Airbnb is democratizing Data Science with Data University

Data University Faculty / Airbnb

Data University Faculty / Airbnb

Data is essential to many businesses today, tech and non-tech companies are struggling to find trained data scientists, and Airbnb is not the exception. For the company, data is essential “We characterize data as the voice of our users at scale,” that is why Airbnb believes that every employee should be empowered to make data informed decisions. To address this challenge, the company wants to democratize data science and scale data informed decision making. 

To make this happen, the company has built a world-class Data Science Team and now, in an effort to fill the demand for trained data scientists, Airbnb will be running its own university-style program. Data University is Airbnb’s attempt to create “citizen data scientists” and make its entire workforce more data literate.

“Data University is data education for anyone at Airbnb that scales by team and role. Our vision is to empower every employee to make data-informed decisions,” writes Jeff Feng, product manager and co-founder of Airbnb's Data University. 

At first, the company considered leveraging existing online resources from Coursera and Udacity, but the offer just wasn't enough because they were not tailored to Airbnb’s internal data and tools.

So the company decided to design its own courses. The curriculum consists of over 30 classes  around three levels of instruction for different employee needs:

  • The 100-level series provides the foundation for data informed decision making at Airbnb and was designed to be accessible to everyone.

  • The 200-level series equips people with the applied skills for accessing data using SQL, or analyzing and visualizing data using tools such as Superset, Tableau and ERF.

  • The 300-level series is targeted primarily towards engineers and data scientists, who can learn advanced data techniques such as machine learning and tools such as Airflow.

Source: Airbnb

Source: Airbnb

Since it launched in the third quarter of 2016, a total of 500 Airbnb employees have taken at least one class (or about 1/8th of Airbnb). The company is looking to scale the program to other offices in Dublin, Portland, Singapore and Seoul.

The company is setting a precedent in the democratization of data science and hopes to inspire other organizations to do the same.