Facebook – Final

August 25, 2014

This post is really late but will contain a couple of reflections on my time at Facebook.

#1 – Go work there. Seriously, it’s an amazing place to be full of people at the top of their field.

Facebook has perks in the top of the tech hierarchy and the salary is amazing.  However, beyond that is the chance to really learn from others. As much as I struggled with some things there, I gained a huge amount from those around me.

#2 – Find out if you want to be a software engineer.

Facebook is a really great place to be a great engineer. It doesn’t seem quite as good if you come in wanting to be involved in research-y stuff, but it’s really available to do on the side. If you want to be a software engineer, Facebook is a good place to make sure of that. If you don’t end up liking it there, chances are you won’t like it anywhere. I found that I wasn’t ready quite yet to be doing software development full time. Lucky I’ve started my PhD.

#3 – Cultural fit is really important.

I found it somewhat hard coming in to my team with no prior internships and no prior work in a formal setting. My team was pretty good at helping me settle in but there were definitely teething problems. It took me more than a little time to find my feet and fit in, and this definitely had an effect on my motivation. I’m not sure if ‘cultural fit’ is something you either have or you don’t. I definitely found my place much later in my internship, and perhaps late enough that it had an impact on the hiring decision of my manager  (I wasn’t going to be returning immediately).

#4 – Get involved.

What made the difference between my time at Facebook being miserable and my time being enjoyable on the whole was the level to which I took advantage of opportunities offered. In this case it was going to all the speakers on offer and most importantly, spending lunchtimes with the Vocal Network. Without making good friends, you’ll find it hard to achieve your goals work wise.

#5 – Accept failure and learn from it.

A workplace like Facebook is very intense. Getting an internship there in the first place is really difficult. Converting into a full-time or returning intern, even moreso. Be prepared for things not to work out as you would’ve liked. Sometime’s it’s for the better, sometimes you just lucked out. Maybe you and your manager just didn’t get along, or maybe you ran into too many difficulties with your project. Either way, use it as a learning experience on how you can improve yourself to overcome such hitches on the next run.

Overall my time at Facebook could best be described as worthwhile. Not always enjoyable. Sometimes hard enough to make me want to give up. However, the experiences, education and people I met there will stay with me for far longer than the three months I was there.

Facebook – Week 9 – Part 2

May 8, 2014

Scott was away again the next week, but that didn’t stop my progress. I was now fairly confident with the tools, languages and infrastructure I was using. I worked hard on Monday to the extent that I forgot about rehearsal, pounding away on my new idea. A number of different pieces had to come together for it to work and this added some new challenges to my workflow. I taught myself a bit more about databases, and worked from the top to the bottom of the stack. Quite exciting.

The days went by very quickly. Wednesday lunch I invited Ilana Arbisser, a PhD student and Penn graduate, over for lunch. We drew it out as much as possible and for dessert brought along Zach, who I had been pleased to hang out with a number of times over the course of the internship.

In the afternoon there was a Security Talk but I was far too caught up in trying to solve my currently problem to really focus on it. I was determined to at least have a working prototype for my second project by the end.

Thursday at work was a little more chilled, with Vocal Network rehearsal at lunch breaking up the morning. In the evening I partook in Infra-crawl, a series of poster presentations with food, prizes and drinks, which was a good chance to spend a little time with my team other than trying to solve immediate problems.

After infra-crawl I had my last session of improv, though Lainie the instructor wasn’t able to attend, so a friend of hers was running the session. However I didn’t manage to stay the whole time as at 6.15 I had to race to the bus park. In front of building 15 a bus stood, flanked by interns. It was to be taking to a stadium in San Jose to see the SJ Sharks play the Pittsburgh Penguins in ice-hockey.

The game had a great sense of atmosphere. Though the entire event felt a little over produced with flashing lights and a giant screen hanging from the room, having an involved crowd made the game feel alive. Every time the sharks scored the crowd would stand and pump their fists in time with the theme. The game itself was an excellent first example of the sport for me and featured a thrilling comeback by the sharks from 0-2 down at the first period. Whenever the Penguins had a chance to score, the Sharks fans would form their arms into the shape of a sharks mouth and raise and lower the jaws while the theme from ‘Jaws’ was played over the speaker system. Eventually the sharks prevailed and, in a thrilling last minute scored a final goal bringing the tally to 4-3 to the Sharks. One other highlight from the game was when “Welcome Facebook Winterns” was broadcast on the screen, bringing us all to cheer!

Friday’s Q&A with Mark was cancelled, so the majority of the day I was just pounding out lines of code. Lunch was a little more of an event, as I had arranged to meet up with the Vocal Network for lunch. Sadly, only the male members were in attendance as all the women had prior meetings and commitments. The day was beautiful and sunny, and the company was good, making me feel quite at ease. After lunch concluded I said my goodbyes to Jason, the other intern in the acapella group and made promises to catch up sometime.

The day soon ended and I caught the shuttle home, content with my week and looking forward to the challenge of my last.


Facebook – Week 8

April 23, 2014

This week was to be very important as I would soon be receiving feedback on my impact as an intern, and needed to make a real push for results. To some extent I cut out distractions and hunkered down. As I was learning however, performance improvements normally come incrementally and though I was improving I hadn’t yet found a shortcut to success.

After rehearsal on Monday I was pretty productive and ended up having a brief chat with Zejia, one of my teammates and started developing an extension to my project that would have wider impact that what I had completed thus far. I had to start carefully planning my time left to achieve everything left on my list.

Tuesday was much the same with one enjoyable difference. After work Gus from the Vocal Network, drove me down to San Jose for a ‘Voices in Harmony’ rehearsal. Voices in Harmony were a traditional men’s barbershop chorus and though the crowd was a good bit older than I, it still seemed a decent fit. Many of the men there had been singing barbershop for decades and despite some experience I was definitely on the low end of ability

We sung two Beatles pieces, one of which had an incredibly challenging arrangement to sight read and definitely put me through my paces. However it was good to be singing challenging material again.

Another huge positive was the fact that in attendance was ‘JHo’ (Jonathan Ho) my former mentor in the Penn Glee Club. After rehearsal two others and we headed off to a bar in Cupertino for ‘Afterglow’, to sing tags. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay too late and at about midnight caught an ‘Uber’ back to my place in Mountain View.

Wednesday and Thursday went pretty smoothly. I definitely was getting into rhythm now and didn’t need as much support from my teammates in order to get done what I needed to.  I tried to clean up as much of my original project as possible in order to really get cracking on a little more flexible solution to the problem that I was initially trying to solve. Thursday night I caught the shuttle from work to the Caltrain station and caught it to Millbrae, just outside of SFC. From there it was the BART train to the airport for another trip to Penn!

As I had acquired silver status on the ‘star alliance’ frequent flier system, I was able to skip the long lines for check-in and security and within about five minutes of arriving at the airport was through to the gate. As per usual my United Airlines flight was delayed, so I paused to sit and eat some food I had brought with me. Eventually we boarded and, at about ten past midnight we departed.

The weather was fair and we had a strong tailwind, so we arrived in Philly just past seven. I slept decently on the flight but four and a half hours was not enough for me to be well rested for the weekend! The next day was to pose a challenge to me in staying awake.

© 2012-2024 Shaanan Cohney