Facebook's main campus in Menlo Park, CA
Facebook's main campus in Menlo Park, CA
| courtesy of Facebook

Quick, what’s the first thing that pops into your head if you’re asked to picture someone who works at Facebook?

OK, now be honest: Are you envisioning someone who, maybe, is not like you?

There are plenty of myths about the kinds of people who are successful at any big-name tech company, including Facebook—or the Facebook company, as the larger company is now known. That can make it seem intimidating to apply.

But the truth is that there are a lot of nontraditional paths to working in tech, and folks who work at Facebook have a wide variety of backgrounds, skill sets, and personalities.

To help bust some of these myths, we turned to the folks who know the truth: people who’ve actually gotten hired at Facebook (and some who do the hiring!). Here’s what they had to say.

two people standing in front of a staircase in an office
Nam N., Head of Engineering, Instagram (right) with Recruiting Manager Jenny H.

Myth #1: You Need an Ivy League Degree to Get in the Door

Truth: Your pedigree isn’t as important as your skills and your passion.

“A lot of people might not know this about me, but I was kicked out of high school in Vietnam. I left the country and migrated to the U.S. as a refugee. At the time, I didn't have the opportunity to earn my high school diploma, so I went through two years of community college before transferring to a four-year university. I actually graduated with a hardware degree, but my entire career has been in software. Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s less about how you got to where you are and more about what you want to do with your experience and how motivated you are to do it.”

—Nam N., Head of Engineering, Instagram

person smiling
Loredana C., VP of Product Design, Messenger

Myth #2: If You Haven’t Worked at Google, Amazon, or Another Big Tech Company, You Won’t Be Considered

Truth: Folks coming from small or non-name-brand companies get hired—and recruited!—too.

“I grew up in Romania and the first 22 years of my life revolved around music. I started playing classical piano when I was six, and went all the way to the Conservatory without questioning my path. During my teenage years, I became interested in electronic and pop music. This led me to my first job as a sound engineer, which is what I initially moved to the United States to do.

“After doing sound engineering for a few years, I was hired by a startup to develop audio prototypes for a voice assistant. This was about 12 years ago, when interactive design was still a somewhat emerging field and mobile design hadn’t taken off yet. It took me a few months to realize my role was really a design role. Once I figured it out, I knew I had found my true passion.

“Before I joined Facebook, I worked at smaller companies. When the Head of Design for Messenger reached out to me, I wasn’t looking to make a jump. However, I mentioned to him that I was interested in learning more about Messenger’s M Assistant, a beta-tested personal assistant that uses machine learning to understand what people need. I was shocked to discover there was an opening on the team. A few weeks later, I joined to lead design for M and Messenger growth, and after about six months, I transitioned into my current role as Product Design Director for Messenger.”

—Loredana C., VP of Product Design, Messenger

person smiling in front of a bright blue backdrop
Wayne J., Software Engineer, WhatsApp

Myth #3: You Have to Fit a Certain Mold to Feel Like You Belong

Truth: Notice a theme here? There’s no one-size-fits-all set of qualifications.

“I’m not a typical engineer and I didn’t have a path laid out for me as a kid. I didn’t even know what computer engineering was until I went to college. Instead, I started off as a psychology major. I was pretty good at math and science, so I decided to look into programming and signed up for a few introductory classes. While I loved the work, I didn’t feel like I was learning fast enough, so I started watching YouTube videos about programming, and I realized the best way for me to get the coding experience I needed was to build something. I built my first Android app, a productivity app called Taskly, in 2013.

“Today, I’m a software engineer at WhatsApp. I want people to know you don’t have to come from a certain background or look a certain way to be at Facebook—you just have to be curious and you have to be prepared to work hard.”

—Wayne J., Software Engineer, WhatsApp

person smiling at a desk
Liz W., VP of Recruiting

Myth #4: You Can’t Get Hired if You’re Not an Engineer

Truth: As at any tech company, there are lots of jobs for non-tech folks, too.

“While tech companies are always looking for engineers, data scientists, and similar tech profiles, at Facebook, there are plenty of opportunities for non-coders to have long, successful careers in the technology industry. As the Vice President of Recruiting for Facebook’s COO and CFO organizations, I am responsible for hiring talent across a dozen departments, including marketing, sales, policy, recruiting and sourcing, accounting, and media—all of which are equally as important to the company as its technical teams.”

—Liz W., VP of Recruiting

person knitting in an armchair
Fiona F., Engineering Director, AR/VR (who enjoys knitting as a hobby)

Myth #5: The Interview Process Is High-Stakes

“My initial Facebook interview was not a slam dunk. I worked in client software for 12 years and was very rusty with distributed systems. That didn’t stop me. I was too passionate about the role and excited about the people I met, so I prepped some more and asked for another round of design and coding. To my delight, I got another chance and landed the job! I learned a valuable lesson: if you believe in something, work hard, stay focused, and go for it.”

—Fiona F., Engineering Director, AR/VR

Learn more about what it’s like to work at Facebook:

Here at The Muse, we partner with a lot of great companies to bring you insider looks at their offices and awesome job listings. Yes, these employers pay us to be featured on the site—but we’re bringing you this article from one of our partners because we think it’s genuinely useful and helpful.