News Column

Facebook Checks in at Its New Home

Dec. 20, 2011

Mike Swift

Facebook

For Pedram Keyani, the completion of Facebook's move Monday to its first permanent home represented the closing of a circle, just as it was a milestone for the social networking giant.

Back in 1999, Keyani was an intern at then-powerful Sun Microsystems, headquartered in the very same 1 million-square-foot complex in Menlo Park that's now home to Facebook. As he'd packed up his desk in Facebook's old offices in Palo Alto last week, boxing the toga he'd worn at a party in 2008, Keyani had seemed a little melancholy at leaving a place that held so many memories.

But Monday, he was one of about 1,500 excited Facebookers trying to locate a new desk as he reported to work at the new campus for the first time.

"It's disorienting a little bit, but super exciting," Keyani said, looking around at his spacious and sunny new work space. "Four and a half years ago when I joined (Facebook), I wouldn't have imagined that we would be taking over the Sun Microsystems campus and making it our own."

Such is the changing of the guard in Silicon Valley. Just as Google (GOOG) bought Silicon Graphics' old headquarters in Mountain View when that once-powerful tech company fell on hard times, ascendant Facebook now has its first permanent address

in the former campus of a now-defunct company, as it makes the transition from dorm-room startup to powerful public Internet company. Facebook will complete that journey in 2012 with an initial public stock offering.

Keyani's business cards reflect that maturation process. The title and motto on his business card when Facebook was still in downtown Palo Alto back in 2007 -- "Gangsta Programma ... My code rocks your social life!" -- has given way to his more sober, current card: "Engineering Manager, Site Integrity ... Protect users and empower my team."

But Facebook vows its spacious new corporate HQ will reinforce rather than change its culture. To reinforce Facebook's collaborative culture, the new Menlo Park campus lacks cubicles or enclosed private offices of any kind. Keyani was one of a small group of software engineers who worked with the architects to make sure the new space supports Facebook's work patterns and culture, including space that can be used for "war rooms" -- a Facebook tradition where groups of engineers come together over an intense period of days or weeks to tackle the creation of new products or to solve a problem.

"The war room effect is like a small startup," Keyani said, with people "just jamming on something until they have something to show."

Facebook's new headquarters on Willow Road near the Dumbarton Bridge is still a construction site, and will be until spring. The central courtyard that runs the length of the campus is still dirt. And many of the amenities that will come will ultimately include two full-service cafes, two coffee shops, on-site doctors, a bike shop and a stand-alone "barbecue shack," are yet to be completed.

A second West Campus planned for the far side of Willow Road from the East Campus Facebook occupied Monday won't be complete until 2014. When done, the East and West campuses would give Facebook enough combined space to house 9,400 employees. It currently has about 2,000 headquarters workers.

The fact that Facebook is a "cloud" company means that computer servers were not part of the move; they're housed in data centers scattered around the Bay Area, in Oregon and soon in North Carolina and on the edge of the Arctic Circle in Lulea, Sweden.

"The infrastructure that produces Facebook is not in Palo Alto and it's not in Menlo Park," Jay Parikh, Facebook's director of engineering, said in a recent interview.

Facebook moved to the Menlo Park campus in three stages, starting in August with just over 500 employees. In a schedule planned to take advantage of the slower product launch period around the holidays, the remaining employees moved over the past two weeks, including the engineering teams, the design team, and many executives.

Neither CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who was away on business Monday, nor other top executives will get grander spaces in Menlo Park than they had in Palo Alto, where Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, worked side by side with rank-and-file workers.

As of last week in Palo Alto, Sandberg said she still hadn't seen her new work space in Menlo Park. But she said she wouldn't have a private office.

"I don't worry about that stuff. We're not ones for fancy offices," Sandberg said. Pointing out her current desk amid a cluster of other Facebookers, she said, "I'm going to have a desk just like that one. That doesn't change."

Facebook Facts

--The 10 building, 1 million-square-foot Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park now houses about 2,000 employees.

--An East Campus -- the former Sun Microsystems campus -- will be joined by a separate West Campus that is due for completion in 2014, for a combined capacity of about 9,400 workers.

--To help the local economy, Facebook plans to offer "Facebucks" to employees, debit cards they can spend at Menlo Park businesses.

Source: Facebook



Source: (c) 2011 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)


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