It’s advice most college students have heard before: An internship is a great way to get your foot in the door at a company. Not only will you leave with real-life work experience that’ll help you no matter where you go next, you’ll also build professional connections at that company that can last for years to come. In a best-case scenario, you’ll even get a job offer out of it.
The latter is what happened to both Emily T. and Ricky R., former Facebook interns who are currently software engineers at the global tech company. Emily, who is based in London, interned for 12 weeks in the fall of 2019, and has held her full-time position for seven months. Ricky, meanwhile, interned during the summer of 2017 and joined Facebook full time a year later.
Here, they share how they landed their internships, the keys to their success at Facebook, and advice for other software engineers interested in a similar career path.
How did you land an internship at Facebook?
Emily: I majored in physics with a minor in chemistry and biology at a university in France. I worked at several startups and smaller companies as a student, but I wanted a position in a larger international company to grow as an engineer and work in a multicultural environment.
I applied online for the Facebook internship program in October 2018 for a position in London. I didn’t know anyone working at Facebook, so I applied without a referral. A recruiter got in touch in November by email. I wasn’t expecting to hear back and missed seeing the email. My wife was the one who called me to tell me that my application was selected to proceed. I was overjoyed!
I had heard about the long and difficult interview processes at large Bay Area tech companies, but the interview process at Facebook was fairly simple: two 45-minute interviews, each one with two coding questions. Facebook provided great resources to prepare for interviews, which were very useful to me. I bought a copy of Cracking the Coding Interview and started preparing about a week before the first interview. It took less than two weeks to get the offer after the first interview.
Ricky: I had an interdisciplinary major for computer graphics, computer science, and fine arts in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Pennsylvania. I was applying to internships at tech companies in the Bay Area for the summer after my junior year, and a peer of mine from university who graduated from the same program was working at Facebook at the time. I asked her for a referral for the software engineer internship program. After a couple of months, I received an email from a Facebook recruiter to participate in the interview process, and after a couple of technical interview rounds over the phone I received an offer. Before accepting the offer, I asked to be matched with an Oculus team so I could work on a graphics-related project during my internship. For this to happen, I had to complete another technical interview with an engineer from Oculus.
As an intern, what did you like about Facebook’s company culture?
Emily: I initially was drawn to Facebook because of the company mission of helping people build community and stronger connections. But after my internship, it was the people that made me want to join full time. Every day of my internship was spent with people I enjoyed being around and learning from. My mentor ended up becoming a friend I still chat with today. She helped me grow as an engineer by teaching me invaluable skills, like how to manage on a large scale, how to progress your work, how to execute your ideas, and how to mediate disagreements with other engineers.
Ricky: I was impressed by leadership's transparency. When I joined the team as an intern for Oculus, I appreciated how open Facebook executives were about company goals. Instead of remaining in an Oculus bubble, I had a strong understanding of what the entire company was working on.
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How does Facebook help its interns learn and grow?
Ricky: Facebook’s culture of giving feedback helped me grow as a graphics engineer. During the first half of my internship, the technology and graphics were all new to me, and I struggled. I was lucky enough to be put on a team of senior graphics engineers who were all willing to help me. My manager was also supportive and open about how to improve. He made my personal growth a priority.
Why was your internship at Facebook especially rewarding?
Emily: I was matched with a product infrastructure team. While I had very limited exposure to product development, I did know quite a bit about infrastructure and was able to contribute pretty soon. I was able to drive measurable impact during my internship. People don’t look at your seniority or experience at Facebook—we are all valued the same. As an intern, I would be in meetings with very senior engineers unknowingly, where I shared ideas that ended up being implemented. During my internship, I worked on the rebrand of Workplace, formerly Instack. It made a big impact and changed the product vision entirely. As an intern it was incredible to have the opportunity to influence such a novel product.
Ricky: I worked on a variety of impactful projects and was able to ship a lot of code. While full time, I’ve had the chance to participate in multiple hackathons, like the Oculus Quest Jam hackathon that occurred right when it was launching. This was an incredible opportunity, and it was great to be in the trenches with project managers and senior leaders in the organization who also participated. Even in the company of senior teammates, my opinions on design and product were encouraged. I always have a voice at the table at Facebook.
What do you think were the keys to your success as an intern?
Emily: Onboarding into the Facebook tech stack was not easy at all, and I was really lucky to work with friendly engineers who were very open to helping me with my questions. Overall, that’s what struck me the most: Engineers at Facebook will help you if they can, and if they can’t, they will guide you to the right person.
My mentor was also a strong contributor to my success. She was able to provide me with a lot of insights about how to manage working in a large company, how to ensure you get the right exposure, and how to define your own goals and succeed.
Finally, I didn’t underestimate the strengths of non–software engineers. My intern project was successful because I partnered with the marketing team and the solution architects who had a lot of insights into our business.
How was the transition from intern to full-time employee? What was the onboarding process like?
Emily: My transition happened in February when COVID-19 started spreading in Europe. Overall, no one was sure what was going to happen, and everyone was anxious. But the onboarding process itself was really well designed, with five to eight weeks to learn about the Facebook infrastructure and choose a team.
For the learning aspect, you can pick a dominant area: infrastructure, product, or mobile. I picked infrastructure since that’s what I liked the most. I learned so much in those few weeks! In the meantime, you have the opportunity to do small tasks for the engineering team to learn more about them. For example, I learned Rust to improve the Source Control Software we use at Facebook.
Being able to choose a team after spending some time with them is probably one of the strongest advantages of working at Facebook. You will know your manager and coworkers, and like the problems you will be working on. There is a team for everyone at Facebook.
Ricky: The transition was seamless since I was already familiar with Facebook and Oculus technologies as well as working with the same cross functional teams within Oculus. Generally, Facebook does a great job of onboarding new employees through the bootcamp process. During this multi-week program, we are introduced to Facebook culture, technologies, and the BFF program that allows us to meet other new hires. This provided the time needed to feel comfortable working with Facebook technologies, navigating campus, and meeting new people.
What are you working on now that excites or inspires you?
Emily: I work at Workplace, which is a work-related collaboration platform used internally but also by thousands of other companies. I just started a new infrastructure team, where we are trying to scale the technologies behind Workplace to efficiently manage larger companies and enable the product team to deliver new features at scale.
Ricky: I am currently on the Oculus Guardian team, keeping people safe in virtual environments by providing tools to confidently navigate the real world. Recently, we have started to look into Mixed Reality applications for Passthrough technology that can expand VR’s value beyond games and entertainment to include productivity. With this, I am excited to see how VR and the Oculus Quest can eventually be developed into a general computer platform. We saw a glimpse of this with the Infinite Office platform, recently announced in Facebook Connect.
What advice do you have for other engineers looking to get internships at Facebook?
Emily: I think the most important thing to say is that having a computer science degree is not a requirement to work at Facebook. As mentioned, I have degrees in physics and chemistry, and one of my coworkers has a business degree. Having said that, it is important to showcase that you are able to write software and enjoy doing so.
For your interview, and your engineering career, the most important skill to master is communication. Working with hundreds of engineers on the same mission is difficult, and communicating will help you the most in achieving your goals. You should show off this skill in the interview process: Always explain what you are doing and why you are doing it. There is no drawback in explaining every step of your problem solving—it will even help the interviewer give you a hint if you get stuck.
Ricky: Practice technical interviews with Pramp or with peers in person. Do your research on the company and ask questions during your interview that demonstrate your interest in the company’s product and future plans.