Engineering Spotlight: Facebook Boston
Facebook is moving into new offices later this year in Cambridge and they have some significant growth plans ahead. We connected with members of the team at Facebook Boston to give you an inside look at the company's local team and the projects that the engineers are working on.
Plus, we have lots of great information about the culture of the local office, the structure of their interview process, fun facts about the Boston office, and a lot more.
Don't forget to check out Facebook's BIZZpage for job openings!
VentureFizz: The current office in the Boston area (Cambridge) employs more than 100 people, but there are some significant plans ahead of Facebook’s growth in the local area. Can you share some of the details?
Facebook Boston: Of course! Last year we signed a lease for our new Binney Street office in Kendall Square. The space is 130,000 square feet, and has room for approximately 650 seats. We expect to move in later in 2018.
VF: When we last reported on Facebook’s Boston office, the team was focused on four key areas: storage, compilers, networking, and security. Has this changed or evolved at all?
FB: It certainly has. Our Boston team is currently focused on five areas, all of which impact Facebook's 10-year roadmap and mission.
- Connectivity Lab: Facebook’s connectivity efforts focus on developing new ways to connect the unconnected and improve the experiences of those already connected in communities around the world. Boston supports several ongoing wireless networking projects.
- Developer tools: The Developer Tools team focuses on improving the reliability, efficiency, stability, and ease of use of Facebook's infrastructure and tools, which enable engineers across the company to move faster while continuing to increase the quality of the Facebook applications.
- Location Infrastructure: The Location Infrastructure team in Boston powers a number products, from Find Wi-Fi to Nearby Friends. The team not only powers these products and features, but ensures the end result is accurate and relevant, and products can scale with Facebook's growth.
- Traffic: The local Traffic team designs and builds software that helps deliver custom versions of Facebook to more than two billion people quickly — working to build a fast, seamless Facebook experience through engineering.
- Machine learning: Facebook Boston is home to several teams that build machine learning tools and infrastructure. These teams use machine learning to automate writing code, predict Facebook's future infrastructure needs, and build personal and relevant experiences for products powered by Location Infrastructure, like Recommendations. We also work with local academic researchers to look over the horizon at emerging infrastructure challenges like AI workload performance.
VF: What is the day-to-day culture like at Facebook for the engineering team?
FB: The people who come to work at Facebook Boston are passionate about working on hard, technical challenges at scale. This passion translates into a culture that's driven by collaboration, and a desire to make an impact. Our engineers genuinely enjoy working with the world's best minds in creating unique and enjoyable experiences for more than 2 billion people around the world.
This culture of collaboration is one of the many reasons why Glassdoor named Facebook the #1 Best to Work in 2018. One Boston review for this Glassdoor award spoke to smart coworkers and having the ability to work and succeed in areas that will help the company.
VF: What are some of the interesting projects that are coming out of the Cambridge office for Facebook?
FB: Here are just a few examples of the many projects our engineers are working on:
VF: Does your engineering team have a chance to work on projects outside of their day-to-day responsibilities?
FB: Let me share a couple thoughts on this.
The short answer is, yes. For example, hackathons are a Facebook tradition, and we host a number of hackathons each year at Facebook Boston. During these events, we have the opportunity to try out new ideas and collaborate with people across Facebook.
We recently hosted our eighth hackathon at Facebook Boston. Engineers worked on a range of hacks, from envisioning new features for Nearby Friends, to exploring new machine learning approaches to problems they've been working on.
But on a related note, one thing that makes Facebook a great place for engineers to work is that, when an engineer is hired at Facebook, she gets to choose her projects based on what interests her most. We want people to enjoy what they're working on day in and day out, and not feel like they only have a chance to do something “fun” on the side.
VF: What can a potential employee expect during the interview process?
FB: If you're interviewing at Facebook or you're just curious about the process, we want to be transparent about what to expect so you feel well informed and have a positive interview experience. Below is what you can expect during the two stages of our interview process — the initial interview, and the onsite interview.
Initial Technical Screen
- Introductions: The interviewer will first introduce herself/himself and explain what they do at Facebook.
- Career Aspirations: For the next 5-10 minutes, the interviewer will ask questions about your experience and your career aspirations.
- Coding: The next 30-35 minutes will be spent on coding.
- This takes place in an online collaborative editor shared between you and the interviewer (or on the whiteboard if you do the initial interview in person).
- You are given one or more coding questions to complete in this editor. We ask questions that are short enough to explain in a few minutes and to solve in 10-30 minutes.
- In this section, we try to understand your approach to problem-solving.
- You could be asked to solve a problem in any way you choose, and then the interviewer could add further constraints or requirements.
- Ask Us Anything: The last 5 minutes is for questions. This is a great opportunity to get an insider's perspective directly from a Facebook engineer.
As an interviewee for an engineering position at Facebook, you’re going to have 4 or 5 interviews over the course of the day. These will be distributed across 3 different types of interviews
- The coding interview – where you’ll solve some general coding questions.
- The design interview – where you’ll be asked to show off your design skills. The design question will be focused on either systems or product, depending on your background.
- The behavioral interview – where you’ll talk through your previous work experience, motivations, and a number of other behavioral questions.
VF: Once hired, what can someone expect over the course of their career at Facebook?
FB: We don't say this lightly, but we believe people will do the most meaningful work of their careers at Facebook.
We design products and deliver services that bring the world closer together — one connection at a time. All of the engineers here are truly passionate about their work, and understand how it impacts billions of people around the world.
VF: How is Facebook involved in the local tech ecosystem? Do you host any events?
FB: Many of our engineers are involved in the local tech community. Over the years, we've done everything from hosting tech groups such as Girls Who Code, to going to local schools like KIPP Academy to host coding workshops.
We also believe it's important to contribute to the community outside of the tech ecosystem. Our team has volunteered with organizations such as the Pine Street Inn, AIDS Action Committee, and Kendall Square Association for KSA Community Days. We've also greatly enjoyed doing the Toys for Tots drive over the holiday season.
In terms of tech events we host, each fall we put on our annual Boston @Scale event. These day-long events are designed to bring together engineers from around New England to discuss the challenges of building applications that serve millions — and even billions — of people. Our 2017 @Scale event, Mobile @Scale, featured speakers from a number of local companies, including Hopper, Raizlabs, Runkeeper, TripAdvisor, Vesper, and Wayfair.
We also just hosted our first Engineering Tales in Boston. During the evening event, engineers from the Boston community told raw, unfiltered stories of a time when something didn't go quite right. You can check out a few of the tales on our Facebook Boston page.
VF: What are some of your employee’s favorite perks at Facebook’s local office?
FB: Facebook creates an environment that gives people everything they need to do their best work.
We offer a number of perks, but here are a few of our favorites:
- Growth — We offer a variety of classes and tools to increase employees' knowledge and build their skills.
- Family — We strive to be a great place to work for people with families. Our programs give employees an extra hand to make sure their family feels cared for at every stage of life.
- Community — As we build a more connected world, it's important that we stay connected to each other. Employees can join a Facebook Club or create their own. We provide funding and support to help employees make meaningful friendships at Facebook.
But really, the biggest perk is having the opportunity to work with incredibly talented, motivated colleagues on projects that affect billions of people.
VF: What is a fun fact that you can share about the Boston office?
FB: Here are a few fun facts, in no particular order:
- Each year we host Game Day in Boston.
- One year, the entire office kayaked up the Charles River together (we went the wrong way by accident).
- Our recruiting team is now larger than the entire Boston engineering team when we first opened the office.
- When the internet goes down we like to fix it ourselves. We’ve had our engineers relocating Wi-Fi APs and tracing ethernet cable.
- The first time we expanded the current office, we had the employees’ kids come in and paint all over the walls that were going to be demolished.
Edward Fagin, Engineering Manager
I'm an engineering manager on our real-time infrastructure team, and my team focuses on GraphQL Subscriptions -- a component of the widely-used GraphQL open source query language for APIs -- that makes it easier for engineers to build real-time features into their products. At Facebook, this framework powers a number of features that people use every day, including comment-typing indicators and streaming reactions on live videos.
At Facebook, you have the opportunity to contribute to an incredibly wide range of infrastructure projects. While our engineers have a variety of expertise, they share a passion for solving complex engineering challenges at scale. It's humbling to know that everything you work on can potentially impact more than two billion people around the world.
Vaneeta Singh, Engineering Manager
We develop the network software for Facebook applications on iOS and Android platforms. This includes measuring and improving performance, reliability, security, and efficiency of network communication with Facebook servers. Getting the most out of a diverse set of worldwide mobile networks, and millions of handsets with a wide range of hardware capabilities is challenging as well as fun. All this while we play good citizens in these networks and are mindful of the device battery, storage and data consumption.
Images courtesy of Facebook.