Cooper Lees describes himself online as a sport-loving nerd and he still lists Wollongong’s Amigo’s Mexican Restaurant as one of his favourite restaurants on his Facebook profile, even though he lives in a city that boasts some of the best eateries in the world.
But for Lees, Wollongong will always be home despite the fact he is one of the high-flying, ex-pat Aussies now making their mark in one of the biggest, most well-recognised global corporations in the world.
In 2013, Lees packed his bag, left his home in Corrimal and headed for San Francisco to become one of about 40 Australians in the 6000-strong workforce at Facebook’s head campus in Menlo Park. He is a Production Engineer, looking after the backend of the company’s platforms to ensure they’re reliable, monitored and scalable, with the aim of expanding the social media giant’s reach into the few places it has not already arrived.
“My job sees me move from team to team every 12 months to power up the developers and power up the products. We have a network that spans the whole globe,” he says.
It’s a dream job for a self-confessed nerd, and one Lees admitted he never even contemplated when he finished his computer science degree at the University of Wollongong in 2006.
In fact, when he left UOW, Lees’ ambitions were much less grandiose. In 2006, he wrote on his website – cooperlees.com – “My ambition is to become the Systems Administrator in a medium to large firm. I wish to lead a team upgrading and maintaining a firm’s computer systems, building strong robust servers, developing enterprise quality scripts and applications, construct resilient networks and create a problem-free work environment for the company’s stakeholders.”
Now, Lees has his own cult following, returning to Australia in December 2013 to hold a series of seminars to try and encourage more university graduates to consider Facebook as a career move – not a pie-in-the-sky fantasy.
For Lees, the job offer for Facebook seemingly came out of the blue. While working back in Australia one day he checked his phone and saw an email from a Facebook recruiter asking if he wanted to work at Facebook.
“The interview process was challenging. I had three interviews from Australia. I found out they usually only do two, but they asked for a third one and I didn’t know if that was a good thing. But then I was asked to fly to the States,” he says.
One thing Lees found out early on in that interview process is that Facebook likes to do things pretty quickly. He was on a flight a week later after a work trip from Malaysia to Australia where he stopped at home for one day before flying to San Francisco.
- COOPER LEES
UOW Bachelor of Internet Science and Technology 2006