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Facebook tells employees, 'build something' -- with a table saw

With its new woodshop, Facebook hopes employees will chomp at the bit to build things that won't crash

By Zach Miners
August 30, 2013 03:19 PM ET

IDG News Service - Facebook's motto may be "move fast and break things," but the 3,000 employees at its headquarters in Menlo Park, California, now have the chance to do just the opposite.

To attract workers and keep them happy, the social network offers many well-known perks including free on-campus dining, a gym, and shuttle buses to and from San Francisco. But if those aren't cutting it, here's one that might do, literally: a woodshop.

The 3,000-plus square-foot facility houses more than a dozen pieces of machinery including table saws, lathes, drill presses, sanders and a laser engraver. The idea is to give employees an opportunity to exercise another part of their brain, get their creative juices flowing and build something beyond their usual output of webpages, mobile updates and other products that don't exist outside of a computer screen.

Facebook Woodshop (2)
Facebook's woodshop is chock-full of drilling, cutting and sanding machines.

And, Facebook hopes the shop will inspire employees to apply some new thinking to the jobs they were hired to do.

Hans Lintermans, a Facebook product manager in marketing, visits the woodshop at least once a week, sometimes during his lunch break, to work on any number of projects. On Thursday he was busy doing some polishing on a cutting board for cooking. Before that he made a two-by-six-foot table out of solid redwood he picked up from a local lumber yard.

Next on the list? Maybe a butcher block, the craftsman said.

Facebook is famous for its hackathons -- usually anything-goes, all-night coding workshops that are meant to spawn new product concepts and prototypes.

But the woodshop, Lintermans said, is just as exciting, if not more so. "It helps me to unwind and think outside the box," he said.

Some other Facebook employees are still making up their minds.

"It's a perk," said Sean Nicolay, a software engineer who had stepped in for an introductory three-hour training session on how to safely use the machines.

Ted Kalaw, another software engineer, called it an extension -- albeit a more hands-on one -- of the culture the company tries to foster around creativity.

The woodshop is located just off the busy boulevard of cyclists and walkers that bisects the company's main quad. It sits adjacent to Facebook's Analog Research Lab, a screen printing studio and workshop.

There are all sorts of stylized posters adorning the walls of Facebook's buildings, bearing corporate mantras like "Stay Focused and Keep Shipping," or "The Foolish Wait." The Analog Research Lab is where those posters and other "offline" handiwork is produced.

Think of the woodshop, then, as the 3-D cousin to that lab, with sawdust.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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