When you meet people sometimes you just know. You know they are bound for greater things in life. A case in point is my ex-colleague Rob Graham. At my first interview at CA (way back in May 2013), I could tell this guy had that extra spark, that magic dust, and if I may be so crude that X Factor. Sure enough, he was always the go to guy for practically everything. He would never let you down. We also clicked for our mutual love of technology particularly gadgets of the Android variety.
Fast forward just over two years and Rob is working for the biggest social network on the planet. Tonight, I finally got to visit him in his fabulous workplace in Central London. Regents Place, owned by British Land is also home to Debenhams and believe it or not Manchester City FC. It was not an easy evening to organise. I had to arrange to spend the day working at our City office in Cornhill, to enable me to have the relatively short journey across London to see Rob over by Euston Square. Obviously in the current climate, Facebook and many other global American corporations, do not advertise their office locations with a major logo on the building, so when I did get to the offices, I was unsure if I was in the right place, so actually walked around and used the rear entrance to the building. As I approached the reception desk, I noticed the big Facebook thumb on the side of a wooden box. The place to deposit your visitors pass when you heading out. I was asked whom I was meeting and to enter in my details on a tablet, selecting Social as the purpose for my visit, entering my name and signing some extensive NDA before selecting Rob from a list of employees (sure enough, his Facebook profile came up) and then my pass was printed, while my photo ID was checked by the receptionist. I could then head up to the 8th floor, and a member of security buzzed me through the gates and reminded me to wear my lanyard at all times. They take security very seriously here. Reminded me of the scene from Iron Man 3 when Happy Hogan is making sure everybody has their ID visible at Stark Industries California office.
Heading upstairs using the glass elevator, I was impressed by the size and scale of the building, it probably looks larger than it is from the inside. That is modern architecture for you. I went to the main reception and it was another security person asking whom I had come to see and I was asked to wait on the lounge chairs as Robin would be called to collect me. The office (difficult to even really call this a workplace) was a hive of activity on a Friday evening as we slowly approached 6pm. There was a table tennis match going on with a group of colleagues watching and cheering on intently. Overall the vibe was extremely chilled, this working week was done and people were going to let off a little steam.
Rob eventually arrived to collect me and we headed directly to the restaurant to grab a few drinks, before my tour of the building (Facebook are over three floors) and we headed downstairs to his working area. This was by far the most removed from a corporate environment ever. Even if you were building an office for a fresh tech company, some of the decisions were just awesome. A bar for each area, a fully stocked fridge, an accessories vending machine, which spills out headphones, keyboards, iPhone adapters and chargers. Geek paradise! I only took a handful of photos, mainly because Facebook do not want you taking too many photographs, particularly with employees working or of future development to the platform. Uploaded the six or so to a new album on FlickR. There are plenty more on the official Facebook London page and even one uploaded by Diamond Geezer on his travels. (Open House last year infact!). We waited for Rob’s flatmate Alex to arrive and then went to grab some food in the restaurant before having a wonder around the offices. The place was relatively busy on a Friday evening – who wants to go home when you have access to food, drink and games. Along side the table tennis and pool table there was a games room with PS4 and Xbox One but unfortunately the performance for the
Christmas Holiday party were rehearsing, so we unable to go in and have me humiliated on GTA 5.
Great to catch up with Rob (and meet his flatmate) and find out he is doing so well in his new surroundings – no real surprise there. There was little talk of my lack of use of the platform, particularly as I post so infrequently these days (compared to just four or five years ago!) People say that once your parents and grandparents join a social network, it is no longer the ‘cool’ place to be. I have been quite open about this previously that I use my feed to discover what other people are up to. When I have anything interesting to say, I can post an expansive note on one of my blogs or upload a collection of photos to FlickR. Plus believe it or not, there are still many people not using Facebook.