The Magnet Social Network: Working at Facebook

by Ted Jou '99

After graduating from the Blair Magnet in 2002, Kang-Xing Jin became a computer science major at Harvard, where he met an ambitious classmate named Mark Zuckerberg.  Jin and Zuckerberg took several classes together as freshmen, and they kept in touch over the summer.  In the winter of their sophomore year, Zuckerberg launched a website called thefacebook.com, and he invited his friends to join and help test it.  Jin was one of the first users (id #34) on Facebook, but the site would soon grow to include most of the Harvard student body.  The social network was then opened up to Columbia, Yale, Stanford, and college campuses around the country.  

Zuckerberg and a few other students left Harvard in 2004 to focus on growing Facebook, but Jin stayed to complete his degree, graduating Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 2006.  He was then invited to join Facebook, which had grown in just two years to millions of users and around a hundred employees.  Jin started in August 2006 as a Software Engineer in Facebook's Palo Alto office.  He worked on the News Feed and eventually on Ads.

Kang-Xing Jin '02 at the first Facebook f8 Conference in 2007
One of Jin's Blair Magnet classmates, Dan Kim '02, had been living in the Bay Area and working for Oracle for more than a year after graduating from Carnegie Mellon in 3 years with a degree in Computer Science.  When Jin decided to go to Facebook in the summer of 2006, Jin reached out to Kim, looking for a roommate, and they found an apartment in Palo Alto.  Facebook was growing at a rapid pace, and Jin knew that they needed more good programmers.  So he asked his roommate whether he would be interested in interviewing for a job.  Kim explains that his decision was easy: "I would actually surf Facebook so much while I was working at Oracle, it just kind of dawned on me that hey, wouldn't it be cool to actually contribute?"  He started as a Software Engineer in February 2007.

Kim spent several years working on growth and internationalization, and he now works on Facebook's Android native app.  Jin was soon promoted to a management position, and today he is the Director of Engineering for Facebook Ads.  Jin and Kim eventually moved out of their Palo Alto apartment, but they have remained the closest of friends. Jin is getting married this fall, and Kim will be his best man.

Just as Jin recruited Kim to Facebook, Kim referred another Blair Magnet alum to Facebook a few years later.  Jen Tung '98 moved to the Bay Area in 2010 and got in touch with Kim through her brother, Will Tung '99, who had played on the Blair volleyball team with Kim.  Kim and Tung had lunch at the Facebook campus, and she thought it "was unlike anything I'd ever seen before: so young, so fast-paced yet casual, and with just a ton of energy."  A graduate of Harvard Law School, Tung had previously worked as a lawyer at a large law firm, and she was hired to join Facebook's legal department.  Although she decided not to pursue a career in engineering, she credits the Blair Magnet for teaching her "the basics of CS" so she doesn't feel "completely illiterate around programmers" at Facebook.

Yet another Blair alum joined Facebook in 2011, when Jeff Dunn '05 left his job at Microsoft to join Facebook in Seattle.  His interests in statistics and machine learning drew him to Facebook and its constant flow of data, and he credits "Mr. Stein's introductory statistics class," which "was where I first began to get excited about statistics and data analysis."  Dunn enjoys the "quirky charm" of Facebook's Seattle office, and the open culture that gives engineers the freedom to experiment with new features on small engineering teams.

Greg Novick
Greg Novick '99 showing his Facebook pride
In 2012, another Blair alum went from Microsoft to Facebook, although Krister Fardig '99 took a brief detour through Business School at the University of Washington.  After graduating from Brown, Fardig worked for Microsoft for six years, but was looking for a change when he decided to earn an MBA and look for a job on the business side of the tech world.  He just started this summer as a Product Analyst for Facebook.

One of Fardig's classmates from Blair, Greg Novick '99, joined Facebook earlier this year.  After graduating from Stanford in 2003, Novick went to work for Apple, where he was part of the team that developed the iPhone.  He has now brought his expertise to Facebook, where he manages the iOS team, which owns Facebook's iPhone and iPad apps.  Novick met with Kang-Xing Jin at work just a few weeks ago, but until they were contacted for this article, they had no idea that they had both graduated from the Blair Magnet.

Facebook is also recruiting the next generation of Magnet students, and Michael Cohen '10 is just finishing up more than a year in Menlo Park.  After he graduated from Blair, he competed in the International Olympiad in Informatics, which prompted an e-mail from a Facebook recruiter.  After competing in the 2011 Facebook Hacker cup while he was a freshman at MIT, he was contacted by a different Facebook recruiter, and he decided to interview for an internship.  While working as an intern in the summer of 2011, Cohen got involved in a long-term project, and he decided to stay at Facebook to keep working on it rather than going back to MIT. 

This summer, Cohen's classmate, Anand Oza '10 joined him as an intern at Facebook.  Unlike Mark Zuckerberg, however, Oza and Cohen are planning to go back to college this fall, and if all goes according to plan, they will both graduate from MIT together in 2014.

If you're counting, that's at least eight Blair Magnet alums working at Facebook.  While they all started in Silver Spring, they took very different paths, from Harvard, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, Brown, and MIT, through Oracle, Microsoft, and Apple, and even going to law school and business school before landing at one of the hottest companies in the world today.