Both tech companies and non-tech companies are beginning to run into the same problem – there are not enough data scientists to go around. This shortage can cause problems, and while every company has their own method for both hiring and training data scientists, Airbnb is ahead of the pack with their new idea. They have created their own university-style program to educate data scientists who will perfectly meet their needs.

Data University

The name of this new program is “Data University“, and it is Airbnb’s plan to make their workforce better able to use their internal tools and understand their data. While there are online programs dedicated to this study, including ones from Udacity and Coursera, they were not tailored enough for the company. These courses will offer three different levels of learning for employees.

Beginner level courses are going to be applicable to all teams, and will teach data-informed decision making. These will even be useful for business development and human resources.

The next level courses will allow non-technical employees to become project managers. With more intensive Python courses, engineers will be able to brush up on their skills needed for certain projects.

These classes were launched in the third quarter of 2016 and since then, Airbnb has tracked the use of internal data science tools from 30 to 45 percent. So far 500 employees have taken at least one class, and this is without Airbnb even offering the program in all of their offices.

Jeff Feng is the product manager for the analytics and experimentation team. Airbnb has tried four times to build a data education program, and Feng says that there were three practices that allowed this time to work:

  1. Make sure the curriculum is accessible for everyone
  2. Work with leadership to set expectations for data literacy
  3. Make success measurable

Other companies should adopt practices like these when they try to design their own courses. Airbnb took some inspiration from Google’s internal classes that offer both technical and non-technical courses from beekeeping to data visualization.

The intro data science classes from Airbnb were available first, making the program accessible to everyone – not just engineers, though the higher level courses are geared towards the more technically inclined.