play

Spencer Burns at work.

(Facebook)

Like many companies, Facebook's hiring process can vary a bit, depending on your level of experience.

Kalinowski was working at Apple in 2012 when some upper-level Facebook execs began recruiting her. Then she got a surprising call one day.

"Mark Zuckerberg ended up calling me, which was really unexpected," she said. "I think that's one of the things that's really impressive about him in particular. I feel like he reaches down deep into his organizations — in recruiting, but also in getting to know people."

Burns joined Facebook in January of 2016. He went through a day's worth of interviews with about five or six interviewers, which he said is fairly standard for the industry.

From the get go, he had a gut feeling the company was a great fit. His inkling only grew stronger after the interviews.

"I actually felt really good after it because I realized that they take it very seriously," Burns said. "They really want the brightest and the best and they want to make sure they get the right people. I met some really cool people in my interview as well, so I was really excited about it."



Facebook is looking to hire driven people with specific, valuable skills

Caitlin Kalinowski. play

Caitlin Kalinowski.

(Elizabeth Gilmore)

Unsurprisingly, when it comes to landing a job at Facebook, it's not enough to just want a job at Facebook.

"It's really difficult to set a goal like, 'Oh, I want to be a software engineer at Facebook,'" Burns said.

Instead, he advised focusing on honing your passion and mastering your chosen field.

"If you just focus on that and you become really, really great at it and kind of build a reputation, then I think you're going to have a great chance at landing somewhere like Facebook," he said. "It boils down to being super passionate about what you do, whether it's software engineering or hardware engineering."

Kalinowski adds that it's important for more senior candidates to have specialized skills.

"I don't want to hire an entire team of perfectly well-rounded engineers who can all do the same stuff equally well," she said. "My personal philosophy, which dovetails nicely with the Facebook philosophy, is, I want high points. I'm looking for someone who's shown a particular skill in a certain area."



The office environment encourages openness and collaboration

Facebook's London office. play

Facebook's London office.

(Toby Melville/Reuters)

Facebook features a fluid, open environment, across its various subcultures.

Burns said reports of Area 404 being a "super secretive" lab are overexaggerated.

"If you're hanging out at work or bringing around your parents to show them the campus, you can bring them to the lab and we'll show you all the cool equipment and some of the things we're working on," he said.

He said that's not the norm for a major tech company's prototyping labs, which are often "behind several layers of badge access."

He said the office's openness allows for employees to easily solve problems together.

"There's definitely a lot of people walking around and a lot of things happening and conversations," he said. "You just have every opportunity to learn from your colleagues and to collaborate."

Kalinowski said Oculus has its own uniquely "high tech" subculture. Overall, she said Facebook is a company in which one can move about with ease. The result? Less barriers to getting work done.

"Once you're in, you're in," she said. "As an engineer, that's something I really appreciate."



There are plenty of perks, but the biggest benefit for employees is convenience

Facebook's New York office. play

Facebook's New York office.

(Sarah Jacobs)

Facebook is famous for its generous perks. Its offices boast free meals, on-site health check-ups, dental care, hair cuts, laundry services, you name it.

But Kalinowski and Burns both agreed that it's the philosophy behind the benefits that really counts.

"The point of all that is to give people the ability to focus on what they love," Kalinowski said. "That kind of dovetails into our strengths-based management philosophy."

Her favorite benefit is the office fitness center.

"I go three times a week and I have a trainer that I love," she said.

Burns said he liked the medical facilities in particular. He's been able to visit the doctor and see a dentist in the past few months with ease. He also injured his shoulder a while back and said the on-site physical therapist was a major help during his recovery.

"We have these amazing facilities to help take care of you," Burns said. "That just makes things really easy for me throughout my day."



Communication skills — and passion — will get you far

Caitlin Kalinowski. play

Caitlin Kalinowski.

(Elizabeth Gilmore)

Facebook may be a tech company, but, before all else, it's a social company.

For Kalinowski, that means employees who are able to both connect with others and clearly explain tough technical problems tend to do well.

"Being able to lock in with somebody and communicate about complicated subject with ease, that's a difficult communication skill," Kalinowski said.

Burns said the company also values passionate people, regardless of their area of expertise.

"I think that's the number one thing for me, to just see a fire inside of somebody when they're really excited to do some cool work," he said. "If you've got passion, that will take you a long way."



The company's values are important to everyone

Facebook's New York office. play

Facebook's New York office.

(Sarah Jacobs)

Before Kalinowski and Burns joined Facebook, they'd both read up on the company's transparency and core mission of connecting the world.

It sounded nice, for sure. But when they started working at Facebook, both said they came to realize values were something employees truly cared about.

"That's a real thing," Kalinowski said. "I think it's really hard to describe to people who are outside the company how genuine our desire to do that is and how it drives almost everything that happens within the walls of the company."

Burns agreed, saying that the company "practices what it preaches" and citing CEO Mark Zuckerberg's candid weekly Q&A's with employees.

"You read a lot of things on Glassdoor about the culture being open and how everything's transparent," he said. "But after being here really only like a week or true, I realized that it's all very true. They take it very seriously. Everybody's just super open and nice. It's truly what you read in the papers or Glassdoor."

"There's a lot of mission statements out there," Kalinowski said. "It's pretty refreshing to find out that this one is a genuine driver of everything the company does."



Facebook employees say they're excited to head to the office every day, and love the work and the people

Spencer Burns. play

Spencer Burns.

(Facebook)

When it came to naming the best thing about working at Facebook, Kalinowski and Burns both had to pause to parse down their list.

For Kalinowski, it comes down to loving both the work and the people she works with.

"There are a lot of places you can work where you like the people but the technical work may not be as exciting," Kalinowski said. "And there's a lot of places where the technical work's exciting and you may not get along as well with the people."

Burns said he appreciates the feeling of autonomy he gets from doing work he cares about that will forward the company's mission. He added the support team members get from management, "all the way up to Mark," is encouraging as well.

"Every Sunday night, I go to bed and sleep great," he said. "Every Monday morning I wake up and I'm excited to come to work because I know I get to work on the things I'm most passionate about."



What it's REALLY like to work at Facebook, in three sentences or less

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg with employees. play

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg with employees.

(Glassdoor)

Lastly, Business Insider asked both Facebook employees to sum up what the company was really like in three sentences or less.

"I think we've got some of the hardest technical problems and some of the largest scale," Kalinowski said. "I don't believe there's anywhere else that has the complexity of technical work with the scale that we're working on. So, therefore, the impact of the engineering work that we're doing is very significant and that's really appealing to me."

"I think working at Facebook is as if I could design a dream job of something I want to do every day for the rest of my life and then make it even better," Burns said. "And that's my job. It's been almost two years, and every day still feels pretty special."