Inside Jobs: Why Facebook’s Hardware Engineering Head Likes Getting His Hands Dirty

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When you think about the upper echelons of technical fields like hardware engineering, you might think of lifelong academics with multiple degrees in engineering and math and science. But if there’s one thing that’s become clear in our Inside Jobs series, it’s that the people that make the tech world tick aren’t always what you’d expect.

Take Matt Corddry. As Facebook’s director of hardware engineering, he leads the team that builds the actual hardware that stores the photos, thoughts, and memories of the more than 1 billion people worldwide who share their lives on Facebook. That’s serious technology, with very serious responsibilities.

But Corddry didn’t learn about his field in the ivory tower of academia. He actually majored in photography, and dropped out of college a handful of credits shy of graduation to work full time at a startup. All of his technology experience has been built in the real world, rather than by studying books.

It was fascinating to spend time with Corddry at Facebook headquarters to get an in-person look at how he works on a day to day basis. In keeping with his history, he puts a lot of importance on his team getting their hands dirty and knowing how servers work in data centers, side by side with the technicians who operate them. He told me:

“There are so many people in our industry who design servers, yet have never seen a production data center. They’ve never been out to one, and they really don’t know what the real experience is and what the opportunities are. You need to know very well the people who use your product. You need to know the experience you are creating.

It is insufficient to just write a paper about it, or just have someone else write a paper, and you read it. You really need to walk a mile in their shoes… I work as a technician. It’s not just my engineers. I’m out in the data center fixing servers myself. I do it multiple times per year.”

Get an inside look at Matt Corddry’s job in the video embedded above.

Inside Jobs is a 12 episode miniseries from TechCrunch TV airing weekly on Mondays from March 24 through June 9 that gives an in-depth look at people in the job roles that really make the tech industry tick. Last week’s episode of Inside Jobs profiled True & Co.’s head of UX Sarah Harrison.

Producing, shooting, editing, sound, and lighting for Inside Jobs is done by John Murillo. Production coordination and creative direction is done by Felicia Williams. Original logo design by Bryce Durbin. Motion graphics and graphic design by Eden Soto.