April 15, 2014Culture · Infra · Web · Data Centers · Networking and Traffic · Backend

Technical Program Managers at Facebook

Nick Corral

When we decided to implement cold storage designs in our new data centers, our team did what countless teams had done before: they set out to find a Technical Program Manager.

Technical Program Managers, or TPMs, are part of a program we implement when taking on large-scale engineering efforts. TPMs are responsible for seeing programs through from beginning to end, ensuring a better workflow and more effective communication. They are a diverse group with a wide range of backgrounds, but they share common characteristics: a love for execution and a knack for doing whatever is necessary to see a program to completion.

To help bring cold storage to Facebook’s new data centers, a TPM was chosen and immediately got to work finding the right teams and personnel, making sure that each team was communicating effectively, aiding in critical decision-making, and following up on those decisions to make sure the right things were actually getting done.

Why We Use TPMs

As Facebook has grown over the last decade, our engineering efforts have become more ambitious and in many cases more complex. With thousands of engineers across teams and campuses, we’ve been able to move at a high speed to generate new ideas, new products, and new features.

In that time, we’ve discovered a number of best practices that have helped us as we’ve worked to engineer at scale. One of the biggest realizations we had was the need for a Technical Program Manager to step in and be in charge of a number of day-to-day operations for major programs. We believe that this TPM program can help engineers throughout the industry more efficiently move their programs to completion.

What TPMs Work On

Cold storage is just one example of the work TPMs do. As Facebook built out its edge network in 2012, TPMs coordinated the creation of the global network that now serves millions of requests per second. Knowing that serving people through the closest geographical edge would improve performance by reducing the amount of trips to data centers, TPMs managed the coordination of business decisions and led design and implementation to produce a successful network.

TPMs have played a central role in everything from hardware management, Messenger, and the Look Back videos to broad company initiatives like the Open Compute Project and Internet.org.

Different Types of TPMs

• Network engineering TPMs work cross-functionally with other teams to build out Facebook’s network. These TPMs work on data center networking, backbone networking, and edge deployments. We continue to scale our network infrastructure to handle the demands of the future and do so by optimizing our efficiency. Our goal is to connect the world, and it all begins with building out the network.

• Data center TPMs are charged with helping manage our large data center build and turn up projects, playing a key role as Facebook scales. They are responsible for aligning 12+ internal teams and several external vendors and contractors to run these massive data center buildings—from Prineville, Oregon to Luleå, Sweden—on schedule.

• Hardware TPMs are part of a team that strives to make the hardware more scalable, efficient, and effective. The TPMs work with many cross-functional teams from front-end product to capacity engineering to supply chain operations to develop and deliver first-class, hyper-scale hardware.

• Capacity TPMs team up with engineers to determine how to manage Facebook capacity and how to scale to accommodate everyone using Facebook. This involves working with all infrastructure teams, on problems that range from the physical to application layers, to use capacity in the most efficient way possible. They’re consistently challenged to draw from technical skills, including knowledge of data centers, power, hardware, network, and software to drive programs that involve turn up and migration of capacity.

• Engineering TPMs have the flexibility to go deep on infrastructure services and products or go wide, as some products are used by all services. Engineering TPMs work with engineers on software efficiency, reliability, and quality to integrate into our back-end infrastructure while simultaneously helping to shape product vision.

Why We’re Hiring More TPMs

Nearly everything that comes out of Facebook has a TPM’s fingerprints on it. As Facebook continues to grow, there are more and more projects that need TPMs. Check out facebook.com/careers for more info.

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