Fittingly, when we checked into the lobby at Facebook’s headquarters, Ginuwine was crooning over the loudspeakers: “My whole life has changed since you came in....” Facebook’s rollout in the early aughts changed almost everyone’s life. (Even Ginuwine’s — the R&B singer is verified on the platform!) Today, the way people meet, flirt, share photos and get invited to parties is often mediated by Facebook or one of its subsidiary apps, like Instagram and WhatsApp.
Facebook’s success has been so resounding, it has changed Facebook itself. No longer a scrappy up-and-comer, it’s now one of the world’s most successful social media and digital advertising platforms.
This has brought on some internal shifts. Once guided by the maxim “move fast and break things,” Facebook now simply strives to “move fast” (or “move fast and eat things,” a tongue-in-cheek message emblazoned on a campus burger shack). Though Facebook still invests heavily in growing its user base — an early priority — it’s also begun to invest more in content moderation and security measures.
In other words: Facebook has gotten, as Ginuwine would say, “so responsible.” It’s grown up. Its headquarters have also grown outwards, sprawling across multiple campuses. We toured Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters to find out what it’s like to work for the life-changing social media giant.
Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park sit on the edge of San Francisco Bay, on a sprawling campus that feels more like a town than an office. “MPK,” as insiders call it, covers more than 250 acres and contains more than 30 buildings.
Though headquarters isn’t in an urban center, more than half of Facebook’s employees get to work via alternative transportation, whether that’s biking or public transit. Facebook runs regular shuttles to and from the Menlo Park Caltrain station, which is about a 10-minute drive away, and provides employees with a transit stipend. However, campus also has plentiful parking for those who drive.
More than a quarter of Facebook’s 45,000 global employees work out of Menlo Park, and the massive team does “a little bit of everything,” said Chloe Meyere, a communications manager at Facebook. People specializing in engineering, product, communications and virtual reality are all scattered fairly randomly across the campus — one of many design touches intended to foster cross-functional collaboration. (Another one: The internal Hackathons, where the only rule is that employees have to work on projects they wouldn’t normally work on. Facebook’s newsfeed was born out of a Hackathon.)
Facebook has matured as a company, but it still retains a healthy dose of its early, hacker culture. This extends from the campus’s address — 1 Hacker Way — into the office interiors.
“We try to hack our spaces,” Meyere said. That can mean personalizing a desk, hanging a Pride flag from a banister, or doing something a bit more elaborate.
Once, for instance, an employee spontaneously brought a Japanese game to campus and installed it in a closet. Other employees brought in games of their own, and soon the closet had been transformed into a bustling arcade, complete with a Dance Dance Revolution stage.
The arcade isn’t perfect — because it’s maintained by employees, some of the games don’t work— but it shows how Facebook, as an institution, strives to empower employees and embrace change. Here are some other highlights of Facebook Menlo Park.
It’s Basically Disneyland
Facebook hired consultants who helped design Disneyland to build out the campus’s main street, which looks like a fusion of Palo Alto, the nearby town where Facebook was founded, and Downtown Disney. Though there are no amusement park rides (we asked), the winding central road is lined with a “mishmash of employee benefits and services and small businesses,” Meyere said. Shops include a Philz Coffee, a barbershop, and an outpost of Sol, a Palo Alto Mexican restaurant. Facebook’s founders loved Sol so much, they convinced the owners to open a campus location.
Frank Gehry Designed Two Buildings...
Frank Gehry famously designed the Dancing House in Prague, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago’s Millennium Park — and he also designed two connected buildings on Facebook’s campus, MPK 20 and 21. Unlike some of Gehry’s sculptural metallic creations, these open-plan buildings aim to integrate into the surrounding ecosystem, with big windows; a chain of tree-filled courtyards or “town squares”; and fritted windows, which keep birds from crashing into the glass.
Gehry’s design encourages employees to weave in and out of outdoor spaces during a normal workday. Of one “little mini town square,” Meyere said: “It’s actually a really nice, bucolic place to hang out.”
...Crowned by a Giant Park
Facebook’s rooftop park spans 12.6 acres, and employees often jog on the roughly mile-long gravel path that winds through its greenery. Other park highlights include the ubiquitous shrubs — the park contains over 150,000, according to Meyere — and the solar panels that generate almost two million kilowatts of electricity a year. (That’s enough to power 70,000 homes for a day.)
Foxes Roam the Campus
The first sticker rolled out in Facebook Messenger was a fox — and that’s no coincidence. The Facebook campus is so integrated with the natural world that employees often spot foxes on the grounds. They’re so pervasive, in fact, that Facebook has fox safety signs posted in its outdoor spaces, warning visitors to keep their distance. “We’re Cute, Famous and WILD!!!” the signs explain.
The Food Comes From Around the World
Though Facebook’s culinary team relies on locally sourced ingredients, the actual array of dishes on offer at lunchtime is strikingly global. One “culinary concept,” a cafeteria-style campus restaurant, serves exclusively Indian food; in another dining area — the campus is full of them — we tried some chicken pozole, a traditionally Mexican soup.
Rumor has it that the chefs match the lunchtime Muzak to the cuisine too, so they might play Nigerian music on the day they serve jollof rice.
Employees Can Get Their Clothes Cleaned at Work...
Facebook provides employees with plenty of “utilitarian” benefits “to make people’s lives easier,” Meyere said — including laundry service. Run by Purple Tie, an eco-friendly dry cleaning and laundry company, the free service picks up and drops off on campus.
...or Work Outside by Firelight
One of Gehry’s additions to the campus was “The Bowl,” a shaded outdoor terrace where employees can work and socialize. At the center of each outdoor table sits a built-in gas fireplace; employees can turn the flames on and off at will. (In other words: It’s easy to roast s’mores at work.)
The HQ Doubles as an Art Museum
Gehry isn’t the only renowned creator represented at Facebook. The in-house artist-in-residence program, led by Guggenheim alum Tina Vaz, has placed 15 art installations throughout Gehry’s buildings. The striking one above, by Elias Sime, consists entirely of recycled computer parts like keycaps and motherboard fragments. Inspired by time Sime spent in California’s redwood forests, the installation looks a bit like a network of tree roots — fitting decor for the world’s largest social network.