by: Jessica Fera Updated:
PITTSBURGH,None - Looking laid-back and unassuming in a gray T-shirt and jeans, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg's first statements to the Pittsburgh media were as casual as his appearance.
"First time in Pittsburgh, how's it going?" he said.
I'm not sure what I expected to come out of mouth of the 27-year-old billionaire Internet entrepreneur, if doves would fly or a choir would sing as he rattled off complex algorithms, but that was it. "How's it going?"
Zuckerberg and his team visited Carnegie Mellon University for the very first time on Tuesday as part of a campus recruiting tour, which includes stops at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Facebook is looking for "the best of the best," according to Randy Bryant, dean of CMU's School of Computer Science, and nearly 60 current Facebook employees came from here in Pittsburgh.
"They're coming here, and the stated reason is for recruiting students," Bryant said. "They really like our students. We have a fair number; 57 of our alumni are now working at Facebook, and we've had quite a few student interns there as well. In computer science we graduate about 150 students per year, and they're very heavily recruited."
Before even turning 30, Zuckerberg has changed the way we communicate, and as it turns out, he's looking for employees who have the same lofty goals.
"Facebook looks for really entrepreneurial folks," Zuckerberg said. "People who are trying to have a big impact on the world and who can look at any of 100 different problems at once and say, 'This is one that we really need to solve.' Because Facebook, we serve a lot of users and customers, more than 800 million people around the world, but the organization is actually really small. We just passed I think 700 engineers, so each engineer at Facebook serves more than a million users themselves, if you look at it that way, so we need people who have this desire to have a huge impact on the world, and that's really the biggest thing that we look for. That, and obviously really good technical skills."
Only a fraction of CMU's more than 10,000 students attended Zuckerberg's invitation-only session, and Bryant gave us some insight into how this exclusive group was formed.
"We have about 900 people that will be in the audience today, mostly students," Bryant said. "We opened it up, of course it's only for CMU, and we gave sort of quotas for different categories. So CS [computer science] and electrical and computer engineering got sort of the largest quota, but also all of the students on campus were eligible. It was essentially a website that showed up at 8 in the morning and was totally booked up by 8:30."
So does Zuckerberg himself conduct interviews with the prospective employees and interns?
"Sometimes I do," he said. "I don't interview every single person. That would be too many. But for certain folks I definitely drop in and talk to them. We have a whole process at the company. We really value teamwork as well. It's really important to us that the people coming through have an opportunity to talk with a variety of folks. We test them both on technical skills, on team workability and kind of how they fit with the values of Facebook. Wanting to have an impact, wanting to help people connect, things like that. And then everyone who joins the company goes through this short boot camp period where they basically go for six weeks and learn all the different parts of the code. It's a really unique thing that we do to get people ramped up on our code."
These heavily recruited CMU grads obviously have something that makes them as unique as Facebook's training process, and Bryant said it all starts in the classroom.
"Our students learn both the basic principals and the practice, so when they show up on the job they're ready to get going and yet they sort of have this deep understanding that continues them through their whole careers," he said.
Zuckerberg isn't the first billionaire entrepreneur to visit the CMU campus on a recruiting mission. The building at which he held his news conference bears the name of another: The Gates Center for Computer Science named after Microsoft legend Bill Gates. These high-profile visits are something CMU is happy to become accustomed to.
"It's pretty unusual but as you know, Bill Gates made two visits here as well. So it's not unprecedented," Bryant said.
In all, Zuckerberg took three questions from the media, beginning with a CMU newspaper reporter, and spoke for around two minutes before giving us a smile and a wave, and stepping back inside the building.
No doves, no choir, and no complex algorithms. Just your every day, 27-year-old billionaire Internet entrepreneur.