Twitter today announced its latest acquisition, along with a move into offering richer resources to attract better engineering talent to the company. It has bought Marakana, an open-source technical training company; and in turn, Marakana will be the force behind a new effort called Twitter University. School mascot: a blue bird, not a whale.
“The founders, Marko and Sasa Gargenta, have impressed us with their entrepreneurial leadership, commitment to learning and technical expertise,” writes Chris Fry, the head of engineering at the company in a blog post.
The move is an important sign of a few things:
First, as Twitter has grown — and become a more mature company now well past the stage of scrappy startup — it’s already made several moves to provide training to help people at the company continue to feel that they are there learning new things, as well as working on projects that make the most of what they already know. Existing training projects, Fry notes, include orientation classes for engineers, iOS Bootcamp, JVM Fundamentals, Distributed Systems and Scala School. It’s important for Twitter to continue to grow these kinds of services to hold on to the people that they have.
Second, establishing something like this, and putting Marakana at the helm of it, could introduce a whole new community of engineers to the company — no small thing at a time when tech companies big and small continue to hunt for top talent, especially in competitive markets like Silicon Valley and the Bay Area. Indeed, this is something that Fry points out, too:
“The Marakana team has cultivated a tremendous community of engineers in the Bay Area, and we look forward to engaging with all of you at meet-ups and technical events.”
Fry praises Marakana’s entrepreneurial spirit. And while the site is now effectively shut down with a suggestion for past users to try out NewCircle for similar training services, a look an an archived about page gives us a bit of background about the company. It’s been around since 2001, and runs user groups for Java, HTML5, Android and Agile developers. It has a training management platform called Marakana Spark, which is now also offline.
Interestingly, it looks like Marakana emerged just at the time when we were seeing another resurgence of the tech world after the dot-com crash (the first one, that is). When you think about it, it was companies like Marakana that played a role in how the pool of people working in tech has widened.
“It all started with an ad on Craigslist,” the founders write. “A local San Francisco non-profit was looking for a technical person to help with some Java classes. We liked their mission: Bridging the Digital Divide – to help underprivileged youth, minorities and women get into high-tech jobs. The demand was extraordinary. The classes would sell out within hours of being announced. Encouraged by the early wins and success of the participants, we started providing open source training to corporations and governments.” By the time Twitter bought it, Marakana was providing open source training “across the US, Canada, and Asia.”