Facebook has assembled one of the tech world’s best and brightest team of engineers, and today we get a little glimpse at one process it uses to find and nurture that talent: trials by fire. It turns out that an intern by the name of Peter Cottle was responsible for Facebook’s first product that let people buy mobile ad space, via a mobile device.
The story, as told in a blog post that he’s written, goes like this: Facebook had just recently created an interface to let Page owners update their pages and interact with fans direct from iOS devices. At the same time, Facebook had just launched their Promoted Posts product, which lets Page owners pay a bit to promote a post to its fans. Cottle’s first assignment as an intern was effectively mash these two things up together.
And he did, on time and in a way that actually worked (that iOS-based product is here). He oversaw the technical side; and another intern, Leo Mancini, oversaw the UI and design.
What stands out as pretty remarkable is that Facebook would give what seems like a pretty big project — mobile ads, after all, are one of Facebook’s big big bets for how it will be making money in the future — to a pretty junior person.
On one hand, I guess you could say that looks a little irresponsible.
But on the other hand, when talent is there, what is the point of asking them to do menial things simply because they’re younger and less experienced?
As a case in point, some of the most brilliant members of our brilliant staff at TechCrunch have been interns. (And not just on the writing side; CrunchBase also has amazing people working for it.)
Figures out today from the IAB noted that mobile ads in the first half of the year in the U.S. are only about 7% of all Internet ad revenues, working out to $1.2 billion, so it’s still a pretty small business.
Also, it’s not as crazy a bet as it sounds. This is one product we’re talking about. And it still remains to be seen whether Facebook manages to monetize its 600 million+ mobile users as well as it hopes to longer term.
But Cottle — who is, by the way, joining full time as a member of staff next spring — and Mancini can claim to have been there at the very start.
PS: Facebook’s not the only big tech company that relies on young folks to build and fix things.