Beyond the End: Touring Facebook

Published on: Author: bette 12 Comments

They say that every ending is a new beginning.  I’m not sure if “they” really say that … but it’s a thought that has occurred to me a great many times over the years.


The first time was in 1986 when my kids and I were on our way to a family reunion in Canada. That was long before any of us had heard of MP3’s, iPods, or even CD’s, so we kept ourselves entertained by taking turns choosing cassette tapes. Our favorite was Jimmy Buffet’s “Last Mango in Paris.”  Paul, Shannon and I knew all the words and passed the time by singing along.

I’m sitting here right now amazed that with a few clicks of a mouse I can pull up the last song on that tape … the one that that has stuck in my mind now for 30 years and pops up every time I have the feeling that another ending has opened the way into a whole new world …


(OMG and LOL 😉 !  What would I have thought “a few clicks of a mouse” would mean in 1986?)


I’m in this mood this morning because Paul took me on a tour the Facebook Headquarters in Menlo Park yesterday.  Within the first few minutes I realized that my dream for Leadership 2020 has come true – and that an important chapter of my life has come to an end.  It was a moment that I want to capture and remember forever.

I’ll tell you about that moment later, but first I have to bring you up to speed…


Paul met me in Lobby 4 of Building 20 after I left my car with the (free) valet. The first thing I noticed about the building is that it looked like it was not really finished. Even the enormous wall behind the plywood staircase looked as if they were just testing colors and had never decided which one to use.


Moving right along, he pointed to the place where we were standing on the enormous model of Building 20. (I’m probably going to overuse the word “enormous” as I write about this .. but that might be unavoidable…)

20161202_140600(Notice the small posters on the wall behind Paul. They are pages from an amazing book by Susan O’Malley called Advice from my 80-year-old Self . It’s  a particularly special book for Paul and Debbie – but that’s a story for later. Click on the title to buy or download … )


What the model does not show is the 9-acre roof garden.  When I was inside the building it almost felt like being outside because of the enormous skylights.


I might not get back to the roof in this post so here’s a picture of Paul that reminded me of his kids playing in Kids Town in Brookings when they were little . . .

20161202_151125. . . and the rooftop restaurant that serves only Grilled Cheese!


Paul told me that between this building and 1 Hacker Way there are 12 restaurants, that serve 30,000 meals a day … for free.


“Uh … what do you mean, Paul, ‘free?'”

“Just what I said, Mom … free.” 


Most of the restaurants are located on Hacker Way …  which reminded me a lot of Main Street at Disneyland. It’s across the Bayfront Expressway from Facebook Way and there’s a great view of it from the roof.

20161202_150609Another view from the roof was of the enormous property next door that Is being excavated for the next phase.

20161202_151655We used the handicapped access to the roof … and I couldn’t help but snap a picture of the sign … which says a lot in itself 🙂  !



Back inside, we approached the large buffet style restaurant. The first thing I noticed was one enormous wall covered entirely with red, orange and yellow plastic tableware. At first I thought it was a piece of modern art just arranged randomly. It wasn’t until I turned around after passing it that I noticed it was the name of the restaurant:

20161202_142456Instead trying to mention all the other restaurants, it would just be easier for you to check them out here: Restaurants at Facebook.


Note – the number of employees (8,500) and the net worth ($150 billion) in that article disagree with the ones in this month’s Fortune Magazine, but  wrote about the restaurants at FB two and a half years ago!  Here’s this month’s Fortune Magazine article where Mark Zuckerberg was named Business Person of the Year: 

The Unexpected Management Genius of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg



Paul and I were in a bit of a hurry because we were trying to get back to Facebook Way hoping to catch a glimpse of the cast of the new Star Wars movie.  I never found out exactly what they were doing because we arrived to find them tearing down the stage in the room where they had been …



The only place we stopped on our way back was at a frozen yogurt shop. The pastries looked amazing – but we resisted.  I asked Paul why no one looked like they were gaining weight, and he told me about the first “Facebook 15.”  I guess that with all the walking, and the fact that most of the people I saw working were standing at adjustable computer desks – not to mention the walk or bike ride to  Hacker Way and the full service gym … most of them lose their “FB 15” pretty easily.

20161202_14362620161202_143910Oh yes … I forgot to mention the free bicycles.  When I left my car in the parking garage I noticed the rows of cute blue bicycles that I assumed employees could rent when they got tired of walking or didn’t have time.  That’s the first time was wrong.  Also free.



I’m still getting to “the moment” – the one when I realized I was finished with Leadership 2020 and ready to shift my focus to Leadership 2040.


Everywhere I looked I saw examples of how this 21st-Century business leader encourages creativity and supports “the whole employee” – just as we should be doing for “the whole child” in our schools.  One example is the state-of-the-art wood shop. I assume that you have to pay for materials, but other than that, it’s available to anyone, anytime.


20161202_143457The nearby print shop also gets a lot of use:



Oh … something else before I get back to my “moment.” Possibly not appropriate, but just too funny not to mention …

I stopped in the rest room on the way out and Paul told me to feel free to pick up a toothbrush (free) if I needed one …


I was still laughing about that when I closed the stall door and noticed the “Weekly Push.”  No kidding!


It’s the weekly company update … probably the only report that Mark Zuckerberg wants every employee to read.  What I find to be the most interesting about that is that this might be the only piece of paper that these “kids” read all day.  Everything else is on a screen. It might also be the only moment they slow down enough to really process what’s going on and reflect on their part in all of this.  For my part, however, I was in a hurry to leave, so I just took a picture because I was feeling overwhelmed by the astounding influence this company is having on the future of the world.


Ok … so back to the my “moment” – the one that felt was an ending and a beginning at the same time.

I don’t have a picture of it because even though Paul said I could take as many pictures as I wanted (as long as I didn’t stop to focus 😉 ), he said I couldn’t take this one. We had just walked past his own place in the building, the one he pointed out to me on the Smart Board when we first came in.




Just beyond his computer station,  he pointed out a  large glass central conference room that I hadn’t even noticed and said “there’s Mark.”

I glanced up and saw the face I’ve seen in pictures so many times before, laughing and talking to a couple of other people at the table. I later learned that one of the people was Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO and author of Lean In  and Option B.   Paul said they were probably planning the weekly Q & A that he was going to try to attend at 4:00.


What struck me the most as we were walking through this amazing complex was that although there were hundreds of people standing or sitting at computers, walking, talking and working, the energy was relaxed and calm, and the huge room was almost silent.


When I saw this 32-year-old who is running a 350 billion dollar company where the average age of his over 15,000 employees is 34 … I flashed back to another life-changing moment.  It was during the summer of 1997 when I was driving back home to teach another year of 5th grade.


I listened to  two audio-books on that trip:  Joseph Jawarski’s Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership. and Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than I.Q.


When the second one was over, I continued driving the last 100 miles thinking about leadership and emotional intelligence.  That’s when it dawned on me that some of the kids in my class, 10-year-olds in 1997, would be the leaders in the year 2020 – the ones I would count on long after I retired. I got very excited about that thought and began planning a leadership program at my school that I would talk to my principal about as soon as I got back.  Instead, however, through a series of unexpected synchronicities, I found myself retired from classroom teaching and living 700 miles north by the end of that year.


Four years later, in 2001, I wrote about that whole experience on a website that was anything but “user friendly.” Since I never learned how to use the software program that created the site, and couldn’t afford to pay a webmaster, it will forever remain just like I left it in 2004:

Leadership 2020: Specializing in Learning Environments for our Future Leaders.

What’s most interesting to me about this website, though, is is that if I changed the year from 2020 to 2040 – I wouldn’t write anything different today.


That brings me to the moment that changed my whole perspective.  Just after I saw Mark.  I looked around and realized that these are those 10-year-olds who were in 5th grade in 1997 …  and Mark Zuckerberg was only 12 when I left teaching!


TWELVE!   Yikes!  My grandson Mason is 12!  Reese is 10 … and Miles is only 7!


So once again I am going to ask that same question:

Who will our leaders be in the year 2040?


The next logical question is whether or not our schools are preparing them to be the kind of leaders the world will need when I may or may not even be around to see it?   How many potential leaders are we losing because they are spending most of their waking hours preparing to take tests rather than practicing skills for success in the 21st century?  Neale Donald Walshe said that the problem with our world is that we are preparing students for “our past and not their future.” It seems to me that we need to stop and think about that for awhile …


My tour of Facebook energized me and made me realize that it’s time that educators rethink our ideas about  “school.”  Perhaps a system that was designed by the Committee of 10 in 1893 needs some major revision as we approach the second half of the 21st century.  After my tour I decided to try my hand at starting a Facebook group of my own.  To my amazement it took me less than a minute to set up!


Leadership 2020: Learning Environments for the 21st Century.


Now that I know Facebook’s mission statement, I hope that this group will be a place where educators can connect and share ideas that will help us prepare kids for their future and not our past. 


I’m still learning how to administer a group like this, but I’d love for you check it out and join me if you find it interesting 🙂 !


12 Responses to Beyond the End: Touring Facebook Comments (RSS) Comments (RSS)

  1. Fascinating trajectory of your visit with Paul in a workplace so foreign to what I was used to in my youth. It’s like reading a sci-fi story, except “the future” is now. Intriguing! Thanks for putting this out there, Bette, especially with the photos, too.


    • Talk about science fiction … I just read the article in this month’s Fortune Magazine about Mark Zuckerberg as “Business Person of the Year.” In addition to connecting people … his other two focus areas are artificial intelligence and virtual reality. Thanks for commenting, Marle 🙂

  2. Dear Bette…you really are an incredible lady. I feel your forward energy right now as I sit here typing away!! What a WOW experience going through Facebook with you and Paul.
    Keep it comin girl!!!!!

    • Interesting question! I’m making a list of questions that I want to ask Paul. I’m sure that information is probably available. The employees are from all over the world so it would really be interesting to do some sort of a study in terms of what kind of education they had in their formative years. Hmmm. Perhaps a thesis topic for some bright grad student interested in Education and Statistics??? Paul did say that the reason the average age is “so high” (35) is that they require 5 years experience in whatever field they are being hired for before they are considered.

  3. How many times have I said… (a lot) that our generation will have to die out and get out of the way for this generation to be really set free. I believe it will be partly true. One thing is true, every generation has their mean, old curmudgeons.

    It made me wonder about the personal educational history of the successful face book staff from top to bottom. This is why. When I was a teacher in NM I taught in some pretty crappy classrooms. They were old, huge water stains on the ceilings, a heating system that came through the ceiling and blew out so much old mold and dust that we kept it off as long as possible because it made everyone sick. For about 2 months every year no one could hear because our ears were clogged up and the noise of the heater was so loud. But…. from kinder on, (and we had full day kindergarten even back then), even in these impoverished little southern NM towns, we had computers. It wasn’t long before we even had a computer lab that every grade level used for about an hour a day. I had 3 cast off computers and when I replaced my home computer I brought it to school to use as my personal “teacher” computer. Then I had a parent of a child who was… well… different. He had no social skills but was academically strong even at age 5. (I also found out that even at that age he thought he knew everything and everyone else was stupid. ha ha. But he didn’t know everything he thought he did.) His mother brought in the learning CDs that he had outgrown. I think that was the moment that I made a turn in terms of the potential of computer education. They had the most amazing programs for young children. His mother happened to be a psychologist. I never found those programs in the educational supply catalogs. I don’t know where she got them but they were fabulous, creative, motivating and completely child centered. Reading skills, intro to high level math at a 5 year old level, geography and map skills. OK… so that is my crappy classroom story.

    I moved to WA state, a couple hours from Portland, OR and Seattle, WA. I moved into a beautiful new building. Beautiful. Climate controlled. ha ha It was huge, long wings in every direction. Only the teachers had computers. I could not believe this well financed district had no student computers. When I tried to beg-borrow-steal someone’s old cast off I managed to get a couple. I was the reading teacher so used reading programs on the computer as “reward” time. The students would get going, engaged and the system would pop off. The building was not wired for “that many” computers.

    What a contrast! How I missed my crappy, poor NM classrooms.

    • You are SO right, Berma. People seem to be so afraid that computers will replace teachers. I keep saying that anything that CAN be taught by a computer SHOULD be taught by a computer. With up to 40 kids in a class it would be simple to make sure that each one of them is learning skills and maybe even some concepts on-line at their specific learning level with built-in motivation to move forward. Then the teacher would be free to call the three little kids who came in from recess arguing about who cheated on the foursquare game to work through the social/emotional crisis of the day.

  4. What fun to go to Facebook with you and Paul! 🙂 (I went to the article link for a few pics)…free food…I want to work there! Seriously though…32 and 35…well…we can be comforted that if they are like your Paul and my Randy, the world is in good hands…2020 4 more years…we have a lot of work to do! I’ll stay tuned and join you in the challenge! 🙂

    • Just between you and me and the lamppost …. I started two Facebook groups for Leadership 2020 – one open and one closed. I couldn’t believe how easy it was! 30 seconds tops! Berma and I are the only members. See if you can find them and ask to join. I have NO clue how that works! Just playin’ 😉 ! After my visit I decided that I’m going to rewrite my post about how the next president is going to be elected. Bloggers may have a lot to do with it … but it will really be because of Facebook. I’m thinking about calling my next post: “Fifty Shades of Purple: What’s a ‘filter bubble’ anyway?” 😉

  5. I always enjoy reading your blog.
    Whats crazy to me is that 2020 used to sound so far off and futuristic. And now we are almost there.

    • SO true, Carol!

      Now 2040 sounds pretty far away … but I keep telling Paul and Debbie – and Shannon – that if they blink their eyes THEY will be sitting here in my position trying to keep up with their kids and wondering where the time went. (“The Cat’s in the Cradle” 😉 )

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *