Jocelyn Goldfein: Deep Inside Facebook [Entire Talk] | Summary and Q&A

June 3, 2013
Stanford eCorner
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Jocelyn Goldfein: Deep Inside Facebook [Entire Talk]

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Jocelyn Goldfein, the former Director of Engineering at Facebook, shares her career journey and insights about the culture at Facebook in this video. She discusses the importance of being open, taking risks, and embracing failure. She also talks about the on-boarding process at Facebook and the qualities they look for in hiring software engineers. Additionally, she shares her perspective on women in tech and balancing a career and family.

Questions & Answers

Q: Can you tell us about your career path from a Stanford student to a Director of Engineering at Facebook?

Jocelyn shares her career path, starting with her major in Computer Science in college. She talks about her first job at Trilogy, co-founding a startup, and eventually joining VMware. She highlights her growth within VMware and her decision to join Facebook.

Q: How would you describe the culture at Facebook?

Jocelyn describes the culture at Facebook as open, fast-paced, and humble. She talks about the physical space, the slogans on the walls, and the emphasis on being open and not taking success for granted. She emphasizes that everyone is expected to be informed, connected, and empowered to make good decisions.

Q: How important is the space to the culture at Facebook?

Jocelyn explains that the space at Facebook is deliberately designed to reflect and reinforce the culture. The open space layout encourages communication and collaboration, although they also provide private spaces for focused work. She highlights the importance of openness and information sharing in their culture.

Q: What is the on-boarding process like at Facebook?

Jocelyn explains that the on-boarding process at Facebook is called "bootcamp." It is a six-week program where new hires work on fixing bugs and implementing small features across the site. They attend lectures and have a mentor to guide them. The goal is to give them exposure to different parts of the company before they join a specific team.

Q: What qualities do you look for when hiring software engineers?

Jocelyn emphasizes the importance of technical skills and the ability to write code. They look for analytical thinking, problem-solving abilities, and the potential to think about hard systems issues. They also value enthusiasm, passion, and being a nice person to work with. Additionally, they have started interviewing for creativity and intuition in order to identify potential innovators.

Q: Is the culture at Facebook supportive of women?

Jocelyn believes that the culture at Facebook is supportive of women. She mentions the open conversations about gender diversity and the efforts to create connections and support networks for technical women. She highlights the importance of having the conversation and acknowledges that women have different perspectives and desires, but the overall environment is supportive and empowering.

Q: How do you balance a professional career and having a family?

Jocelyn shares her personal experience of having a supportive husband who became a stay-at-home dad. She emphasizes the importance of marrying someone who supports your career, and the willingness to outsource household tasks. She also advises focusing on things you are passionate about and ruthlessly eliminating time spent on things that don't matter.

Q: What happens when someone at Facebook really breaks something?

Jocelyn shares her own experience of accidentally causing a disruption in the bug database and email system. She explains how the teams came together to fix the problem and support her. She highlights the willingness to take risks and face the consequences of failure as part of the culture at Facebook.

Q: Where do you draw the line between encouraging failure and when it becomes too much?

Jocelyn explains that there are certain bright lines, such as ethical violations, that will not be tolerated. In terms of failure related to innovation and taking risks, they focus on helping people solve the problem and learn from their mistakes. Repetitive mistakes and failures without learning or growth would be a concern, but overall, they encourage failing fast and iterating quickly.

Q: What advice do you wish someone had given you when you were a student at Stanford?

Jocelyn wishes she had been advised to be brave and not worry too much about finding her passion. She would have encouraged herself to embrace coding and not be afraid of it, as it is a valuable skill and foundation for many careers in technology. She also advises living in the present and not wasting time on things that don't matter.


Jocelyn highlights the importance of being open, taking risks, and embracing failure in the culture at Facebook. By encouraging innovation and accepting the consequences of failure, Facebook enables its employees to try new things and make bold decisions. They value technical skills, creativity, and enthusiasm in their hiring process. Jocelyn also discusses the supportiveness of the Facebook culture for women and the importance of finding a balance between professional and personal life. Overall, she emphasizes the need to be brave, embrace coding, and focus on what truly matters.

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