Made in Seattle

April 6, 2011 at 11:52am

It's amazing how quickly a new engineer at Facebook can begin making an impact.  Within an engineer’s first week of bootcamp (Facebook's engineering on-boarding process), he or she is committing code and pushing small changes that affect more than 500 million people around the world.  Within six weeks, a new Facebook engineer is making fast-paced decisions and changes on products and infrastructure, and can have as much impact as any veteran Facebook engineer.  At the Facebook Seattle office, the impact an engineer can have is just as strong.  This impact was proven through last week’s major re-creation of the Facebook mobile site.

 

Eight months ago, I moved to Seattle from Facebook's main office in Palo Alto to serve as part of the original Seattle office landing team.  The project I'd been working on at the time was a large initiative to consolidate our two mobile sites (m.facebook.com, and touch.facebook.com) into one cleaner, more efficient and well-architected codebase.  The new site would give us the main benefit of less code and functionality duplication, and thus, less code breakage.  In addition, the site would adapt to the maximum capabilities of the user's phone, as well as push the envelope of the browser-based user experience on touch devices, like those powered by iOS and Android.  To do this, we used various technologies, such as WURFL, XHP, and Javelin.  You can actually read all about this project in this engineering blog post.

 

There was a lot to do on this mobile project, so we encouraged some of the new engineers in Seattle to join the mobile team and work on it.  The newest Seattle mobile engineers were quickly ramped up to being highly productive members of the mobile team through the usage of Facebook's highly collaborative software development tools, video conferencing, and constant communication through IRC.  Because of these tools, the "distance" felt between the mobile site sub-teams in Palo Alto and Seattle was minimal.  Of course, with four of us in Seattle all working on the same project, we could collaborate face-to-face as well.  Their impact was felt immediately.  Within weeks of starting in Seattle, one new mobile engineer, Herbert Duarte, had added privacy controls to the new site, as well as revamping the Events and Notes experiences.  Another, Tao Xie, rewrote the Notifications data model used and made the Notifications experience more visually pleasing on touch phones.  And yet another, Guangyu Chen, re-architected much of the Javascript core used for the project.  Our product was launched last week to hundreds of millions of people, and you can check it out yourself at m.facebook.com.  It would be apt to say that the project would have launched months later had it not been for the help of the Seattle engineers, fresh out of Bootcamp.

 

Even though the landing team had high hopes for the Facebook Seattle engineering office initially, it has truly surpassed all of our expectations of growth, high-caliber engineers, and impact made.  I personally didn't expect that the Facebook mobile team's success could be so significantly affected and defined by new Seattle engineers, but the impact they are making is undeniable and growing every day, as is the impact of every engineer in Seattle.

 

Wayne Chang, an engineer on the mobile team, can't wait to see what another eight months in Seattle will bring.