Facebook's Bootcamp Brings New Hires on Board Quickly

Susan Hall

Companies place increasing importance on cultural fit in hiring, but how well do they explain that culture to get new recruits assimilated quickly?

 

Facebook puts its new engineers through a six-week Bootcamp that the San Jose Mercury News calls "one part employee orientation, one part software training program and one part fraternity/sorority rush." It quotes Joel Seligstein, head of the Bootcamp program, as saying:

I would describe it as a way for us to educate our engineers not only on how we code and how we do our systems, but also how to culturally think about how to attack challenges and how to meet people. We like to teach what's important very early on, on Day One. I would say it's even more of a cultural program than it is a teaching program.

David Kirkpatrick, author of "The Facebook Effect," a 2010 book about the rise of the social network, says:

Facebook takes its culture deadly seriously. They know the pace at which they arose and became dominant in their field was even faster than Mark Zuckerberg expected. They also know that things on the Internet are constantly changing at an extremely rapid rate, and the only way any organization can stay alive is to be unbelievably dynamic.
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With Facebook growing so quickly - about one-third of the company's roughly 3,200 employees have been hired since the start of 2011 - Zuckerberg has expressed concern about maintaining the company's culture. The new workers don't know what their job and product team will be until after Bootcamp, when they and managers work that out.

 

The new hires work on real software bugs and problems, between lectures and other Bootcamp activities and are expected to ship code within days, even if it takes the site down. According to the article:

What other Silicon Valley companies "don't do is let their employees take risks, and have failure be OK," said Jocelyn Goldfein, a Facebook director of engineering. "I think that is part of the secret sauce at Facebook. I didn't understand this one until after I got here - that the tolerance for failure, that 'Move Fast and Break Things,' is actually what keeps us open to continue to innovate."


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