In 2010, Facebook Inc. opened a seven-person office to explore whether the city was a good fit for its young, hard-driving workforce.
It turned out it was, and over the past seven years, the social media giant has grown its Austin team to 700 people. Today, Facebook occupies four recently-renovated stories of a limestone high-rise in the heart of downtown. Now, the Silicon Valley-based company is getting ready for a new wave of expansion in Austin.
Facebook has signed a lease to take over a fifth floor of the 300 West Sixth tower, where it plans to add a taco bar and other perks to attract the millennial workers that make up a large part of its Austin workforce.
The additional space, which will allow the company to accommodate 900 workers, bolsters Facebook’s multi-million dollar investment in Austin, where it employs workers in a range of sales, marketing and operations roles.
Why come to Austin?
Facebook is one of a growing list of well-known California tech companies, including Apple, Google and Oracle, that are boosting their workforce in Central Texas. For the companies, the region provides a tech-savvy talent pool and a lower cost of living for the entry- and mid-level jobs they need to fill.
For Austin, landing Facebook and other big names builds Austin’s reputation as a leading global tech center, experts say.
“They don’t just drop a pin on a map and say that’s where we’ll go,” said David Altounian, an assistant professor of entrepreneurship at St. Edward’s University. “There are really good reasons why they are congregating in Central Texas. Because of the universities, because of the lifestyle, it’s an attractive place to bring a division.”
The company picked Austin in part because it was offered a mix of state and local incentives.
Mike Rollins, the President and CEO of the Austin Chamber of Commerce, said Facebook wouldn’t be here in the first place without those incentive agreements, where the company promised to hire 200 people in exchange for a $200,000 economic development grant. City records indicate that Facebook never received any money; state records indicate Facebook received $1.4 million through the Texas Enterprise Fund.
Facebook’s local operations are not “traditional engineering-developer” jobs that most tech companies hire for in Austin, Rollins noted. “This is more of an operations center for them,” Rollins he said. “This is where they have grown sales, marketing and customer experience.”
The Austin offices offer the same amenities Facebook is known for at its sprawling headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.
In May, Facebook completed a major 80-week renovation of four floors of its Austin office with one of the biggest visible changes the construction of a massive four-story wooden staircase.
“It’s really amazing what it has done for the office culturally in terms of it feeling more open…and connected,” said Katherine Shappley, Facebook’s director of small and medium business for North America and head of the Austin office. “It aligns with our mission.” Prior to the staircase, workers typically used elevators to travel between floors.
Including the 21st floor addition, Facebook will occupy 120,000 square feet of space that includes a new cafeteria that serves complimentary breakfast, lunch and dinner five days a week, plus fully stocked kitchens and coffee bars — also free. It also has a yoga studio, with group classes, a rotating pop-up shop, and terraces overlooking the skyline for Friday afternoon beer bashes.
The offices carry the unmistakable stamp of Facebook, with exposed ductwork ceilings, a wall that visitors or employees can write on that is intended to be a literal “Facebook wall,” and 11 colorful art installations from Austin artists coating the hallways. Employees work in open-office seating, though there are several private meeting spaces on every floor.
“Austin represents such an amazing place in terms of the community and the talent pool as well as rich startup and tech ecosystem here,” Shappley said. “Growing from a seven person landing team in 2010 to over 700 this year across multiple functions I think speaks to our commitment to Austin and commitment to growth here.”
Adding to the team
Facebook’s Austin office employs people for 13 different departments within Facebook including finance, human resources, intellectual property, public policy and global sales. Dozens of people work on the small-to-medium business team in Austin, which works with local businesses or agencies to craft Facebook advertising campaigns.
Facebook currently has more than 30 job listings for its Austin office for positions including operations analyst, workforce strategy program manager and finance quality assurance manager.
“We certainly are recruiting in Austin, but for some teams…we recruit many folks who are sort of early-stage career. And so we’ve got people coming in from all over the country coming into Austin. A lot of folks coming right out of college,” Shappley said.
When Facebook signed its economic development agreement with the city, it promised average wages of $54,000. Facebook declined to disclose current salary information for its Austin office.
Among Facebook’s new hires is Ana Martinez, a public policy manager. Part of her job involves lobbying the Texas Legislature and developing community outreach efforts. She started interning for Facebook while attending law school and recently relocated to Austin from the Menlo Park headquarters.
“If you had told me ten years ago I would be working for Facebook as a public policy manager, I wouldn’t have believed it,” said 27-year-old Martinez, who is originally from El Paso. But she said Facebook offers a unique opportunity to understand how policy and technology intersect. She is Facebook’s first public policy hire in Texas, part of a bigger push to hire in-house policy advocates.
Austin is one of Facebook’s largest offices outside of its Menlo Park headquarters, and Martinez said it has its own personality, particularly because of its downtown location near bars, restaurants and Lady Bird Lake.
She noted that most of her colleagues actually come from Texas, though Facebook does recruit nationally. “You form this family among all the colleagues here in Austin,” she said. “Not only do we work together, but we hang out after work.”