My recent trip to the USA was something I had been wanting to do for a long time, as the first time I visited was about 20 years ago. So, once I had my passport renewed, I immediately applied for the US tourist visa and it was a breeze getting that 10-year visa (I blogged about the tips and advice – read about the processes here).
This recent trip was to San Francisco and New York. The former I have visited before while New York was something new for me and it was on my bucket list. New York was of course a blast – will probably blog about that later. Now what was most memorable for me while in San Francisco was the visit to Facebook’s Headquarters! This was never in my plan and it came about very unexpectedly. The thing is, the Facebook HQ is not open to the public – you need to be hosted in order to visit it. As it turned out, my bff’s friend’s hubby (who is also my bff’s friend, of course – yeah, it’s a bit complicated, but never mind!) works in Facebook and this was something we only knew when we were in San Francisco. Oh they were also our super-hospitable hosts – we were staying in their lovely home. Anyway, so I shamelessly asked if we could visit him in his office…and the rest is history!
The must-pose photo! Don’t you just love the address – 1 Hacker Way?!
So, on the bright morning of 22 November 2016, we (my bff and I) drove to Menlo Park where Facebook’ HQ is located, a very pleasant drive that took about 45 minutes from the San Francisco suburb we were staying. The campus was the former Sun Microsystems site and it’s huge!
Parking area has valet service and a free charging station for electric cars
Once we’ve parked, we were directed to the main entrance where we registered using iPads from a bank of them and that can only be completed when your host is located from the system’s list. Once that’s done, we were given our security tags and waited for our host to take us in.
We started with the Main Street (wow, just like Disneyland!) which was flanked by fun colourful low-rise buildings and there was plenty of gorgeous fall foliage to complete the picturesque scene. The layout was designed to resemble Palo Alto downtown. I was told the main campus sits on 57 acres of land with 9 buildings totalling 1 million sq ft office space! Across the highway, there’s another 22-acre lot and this is joined by an underground tunnel.
I guess Facebook employees are so used to having visitors on their campus. Nobody batted an eyelid at the groups of visitors (like us) taking photos and selfies like crazy, at every corner! And of course, the look of awe on our faces every time we come upon something fantastic on the site. And believe me, there were a LOT of fantastic stuff in Facebook!
The Main Square – Welcome to Facebook!
There are so many eateries on the campus, it’s incredible. Because Facebook employs the best & brightest people from all over the world, there’s a good variety of cuisines served in the cafes and restaurants to bring a bit of “home” to them. From what I saw, there’s the very popular Epic Cafe, Sol Mexican Food, Lightning Bolts Smoke Shack (BBQ), Big Tony’s Pizzeria, Burger Shack and for the health-conscious, there’s the Harvest Salad Bar and for the dessert lovers, there’s The Sweet Shop! Oh, Facebook employees and their visitors eat for free at these places and more! At almost every corner, there are huge fridges with all kinds of drinks and even snacks for the employees and of course they are free too. I lost count of the number of fridges and snacks corners all over the campus.
The Mexican restaurant yo!
Lots of spaces like these for people to just chill, relax or work!
The Games Room, when you need a break from work
After lunch at Epic Cafe (because there were fresh Dungeness crabs being served that day!), our host took us over to the new building across the highway, via the tunnel. That’s where Mark Zuckerberg has his workplace.
That building housed the largest open floor plan office space in the world. Honestly, it’s so vast that it easily took 15-20 minutes to walk from one end to the other. The set-up was simple and nothing fancy, somewhat like a warehouse with exposed ceiling and facilities fittings. I was told that this was intentional, meant to give people a sense of “work in progress” and the feeling that there’s still much to be done to connect the world.
The building was like one big room for the thousands of Facebook staff. There were no dividers or walls – everyone sat in a seamless arrangement of workstations. This of course was meant to promote openness, connection and a sense of community.
In the middle of all this, Mark Zuckerberg’s workspace is all enclosed in glass. It’s a regular kinda workspace with several huge screens in his office and no, he wasn’t around that day.
The washrooms are complete with full amenities!
We then went up to the rooftop and an amazing roof garden greeted us! The entire rooftop had been converted into a 9-acre park with landscaped walking trails and outdoor seats and spaces to chill-out or work! Imagine how structurally amazing that was – the amount of soil and equipment that’s needed to build that roof top park!
Isn’t this vast roof garden the most amazing thing?!
If you are wondering how the Facebook staff move around this gigantic site, well, they either walk, cycle or take the shuttles. Shuttles and bicycles are provided to move around the new and old buildings.
A complete tour takes at least 2 hours – my FitBit registered the highest number of steps on my visit that day!
Yes, this was one memorable visit – it’s something that’s not open to everyone and I’m really lucky I got this opportunity to see what Facebook HQ is all about. Many thanks to ML for making this happen and of course my bff, XL for bringing me there!