Take a tour of Facebook with a Wakatipu whizz

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Former Wakatipu High student John Stockdale tells Liz Proctor about his life inside the California offices of Facebook

Bumping into hot-shot American rapper Kanye West – literally – in the office is all part of working for social media giant Facebook. 

“I almost walked straight into him and then I was like ‘Holy cow, you’re Kanye West’ and shook his hand,” ex-Wakatipu High student John Stockdale says. 

Iowa-born Stockdale, 26, has hobnobbed with numerous celebs while working as a Facebook software engineer in Palo Alto, California, for the past 20 months. 

He’s yarned to top American muso Michael Franti, who played a concert on a Facebook basketball court, 
watched Aussie indie rockers The Temper Trap stage an acoustic set on the roof – and he also spied pop-star Katy Perry touring the two company premises, which house 2000-plus staff. 

“It’s kind of surreal,” Stockdale says. He tries to pop back to Queenstown about three times a year to visit his parents Jerry and Sally. 

Another career highlight was downing a BBQ dinner at the pad of famous Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who Stockdale has worked alongside on a few projects. 

“Mark’s definitely the most famous person I’ve had dinner with.” 

Stockdale reckons “a long series of hilarious, fortuitous turns” saw him land a spot at prestigious Stanford University to study electrical engineering before he eventually got the Facebook job. 

Helping mastermind cutting-edge online features such as the new ‘download your information’ option for an online audience of 550 million Facebook users is “mindboggling”, he says. 

“But the greatest perk in my job is having the biggest sandbox in the world to play with and some of the smartest people in the world to ask when we have questions.” 

Stockdale reveals a “work hard, play hard vibe” is a core component of Facebook’s overall culture. 

Every few months he goes off-site with his team for bonding sessions, for example paintballing and skydiving. 

The entire company was also bussed to a booked-out cinema when worldwide hit movie The Social Network – the story of how Facebook formed – was released late last year. 

And then there are the free office meals, overseen by top chef Josef Desimone – poached from Google – and work spaces decorated by designer Ben Barry. 

Stockdale: “It’s fun as hell.”