Sunday, June 22, 2014

4 Reasons Why You Should Apply to FBU, Especially If You're a Woman

If you've felt even the slightest inkling of interest in Computer Science, you should apply to the Facebook University (FBU) internship, an all-freshmen program Facebook began offering the summer of 2013. If you're a woman, you should REALLY apply.

Why am I going all Billy Mays for FBU? For one, Mark Zuckerberg and his tight-fitting henleys can do no wrong, and I totally buy Facebook's sugar-coated mission of "making the world more open and connected." Secondly, and slightly more important, I was lucky to be part of the guinea pig class of FBU, an experience that has only made me more optimistic about the future of Computer Science and women's role in it as a whole.


The Facebook interns of 2013

To be sure, when I began FBU I was not so optimistic. I had two years of high school experience being the only girl in an AP Computer Science class of twenty dudes, and I entered college with no intention of prolonging the sausage fest. 

To top it off the introductory CS courses I took at Stanford, although very well staffed and much more promising in gender ratio, felt much too academic and not nearly enough applicable. I wanted the comfort of other women in my major, I wanted to code something big, and I had no idea how to compromise the two.

Luckily, FBU swept the past summer like Sheryl Sandberg did my heart, and it salvaged me from academic/existential crisis. So what's so great about Facebook? Why the possessed look in my eyes? 

Allow me to present the definitive list of FBU game-changers:

1) The people
Cliché, I know, but the best thing about Facebook really is its people. My mentor Jason is an outstanding engineer, with exceptional design sense and ample brain folds to spare, yet for all his accomplishments he treated me and the other interns on our team like equals. Even if not all people at Facebook are so cool, those who do volunteer to be intern mentors for FBU tend to be grade-A awesome sauce.

And for those who are only interested in *cough* the possibilities *cough* Facebook is quite the impressive dating gene pool. My first day I literally thought Zuck was commissioning Urban Outfitters to dress the employees. Maybe Stanford's sweatpants couture has lowered my standards for dress, but along with fashion sense Facebook's employees are pre-selected for intelligence and ability to work on a team. Apparently something magical happens to programmers as they transcend from college to the industry, a second puberty so to speak, and for once in your CS life, ladies, the gender ratio is ever in your favor. So own it.


The typical Facebook engineer

2) Sheryl Sandberg

If there are two women in this world who I had to be conjoined twins with for the rest of my life, they are Shakira and Sheryl Sandberg. Why? Because Sheryl is awesome. Rumor is she smells like roses. I ran into her in the bathroom once. Rumor is true.


http://www.glamour.com/images/inspired/2013/03/sheryl-sandberg-w724.jpg
"Sheryl" is Spanish for "unapologetic awesomeness"

In all seriousness though, one of the proudest reasons I have for working at Facebook is Sheryl. She is an inspiration for what it means to be a strong woman in the tech industry, and as a woman in the tech industry, inspiration is what we need. 


Cold feet are inevitable if you're a woman in CS. And there's no shame in that. Every woman in tech has at some point in her career gotten cold feet because the industry is a scary place. It's scary for a number of reasons: we are not surrounded by a majority of other people like us; the media has confined our career to geeky Sheldon Cooper-types; we are not expected to be good at coding; 
blatant sexism in the workplace; and so on. It's scary, but Sheryl's message to recognize and stand against society's discrepancies in expected career path, income, and general success of men and women is strong at Facebook.

Sandberg has done an amazing job of personally taking care of female interns at Facebook, giving each woman a free signed copy of Lean In, hosting Lean In Foundation meetings and Q&As with all the women, even inviting all female interns to her own backyard for a barbecue and some community. She's a feminist not just in print but also in action, and her activism has given Facebook's reputation a human touch. So if you too want to smell the roses, apply to FBU. 


3) The work
Facebook gave me a wonderful opportunity that I was craving in school: real-world experience. For academic assignments, I was usually working completely on my own, save for bits and pieces of help from friends or TAs at office hours. But at Facebook, projects are completely interdependent, and as such people must learn to work on a team. 

A fear many women have of Computer Science is that it is a lonely road, one usually led by the acne-ridden, Cheeto-munching World of Warcrafter in a dark basement that reeks of stale tears and celibacy. The reality is that companies, Facebook especially, rely on collaboration to create seamless, driven products, and my intern group really enjoyed this aspect. I was constantly communicating with my teammates, whether it be in delegating work, critiquing each other's code, or talking design details.



Coders in the media

At the end of day, we had a tangible, functioning product, an iPhone app leveraging nifty, then-beta iOS 7 features. And what a feeling it is to see the very code your little fingers punched through the keys come alive on your iPhone screen. At FBU, you can build an app or project that you too can call your own by virtue of the code. And although FBU is just one way to kickstart your production, it'll provide you the excellent guidance, work environment, and other real-world resources academia usually cannot.


4) The perks
Halfway through my internship I caught myself whining, "Oh my god, the café is serving duck confit again?" And then I slapped myself. Because Facebook food is the BEST. THING. IN EXISTENCE. And to not appreciate it is deeper sacrilege than burning a signed copy of Lean In. Your inculcation into the world of palatable pleasure at Facebook shall proceed in three stages:

1) "Oh my god, they have an espresso machine?! And it's free?"

2) "Oh my god, gourmet lamb tacos? Gourmet duck? Gourmet corn flakes? And it's free?"
3) "Oh my god, it's free?"


They don't call it Cafe Epic for nothin'

Facebook makes sure its employees are caffeinated to code with cappuccinos to make a grown Italian man cry and fills its employees with food that manifests itself in the "Facebook 15." And poor me, barely escaping the claws of the Freshman 15, had no chance. 

Other food may hold no meaning after tasting Facebook's, but if that were not enough, the intern coordinators plan weekly events to expose interns to all the fun the Bay Area has to offer, including but not limited to a trip to Yosemite, a scavenger hunt across San Francisco, and an intern carnival at Facebook's Disneyland-meet-urbania campus, complete with bounce house, zipline, and free food trucks. Just savor the feel of the words on your lips: "free food trucks."


Did I mention luxurious corporate housing? No? Well, there's that too.



In conclusion

Can there be any question now that you should apply? If you're a woman in CS, FBU will give you the optimism it gave me to carry through the unique challenges you'll face in a male-dominated field. Heck, if you're a goat, this internship will make your life better. Because it's awesome.

To be sure, FBU is just one way to get comfortable with your womanhood in the industry, to get real-world experience, and to build a functional product with your creative stamp on it. Any internship you take or project you begin can only increase your confidence in your ability to code. Just seize these opportunities to grow and take comfort in the presence of other women who've faced the same challenges. It may only be summer, but recruiting season is just around the corner. 

2 comments:

  1. Hi Lea, Thrilled that you found FBU to be such an awesome experience on your journey! Maxine

    ReplyDelete