What Happens When You Give Away $57,000 Worth Of Coffee
The story behind Philip Su’s last day at Facebook
We made it to summer! Today we’ll cover:
Why Philip Su, a former eng director at Facebook, bought coffee for the whole company.
How to evaluate if you’re a good fit with the most important part of a job: the people.
Starting an experiment with Taro Premium.
Estimated reading time: 3.4 minutes 🔖
First, I wanted to let you know about Quastor.
The best way to learn how companies build products is to read a lot of technical blogs.
Almost every big tech company out there maintains an engineering blog where senior developers talk about their architecture, lessons learned and mistakes made.
Quastor is a free newsletter that finds the best big tech engineering blog posts out there and sends you a summary of the main takeaways along with resources to learn more.
Tens of thousands of developers read Quastor and use the insights to level up in their career. I personally look forward to reading the Quastor newsletter each week!
Philip Su’s Badge Post
On Valentine’s Day 2018, I came into the Facebook office and happily discovered that someone bought coffee for me. The oat milk latte at the Philz on campus would normally set me back $5, but on this day I walked into the campus coffee shop and got a free drink.
BUT it wasn’t just me who received the random act of kindness. The entire company, tens of thousands of people, received free coffee 🤯
The benefactor? After 8 years, Philip Su was leaving Facebook and decided to go out with a (caffeinated) bang. As an eng director, he started two major engineering offices, in Seattle and London. This goodbye post – “badge post” in Facebook parlance – was his way of thanking the company for the hyper-growth experience. Philip and I chatted about this for a YouTube video, but he packed so much wisdom into our conversation that we put the overflow in the Taro mobile app. Direct link if you’re on mobile: https://jointaro.page.link/jLbzqhR8HcCBB2cJ7
Aside from being a fun story, why am I sharing this? I believe the internal company community + discussions are underappreciated when evaluating career decisions. Everyone looks at compensation, job title, and tech stack, but we rarely ask questions about team culture and group dynamics.
Evaluating the community + communication for employees
People who work at a given company are inherently self-selecting into that culture, so make sure the culture resonates with you before you commit to spending 40+ hours/week with them. Some ways to get at this:
Talk to senior individual contributors (ICs) who have been at the company for 9+ months. ICs will have a better pulse on culture compared to managers, and they can talk about how it has evolved. What’s an example of a tradeoff they made?
Which values does the company reject? A strong culture is not only about holding strong values, but also knowing which values are being rejected. “Move fast and break things” famously prioritized iteration speed over quality.
How much do coworkers share about their work + non-work priorities? Is everyone on the team aware of the risks on an adjacent project? Or of someone’s home-buying saga? There’s no right answer, but contrast the answer across companies.
Most companies will have various tools to facilitate workplace communication and cohesion. Are you going to be happy with the tools available to you? At Meta, I really appreciated the internal groups based on job profile, interests, or commonalities. A few of my favorites:
e-nonmanagers: only IC engineers were allowed (no managers!), which created a safe space to discuss things like team switches and perf questions.
Rahul @ Facebook: I started this group as a way to facilitate easy hangouts + communication with all 120+ employees named Rahul. We held annual meetups.
FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early): for financially-minded employees, this group was vastly more useful than any of the public blogs about financial independence since it was high-trust and high-context.
I also appreciated having colleagues like Philip who shared their experiences openly, and occasionally even bought the entire company coffee :)
Our experiment in charging for something
We started the Tech Career Growth community 1.5 years ago, and if LinkedIn stats are to be believed, 17.2K people want to hear from us (whether they’re coming for memes  or the advice, I’m not sure).
So far, everything has been completely free, which has been amazing. We’ll always have substantial free content, but Alex and I also quit our jobs 6 months ago. To figure out the plan for sustainably helping software engineers, we’re opening up 100 slots for something we’re calling “Taro Premium”: joinTaro.com/membership. Joining this inaugural edition gives you 1:1 time with us, along with premium features in the app. Consider joining :)
 Alex is the master of meme:
p.s. At Facebook, coffee from the self-serve machines is free, but not if you want a barista to make it for you from shops like Philz and Saint Frank. Full disclosure: I rarely drank coffee, and when I did, I almost always opted for the free version 😋