Insider Perspectives: Ex-Googler Justin Rosenstein on Making the Jump to Facebook

Like many other top computer science students at Stanford University, Justin Rosenstein left his grad program early in the spring of 2004, not to start his own company like so many young entrepreneurs in the first dot com boom, but to join the rapidly expanding Google (still in its pre-IPO years). Justin had visions of services he wanted to build, but the chance to deploy products on a platform with the size and scale of Google’s proved too enticing. During the next three years, Justin worked on several projects and was the Product Manager for Page Creator, which he championed and led from start to launch.

However, a month ago today, I got this email from Justin,

From: Justin Rosenstein
Subject: Facebook.
Date: June 8, 2007 10:12:03 AM PDT
To: [xxx]

A couple of months ago, after three years as a Google product manager, I decided to leave for Facebook. I am writing to spread Good News: Facebook really is That company.

Which company? That one. That company that shows up once in a very long while — the Google of yesterday, the Microsoft of long ago. That company where large numbers of stunningly-brilliant people congregate and feed off each other’s genius. That company that’s doing with 60 engineers what teams of 600 can’t pull off. That company that’s on the cusp of Changing The World, that’s still small enough where each employee has a huge impact on the organization, where you think about working now and again, and where you know you’ll kick yourself in three years if you don’t jump on the bandwagon now, even after someone had told you that it was rolling toward the promised land. That company where everyone seems to be having the time of their life.

I’m serious. I have drunk from the cool-aid, and it is delicious. Facebook is hiring ambitiously across the organization. If you’re an engineer, UI designer, product manager, statistician, bizdev god, general entrepreneurial badass, whatever, and you would even consider considering Facebook as your new place for hat-hanging, please email me. We can have lunch, or I can give you a tour, or we can go kick it with Mark Zuckerberg — whatever it takes.

Best,
Justin

Needless to say, I was impressed with his enthusiasm for making the jump to engineering at Facebook and abandoning the posh meals, massages, and stock options that come with Google life. So I sat down with Justin to get more of his thoughts on making the switch.

IF: So much has been made of the culture Google has built, yet you decided to leave for Facebook. Why?

JR: You know, I still love Google. I was there for three years, and there are a lot of people there that I care a lot about. The food is excellent, and you get treated really well. I always assumed I was going to leave after four years, and that when I did, it would be to start my own company. But the more I learned about Facebook, the more I found it was an opportunity that I couldn’t refuse. And I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.

I think there’s a spectrum of expected value between very small startups and well established companies you can realize when taking a job. On the startup side, there is a chance that you’ll be a huge success, but that probability is very small, whereas in large companies, the risk is much lower, but the opportunity for significant growth and impact is also much smaller. Facebook fills the sweet spot between those two extremes. The opportunity for impact is large, but it’s still a small company.