György Demarcsek

György Demarcsek

fellow of Bridge Budapest, Ustream, San Francisco, 2014

The Mighty Mustang

Árpád, my co-mentor at Ustream was so kind as to offer me to go on a road trip with him to visit some really cool places in the valley. This was my second road trip in the Bay Area and I was very excited about the places we were about to visit which I  came to know only in the morning of the trip.

Bridge Budapest fellow Marci joined us as well. We met at the parking lot of the train station in San Carlos. And then, we saw it—a beautiful black Ford Mustang with a look that represents power, performance and style. I’ve never had a chance to ride a true muscle car, so traveling by itself was quite fun. The first place we went to was Facebook HQ. I know, I know, we’ve already been there… but not IN there! Árpád arranged a tour for us inside the Facebook campus and our guide was a Hungarian database administrator who works there. Facebook is probably the TOP 1 workplace for an IT guy and despite it’s a huge tech company with more than 7000 employees, it still works like a startup in many ways.

Let me explain it: Facebook still tries hard to innovate, extend and launch several new projects. Employees can still feel really free at Facebook, there’s no strict work hours or hierarchy, employees receive infinite number of cool benefits, they have a friendly, convenient workplace that has its own restaurants, bars, hairdresser’s, laundry, banking center, video arcade and more, most of them provided free for people working there. Employees can express their creativity not just in there field of work but by decorating the inner campus with their very own artwork.

So one of the most genial thing about the Facebook HQ is that you don’t need to come out of there—the employees can almost literally live there, because most of their everyday needs can be satisfied within the campus. And it’s not to exploit or overload them—it’s to make them love their workplace, after all, they spend most of their time there. Another one is “hack”.

In Facebook’s terminology, “hack” is an outstanding solution to a hard problem, that requires an alternative approach or the usage of tools and technologies in an unconventional way. They encourage their people to recognize tasks that require such “hacks” and implement them. Employees who are capable of this are really appreciated. Also, in Facebook, there is no place for running down people trying to introduce change and come up with new ideas—they never suppress ideas, instead, creative thinking is always welcome. And when it comes to debate, age, authority and reputation don’t matter—it’s only reasonable arguments that matter. Because of all of these, I was totally amazed by Facebook, I found it an extremely compelling workplace. After our visit at 1 Hacker Way, we moved on to our next stop, Stanford University, a legendary education institution which has given several genius minds, ideas and inventions to the world.

Stanford has a very beautiful flower garden, a chapel and of course, probably the highest quality hospital of the world. We admired the campus, had a nice lunch in the canteen and moved on to visit a huge data center where beside many companies, Ustream stores its servers. The building was just a big gray cube with no windows, no captions, nobody could tell what it was from the outside. Inside, Árpád had to do some checkup on one of their routers and we also took an old, worn-out network switch to be transferred to Hungary. I also got a faulty optical transceiver from one of Ustream’s servers as a gift which now functions as an ornament on my key chain. 🙂 Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos there due to the facility’s strict security policies. From the server park, we traveled through forests and hills on serpentine roads where Árpád had a great chance to show us the power of the Mustang… Then we arrived to our final stop Gray Whale Cove State Beach, an astonishing, beautiful ocean beach, slightly similar to Big Sur. We watched the sunset there before going back to San Carlos and then San Francisco. It was quite a day…