Facebook’s Adam Wolff Explains the Company's ‘Boot Camp’ Culture

To keep up with its explosive growth, Facebook needs the right employees in the right positions. An innovative “boot camp” recruiting practice—as well as a flexible work culture—helps make it happen. Adam Wolff, Facebook’s engineering director of product infrastructure, shared his thoughts on these practices when he spoke at Yale SOM on April 2:

In a company that’s growing with a successful product, it’s really hard to say what’s actually working, because the rising tide lifts us all. But there are two things that I really want to call out about how the Facebook organization works.

At Facebook, people move back and forth really fluidly between product development, which is, ‘Hey I’m adding videos to the events feature,’ and product deployment, which is, ‘Hey I’m making it easier to add videos to any feature.’ This kind of fluidity works really well for us, and there are two things that enable it.

When we hire people for general software engineering positions, they come in as unallocated. They’re not assigned to any specific team. In our process, new hires spend six to eight weeks in a boot camp, trying out different functions. We focus on giving new employees choice, and when you come out of boot camp, you choose the area that suits you best.

But the best part of boot camp is the effect it has on the management culture at Facebook. If you think about the traditional software company, if someone leaves my group, I now have to fill that spot. And I start by going to H.R. Then the people on my team need to spend time finding candidates. I’ve got this really long lead-time process before I’ve got a new person on my team. And that person is guaranteed to be inexperienced in the ways we operate. This is totally not true in the boot camp world. If someone leaves my team, I can go to boot camp. Every two weeks, there’s a fresh crop of new employees I can talk to. And then because people are free to move within the company, I can also go to someone on another team to see if they’re interested in moving over. This is really good for Facebook. It breaks down siloes. It transfers knowledge around the company, and it contributes to the feeling that we’re all in this together.

About the author

Karen Guzman

Associate Director of Communications