Why I left Facebook

Facebook is among the best companies to work for. Why did you leave Facebook?

I worked at Facebook for 6 years before joining Square 3 years ago. Almost every interviewee at Square asks me why I left Facebook. There is no doubt in my mind that Facebook was and still is a great place to work. I learned a lot and feel grateful and lucky to have been a part of Facebook during its crucial period of growth. But I had good reasons why I decided to leave and have no regrets. Maybe some of my thought process will help you when/if you are considering embarking on a new journey with a different company.

Before you think about switching roles or companies, I think the most important thing is to do a bit of research about — yourself. Being self-aware and being honest about what you enjoy and do not enjoy can be very helpful in decision-making and providing you that gut check.

For me, I knew that I was the type of person who always seeks a change of scenery. Being bored or complacent is one of the worst fears for me, so I’ve always sought change in my role, job, industry, or city every 2–3 years. Another thing I know about me is, I like learning new things and challenging myself, and once I commit to something, I tend to give it my all. So I was pretty careful about what I chose to commit myself to. I was also aware that there were pros and cons to this type of personality. Nonetheless, knowing this about myself was very helpful in making the difficult decision to leave Facebook.

During my 6 years at Facebook, I was a business analyst, a product analyst, and a product manager. I also had the opportunity to manage a team of analysts and to work on a lot of different products in various stages. When I was trying to look for the next exciting change of scenery within Facebook after my 6 year stint, I ran into a few problems.

I knew too much about the reputation or the problems of a team/org or person. Honestly, no team, organization, or company is perfect. But even if a product seemed interesting to me, if I initially knew that I would not work well with some key people in the team, it was hard for me to get excited about it because we all know having compatible co-workers is invaluable. Similarly, even if I really liked the key leaders on a team, if the product wasn’t exciting to me, it was hard for a product manager to switch to that team.

And truthfully, I was getting a bit tired of working on social media and realized that I am not really passionate about ads-based revenue making. There are actually a lot of interesting and challenging problems in both social media and ad spaces, but I was learning about my likes and dislikes through my experience.

I even considered moving to a different office in a different city, but at the time, most core product decisions were made in HQ, so that decision would have optimized for something other than working on a product I was excited about. In short, I was becoming too picky and jaded, and I didn’t want to stay at Facebook in that state.

At the same time, Facebook was on its way to becoming a behemoth of a company, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about continuing on at such a large firm. I joined Facebook when there were about 500 employees, and when I left, there were 8,000. I feel extremely fortunate that I was able to experience the different growth stages of a company like Facebook. Generally, with a lot more resources, Facebook, as a company size of 8,000, can make a lot more impact than as a company of 500. But also with a bigger size, I found that the percentage of my time spent on communicating, sync’ing up, making sure that all the cooks in the kitchen are looped in, and coming to a decision was way higher than I would like.

Also, seeing an explosion of new hires and unclear ownership of responsibilities, sprinkled with politics among some leaders, made me really miss the good old days when we could stay nimble and scrappy. In the grand scheme of things, I do not think Facebook is anywhere close to being a “political” company. Since each team and organization is different, I can’t say that this is what other Facebook employees would have felt either. But for me, I preferred my experience at a smaller company.

Last reason for leaving Facebook that I don’t usually mention to interviewees is that I wanted to prove to myself that what I learned and gained from Facebook was actually valuable outside of Facebook.

I have seen cases where senior people from other companies would come to Facebook and fall very short of expectations although they were successful at their previous companies. We like to believe that tech companies are a 100% meritocracy, but in reality, for a rapidly growing company, when you join plays a significant part in your future growth and promotion within that company. Sometimes just having the context and history of that company and its products alone can make you highly valuable. It is possible that Facebook is so unique in its problems, organizational design, and culture than other companies that these senior folks’ knowledge and learning simply aren’t as transferable. Perhaps, their roles at Facebook aren’t the right fit for them, or the current structure at Facebook does not set them up for success.

Regardless, I wanted to know for myself, “as an early employee of Facebook, would things I learned at Facebook over the 6 years be valuable and transferable at other companies? Am I just another beneficiary of someone who joined the right company at the right time?”

Would I have made more money had I stayed? Definitely. Would I have had other new opportunities had I endured through that rut and stayed a little longer? Probably. But I knew that I would not be happy if I couldn’t find work that has a purpose I believe in and keeps me excited everyday, so I felt like my time at Facebook was coming to a close.

I have no regrets about leaving consulting and moving from the East Coast to join Facebook. Actually, that is probably one of the best decisions I have made in my life. Also, I have no regrets on my multiple role/job changes within Facebook as well as deciding to leave.

I am glad that I was able to find purpose and passion at Square and proved to myself that after all, I did learn a thing or two from my time at Facebook. At the same time, I am equally excited and happy for my friends who stayed at Facebook, doing new and great things, and for those who are just embarking on a new journey at Facebook.

Now to another question almost every interviewee at Square asks me after asking about why I left Facebook: Why did you join Square? Stay tuned for that story!