What’s striking about Building 20 is how hard Facebook has worked to preserve the stripped-down, collaborative atmosphere of the workplaces that preceded it. The floors are still bare cement; girders and vents remain exposed. Staffers, as before, are encouraged to write on walls. Everyone—CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg included—works at tables in open spaces.
In short, any specific nook or cranny resembles the vastly smaller premises that Facebook called home five or 10 years ago. That’s very much by design, and it reflects the company’s obsessive desire to scale up the fabulously successful working environment that Zuckerberg devised in the early years, which is a big part of preserving its culture.
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One reason Facebook has managed to keep on attracting top engineering talent is that it isn’t just the same company it was a decade ago, only larger. The company has discrete teams working on Instagram, Oculus VR, Messenger, WhatsApp, and other projects.
“Smart people generally want to work with other smart people on hard problems,” says Instagram cofounder and CEO Kevin Systrom, who became responsible for integrating his tiny startup into the greater Facebook culture when Instagram was acquired in 2012. “When you start to get a critical mass of smart, driven people in an area, they want to work together. When you think of the best universities in the world, they work this way, too. You get some of the best thinkers in political science or physics or whatever. There’s a positive feedback loop once you build to a certain size. I feel like I’ve seen that develop over the last few years here. And that doesn’t happen at many companies.”
“Facebook’s mission is to give everyone in the world the power to share, and to make the world more open and connected,” he wrote. “Connecting the world is one of the fundamental challenges of our generation, so this is a long-term effort. As long as we stay focused on that mission, we’re going to keep attracting talented people who share the same goal and want to make it a reality.”