When Facebook first opened an office in downtown Austin in 2010, it was a big deal. It was just a seven-person team. But it was Facebook’s first sales and operations office outside of its home state of California — a nice win for Austin’s tech scene.
By 2014, somewhat in sync with Facebook’s explosive global growth, the company had grown to about 200 employees in Austin.
Now, Facebook has more than 700 employees in Austin. And the social media giant’s interests in the city’s tech scene have grown far beyond sales.
The company has 10-plus teams in Austin. One of the largest is the user experience team that deals with some of the explosive and controversial content churned out by users. It also has a large sales team working with small- and medium-sized businesses, as well as global businesses; an intellectual property team managing copyrights; a local and state policy team developing best practices for community outreach; and teams focused on human resources, recruiting, finance, risk management and payments.
The Austin office is now one of Facebook’s largest outside Menlo Park, alongside Seattle and New York. And it’s curently hiring for roughly 40 open positions in Austin.
The company this week invited Austin Inno into its newly expanded and renovated offices in a 23-story building at 300 W. 6th Street to talk about how Facebook has expanded in Austin and to give us a glimpse of its massive gourmet kitchen, wide open work spaces and its ever-expanding collection of local artwork.
[Scroll to the bottom to start the photo slideshow.]
Facebook occupies floors 9-12 in its building — about 120,000 square feet. The company, along with design firm M. Arthur Gensler Jr. & Associates, Inc., spent about a year and a half renovating the space, which included ripping out 75 tons of concrete to make way for a massive and artful staircase between all the floors. The renovations were completed May 15.
Now, Facebook told Austin Inno, it is preparing to open the 21st floor this summer, as well, to house an analog research lab, a space to work on and display mostly non-digital art and design.
“Our mission is to make the world more open and connected, and to give people the power to share,” said Facebook SMB Regional Director Katherine Shappley, who leads the Austin office. “So, no matter what function across Facebook you’re working in or what office you’re at, everybody is sort of laddering up to that in their own way.”
Facebook Austin is on the front lines of the company’s community operations initiative that works to combat hate speech, child exploitation and other potentially dangerous activity. Last month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the company add 3,000 people its community operations team, adding to 4,500 already working toward similar goals by exploring the nearly infinite stream of posts on the platform and responding to user reports.
“We’re fortunate we have incredible user growth still,” Shappley told me. “We need to make sure we live up to our responsibility to provide a great and safe experience.”
And few companies have to deal with as issues — including the proliferation of fake news, a murder in Cleveland broadcast on Facebook Live and a global user base with far-ranging morals, cultural sensitivities and political beliefs.
“It is an awesome medium, and it’s also one that’s new, and different and unique in ways that we need to respond to it,” she said. “So we’re definitely expanding our community operations team in support of the user behavior that we’re seeing. And that can be either the really awesome things or also the things that are hard and we can play a role in helping drive the right outcomes.”
One of Shappley’s most challenging jobs is making sure company culture is retained as the company grows rapidly.
The company has Friday meetings to keep employees up-to-date and ask questions with all their peers. It offers breakfast, lunch and dinner that features almost anything you’d like. It has a pop-up shop where Facebook invites small businesses to come in and sell their products. There’s a sound-proof recreation room with ping-pong and other games that doubles as a workout room where the company brings in yoga instructors twice a week. And the company has ‘bring your kid to work’ days and a variety of other activities that take employees out of their day-to-day for a while.
“People always ask what’s the hardest part of growth,” Shappley said. “It’s growth. And keeping culture.”
Facebook’s office has room for roughly 200 more employees, and Shappley said she expects to see the company to continue expanding in Austin.
“We think there is a lot more to do here,” she said. “And I expect all of our teams to grow. And, as we grow, what’s top of mind for me… is making sure we’re out in the community, we’re being good stewards and we’re giving back as much as we’re taking.”
All Photos by Netta Conyers-Haynes.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to say Facebook has 10-plus teams (not 9) in Austin. It has also been updated to note the office size is 120,000 square feet – Facebook had provided a different number initially.