Facebook – renamed Meta in October 2021 – is the world’s second most-used company by the number of users. At ~3.6B monthly users, it is second only to Google by this metric, meaning every second person on planet Earth uses a Facebook product.
Facebook also owns three of the four most-used social media networks by number of monthly users: Facebook (#1), WhatsApp (#3) and Instagram (#4). Only Google’s YouTube (#2) stops Facebook from locking out the top 4 places in the chart of most popular social media networks.
Facebook was founded not even 20 years ago, in 2004. Gaining market dominance and solidifying it across social media globally, was done at unprecedented speed by the company.
Today, this Big Tech giant has more than 75,000 employees worldwide, and about 32,000 of them work on the tech side. Since its founding, Facebook is the only major tech company to have a founding software engineer lead the company, with Mark Zuckeberg as CEO.
But what is it really like to work at Facebook? What is the culture like? How do teams get things done? What are processes and approaches that engineers use?
This issue is about “things software engineers and engineering managers should know about Facebook’s engineering culture.” While the information is especially useful for anyone planning to join the company, the utility of these details go well beyond that workplace. Facebook has grown blazingly fast to achieve global dominance; many of its unconventional methods might serve other tech companies hoping to grow with similar speed, just as well.
In this article, I am referring to Meta as “Facebook”. This is because the company rebrand happened recently, late last year. At the same time, the vast majority of details about the engineering culture come from the period when the company was called Facebook. I am also doing this in order to avoid using the Meta/Facebook phrase for those few details post-2021, and to not cause confusion by switching to a different name of “Facebook,” when discussing practices before October 2021.
Because of the length, the article is published in two parts: this is part one of a two-part series.
This series contains more information about Facebook’s engineering culture than any publication has revealed before. In writing this article, I talked with more than a dozen current and former Facebook / Meta software engineers, engineering managers, and engineering directors in verifying the details of this article. The majority of the people I talked with had more than 3 years’ tenure at Facebook.
Still, it’s not possible to capture every single detail about an organization with tens of thousands of software engineers. Facebook gives high autonomy to both individuals and teams to decide how they work. I can’t cover all that variety, but I try to provide a useful overview.
In this issue, we cover:
Standout differences between Facebook and other Big Tech companies
On the engineering-centric culture
On the individualistic culture
Next week, in Part 2, we will go in-depth on Career (career ladders, axes, performance reviews, the calibration process, promotions), Engineering processes (hackathons, bootcamp, testing, the tech stack, how teams and projects operate) and advice for engineers and engineering managers to succeed at the company.