A Peak into Facebook's Corporate Culture

A feature in the next Fortune issue reveals a split corporate culture at Facebook: the "hacker" culture on which the company was built and the more corporate culture that is preparing the company to go public. The "hacker way" includes continuous improvement of products from anyone who can code; education isn't particularly valued as part of this culture. As one example of the hacker way, the Facebook "Like" button went through "dozens" of iterations.

The other culture is more corporate, led by COO Sheryl Sandberg. The Fortune article describes her influence:

"There's a term spoken quietly around Facebook to describe a cadre of elites who have assumed powerful positions under the leadership of Zuckerberg's chief operating officer: They're FOSS, or friends of Sheryl Sandberg. Many have followed her there after studying with her at the Harvard Business School or working with her at the U.S. Treasury Department or Google (GOOG). Several middle and senior executives who have left the company say that Sandberg has put friends in powerful positions, sometimes even when they were less qualified than other Facebook employees, and once there they enjoy special status. 'You can't really cross a FOSS,' says one former senior manager."

TechCrunch sums up the culture clash as a "tug of war between innovation and monetization." Facebook employees are concerned about how the IPO may affect the hacker culture; however, Andrew Bosworth, FB Director of Engineering doesn't agree with the article's portrayal of Facebook in some respects:

Facebook response

Discussion Starters:

  • How would you describe the corporate culture at places where you worked?
  • Have you experienced a healthy-or perhaps an unhealthy-conflict between different corporate cultures? To what do you attribute the conflict?
  • What is the best way for Facebook to resolve this conflict? TechCrunch has some ideas from a business perspective; what are your ideas using an interpersonal approach?