10 Things I Learned During My First Year At Facebook

At Facebook we celebrate Faceversaries, the day you joined Facebook. Last weekend I celebrated my 1st Facerverary.

The reason I love this tradition is that it’s a great opportunity to celebrate the contribution of each person to the success of the company and of the team he belongs to, and also a good excuse to ponder about not just your achievements during the year but also what you learned.

So what did I learn in my first year at Facebook?   Here are 10 things:

  1. Working with great people is an amazing experience. It’s hard to explain how challenging, and fun, it is to lead a team of talented people, each in their own domain. To work with people who push you to succeed, not by pushing you from behind but running in front of you. To learn, to listen, to grow. 
  2. It’s all about high standards. Everything done in Facebook is of the highest standard. Without compromise. It starts from recruiting, open position the can remain open for months but no one will dare to compromise on a candidate that is not a perfect fit. Everything we do is of the highest standard. Even the food (oh, the food!), everything. During this year I had to apologize, in a few occasions, during the production of various events, that we simply don’t know how to organize something that is not 100% perfect. For a long time I told myself this just privilege. But when you take a good look at successful companies, when hear those entrepreneurs discuss their learnings, you realize there is no other way.
  3. Transparency is power, not a problem. Almost everything on Facebook is transparent. To any employee. It enables anyone to give feedback, state an opinion, suggest a solution. During the weeks I joined Facebook there was a vicious attack of leaks, that naturally were filled with negative incidents without context. During the weekly Q&A, which I attended, Mark was asked whether it was time to restrict the transparency to stop the leaks. He answerd: “We recruit the best people in the world. Not giving them all the information is like tying one of their hands behind their back.”
  4. Feedback is a gift. You hear it a lot when you’re at Facebook. It’s hard to explain how essential feedback is in the company culture. It means everyone, and that means any one, is expected to give feedback when there is any, to any one. I remember a few friends in pilot training who told me how embarrassing it was to give feedback to a high commanding officer flying with them. At Facebook you give your manager feedback twice a year, you give peer feedback, you give feedback to the people you collaborate with. It comes from the right place, of constructive feedback, and with respect. People give feedback to others who give them service, to the chefs in the cafeteria. People learn to receive feedback, to learn from it, to improve. To realize it is indeed a gift.
  5. “The best way to complain is to build things.”. This James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem) quote appears on many Facebook walls around the world. Everyone knows that people in tech like to complain. At Facebook you’re expected to do something about it. And it works great. Tools being developed by frustrated employees, team offsites, sport classes, meetups. They are all being built and organized by those who care, by those who want it to happen. 
  6. “At Facebook nothing is somebody else’s problem”. This is another mantra that you can find on many Facebook walls. Pretty soon you realize you have no one to complain to. Realized there’s a problem?  It’s partly your responsibility. To inform, to sort out, sometimes to solve, to organize. Add that to the James Murphy quote above, and you wind up with an organization where the employees are greatly responsible for their quality of lives, for their work environment, for the culture of the site, of the company. Yes, without any “well-being department”, HR, operations or anyone else you normally blame or throw the responsibility at. 
  7. You can dream big inside a company. I’m an entrepreneur. In the last decade I realized it’s in my DNA. All of the above would have been a little meaningless for me, if the place I work in wouldn’t allow anyone to dream big and pursuit their dream. Each with his own interests, each with his own domain, and what they like to experience, to achieve. As long as you are willing to make those dreams a reality, of course. You got that part already, right?   And so I found myself many times during this year working on making my dreams reality, with loads of support from the great people around me. And boy, this is the best feeling ever, when you see your dream materialize, together with awesome people who help you along the way.
  8. Trust your employees and great things will happen. A lot of things are being done differently at Facebook. I’ve run a few companies already, and I know I would have been extremely cautious about running such an open culture that is based on fully trusting your employees in any aspect of their job. It’s basically “we trust you, do whatever you feel makes sense”, and it applies to everything. And in return you get a work environment where employees invest a lot more than anywhere else, care about their work and their team, feel that they belong, strive to be the best and do their best work. Because they are trusted.
  9. With great power comes great responsibility. Sorry for being a bit of a cliche. I didn’t mention any challenges or hardship, so here goes. Leading a product at Facebook means getting great power. You literally can influence the lives of millions. And as such it comes with great responsibility. Not just because of the extreme level of scrutiny, but also because knowing what your decisions impact is a significant burden. It really helps to be surrounded by people who are focused on doing the right thing. And when you do the right thing, it’s much more enjoyable to succeed.
  10. Say thanks. I did learn to say thanks even before Facebook. But here also it is amazing to see how hard the organization is working to get thanks inside the culture, the day-to-day life. In how many organizations do you see employees thanking the culinary team for the feed they ate today (yeah, food. It’s a big deal here)?  They thank the organizers of an event they attended, that person who helped them fix some problem, a team mate who gave them the right tip or invested valuable time in helping them. There’s even a #thanks bot that counters the thanks and informs your manager when someone thanks you 🙂

Last point is a great opportunity to thank the many people who made this year so unique and so awesome.

One year at Facebook. I learned so much. Can’t wait to continue and learn next year!