After only a few days on the job, every Facebook engineer is granted access to the entirety of the website’s code base.
It’s one of the first steps in the company’s signature “Bootcamp,” a six-week introduction to Facebook that all engineers – from new college graduates to coding veterans – must go through.
VP of engineering Andrew “Boz” Bosworth wrote in a 2009 Facebook post that he’d started the program the year before, when the engineering staff was pushing 150 members.
Bootcamp was intended to maintain the culture of the engineering team as the company grew.
It’s been a major success, Vlad Fedorov, an engineering director, told Business Insider. “I would copy it if I were to start a company myself,” he said.
Facebook distinguishes itself from its fellow tech giants by hiring engineers in a general rather than specialized way, and then uses Bootcamp to determine where they will fit best and be happiest.
It’s become an extension of HR chief Lori Goler’s mission to make Facebook a “strengths-based organization,” in which managers encourage employees to take on work they are passionate about.
When Bootcamp begins, each new engineer is assigned a senior engineer as a mentor and given a variety of tasks to perform, such as fixing bugs scattered across the site or on one of the company’s apps.
Because these fixes have a real effect for Facebook’s more than 1 billion users, mentors check work before it goes live.
And other safeguards exist so that changes do not affect every user simultaneously.
The point, Fedorov said, is to get engineers doing real work, not standardized training, from day one.
The Bootcamp team recently added “tracks” for specific features or products, like Facebook Groups or Android development, so that engineers can determine by the end of the six weeks which team they want to join.
Fedorov said these six weeks of mentorship, experimentation, and team building have three main benefits:
1. It allows engineers to determine how they want to contribute.
“Generally when somebody joins the company, they have limited amounts of information about that company,” Fedorov said. “Maybe you interviewed with a few people, maybe you have a friend who told you about it, but you don’t really have a first-person perspective yourself.”
By having access to the entirety of Facebook’s code base and six weeks to see how it operates across the company’s products, new hires can determine firsthand what most interests and excites them.
“So what bootcamp does is really expose individuals to a lot of teams and allows them to make their own judgments,” Fedorov said.
2. It gives new hires an internal network.
Bosworth created Bootcamp in 2008 to increase the efficiency of Facebook’s engineering team as the company scaled, but he soon discovered that an excellent unintended consequence was that it built camaraderie, he explained in a 2010 post.
“And a network is really handy in engineering, because it’s the people who work across the company who you can ask questions if you have a concern about a particular area,” Fedorov said.
Facebook would not reveal how many engineers it employs, but it now has about 13,000 employees across 64 offices around the world, and Bootcamp helps keep the growing body of engineers from becoming a collection of isolated teams.
Fedorov himself went through Bootcamp, and said that the six people he took it with are still his good friends seven years later.
3. It creates unity among engineers.
Fedorov said that at many large companies, different engineering teams will develop their own best practices, which can result in fragmentation of the company’s technology, and in turn that could prevent effective inter-team collaboration.
In Bootcamp, directors teach all new engineers Facebook’s best practices. It ties back to hiring engineers in a general rather than a specialized way. This allows engineers to move around the company, driven by their interests.
So if a year into it an engineer gets really excited about a project and passionate about it, it’s really easy for them to go join that team. There are no barriers in the way. There are no interviews. There’s no evaluation, because the manager of the team knows that everybody went through the same process.
The mentors benefit from Bootcamp, too. It’s become an effective way to foster leadership at the company.
Ultimately, it’s a training program that allows Facebook to onboard driven, satisfied engineers from the day they join.
“You don’t want to set expectations of like, ‘Oh, you’re here to sort nuts from bolts,'” Fedorov said. ” We want to set expectations that you’re here to use your talents to be as impactful as possible. And we believe in you and here you’re able to do it right from the start.”