Follow Datanami:
June 24, 2013

Facebook Drills In Big Data Thinking at Bootcamps

Alex Woodie

With more than a billion members on its social networking website, Facebook generates its share of big data, which it uses to continually test and improve its service. While the company employs a select group of super-skilled data analyst ninjas, it’s also hoping to foster a certain level of comfort with data among all employees through a series of big data bootcamps.

The big data bootcamps began recently, and are scaled down versions of the well-known, engineering bootcamps. While the six-week programs educate the most technically inclined Facebook employees on the ins and outs of its code and programming methods, the new big data bootcaps are designed to be attended by all types of employees, including managers, and customer service representatives, according to Fortune’s Michal Lev-Ram, who recently sat in on one of the bootcamps.

The two-week courses involve up to 25 employees and are used to familiarize Facebook employees with the company’s big data tools and how to use them. Tools that might be taught include a data analysis tool called HiPal, and a test management tool called Gatekeeper, Lev-Ram wrote recently. The bootcamps are focused on real-world company issues, like improving Facebook’s customer service.

Knowing how to use big data tools is not as important as having the right mindset, including how to think analytically, come up with testable hypotheses, and communicate findings to others, Ken Rudin, head of analytics at Facebook, told Fortune.

“We really want everyone to feel like they are capable of using data,” Rudin said. “Then analysts aren’t a bottleneck to getting things done. They’re there for doing the SWAT team type of things, things that take a little extra scale and more depth than your average person would have.”

There is currently a waiting list for the big data bootcamps, which started in November. So far, it appears the big data bootcamps are a success. “If we continue down the path that we’re going, and I think we’ll get there, then we’ll have a culture where everyone feels that data is something they should be using as part of their job,” Rudin said.

Other companies offer big data bootcamps too, including IBM and Oracle. However, those events are primarily for-fee events, and not intended for use by internal employees. As data–and big data–becomes a more prevailing force in our daily lives, forward-looking companies may follow Facebook’s lead and offer ways to boost the analytical of their most valued assets–their workers.

Related items:

Facebook Molds HDFS to Achieve Storage Savings

How Facebook Fed Big Data Continuuity

Facebook Pushes Open Hardware Drive