Behind Facebook’s Wall with Tim Campos

CIO Tim Campos takes us behind the scenes of the company that operates the world’s most popular social network

Tim Campos, CIO and Vice President of IT for Facebook. Photo by Kyle Wilcher.

Ever since he was a kid Tim Campos has had a compulsion to take things apart. He would unscrew radios, clocks, even computers. He had to see how they worked and why.

That childhood curiosity segued into a lifelong passion for technology—the perfect backdrop for leading information technology (IT) at the world’s fastest growing company. Campos is chief information officer at Facebook. Since his arrival in 2010, Campos has seen Facebook evolve into the behemoth it is today. Some argue that Facebook’s model is so disruptive that it has impacted world history, changing human behavior from the dynamics of personal relationships to consumer buying choices. And Campos’s IT team of 170+ experts are the masterminds behind the machine that runs the machine.

His division focuses on everything technical that doesn’t have to do with the consumer-facing Facebook. Rather than the function that determines what shows up in someone’s news feed, Campos concerns himself with the functions that serve the employees, sales functions, and Facebook as an enterprise, such as finance, human resources, and security.

In 2012, Campos’s IT team helped deploy an internal tool to give salespeople access to aggregate insights. It was designed to help advertisers make better-informed decisions on ad spending. The capability was so successful that Facebook decided to commercialize it, launching Facebook Audience Insights in May of 2014. The solution helps advertisers understand their target audiences better by providing aggregate and anonymous data on the locations and interests of their customer segments.Keeping up with the needs of the sales engine of one of the fastest-growing advertising entities in the world is more about quality than quantity.

In the tech industry, innovation is premium-grade fuel. As Facebook has become increasingly savvy in its product offerings for marketers, the company’s sales force is tasked with staying ahead of its customers’ trends. Digital (the highest-growth area within advertising in 2014, according to eMarketer) is an ocean rapidly filling with streams of stats and data on user behavior. In this vast sea of consumer information, advertisers often struggle to cast the net in a meaningful direction. Which data points are most meaningful? And how can they be applied to business strategies?

“The IT team at Facebook excels at addressing business problems with technology,” says Campos, whose team is looking at everything from how Facebook’s salespeople communicate and update customers to how the company reviews its workforce. “We don’t just look at how to make things better internally; we look for opportunities to solve those problems for the world.”

Take a tour of the Facebook campus in Menlo Park, CA, and Campos’s influence is evident. In this tech-for-techies epicenter, even mundane office procedures like registration at the reception desk boast a cool factor. Job candidates check in for on-site interviews using an iPad touch screen that automatically notifies the interview panel of their arrival.

“If you want to truly make a difference in how people live around the world, then technology is the vehicle to make that happen. There are no limits here.”

An acclaimed IT novelty that spun from Campos’s tenure emerged in 2011 as a creative solution to loss prevention, a common problem plaguing companies. “We were trying to find a way to keep up with all of our office supplies and equipment,” Campos recalls. “We had tried a few different solutions, including an antiquated system where employees sign their name when taking supplies. But it didn’t work.” Campos posed the problem to his assistant as a challenge, and the assistant brainstormed a genius response. Partnering with International Vending Machines, Facebook’s IT team devised an internal vending machine for IT equipment. Employees simply swipe their badge to check out products. The safeguarded system worked beautifully, serving as an instant fix for inventory control and cost savings for the company.

Today, dozens of companies have adopted the Facebook vending machine for supporting their own employees. “He was always too modest to take credit for it,” Campos says of the assistant, who has since been promoted to a new role, “but he came up with that solution.” Such an invention may not have been possible in a different corporate environment, Campos points out. It is Facebook’s culture of empowerment—and, one might add, Campos’s leadership style—that encourages staff to bring to life game-changing systems, regardless of job title. “Facebook has an amazing culture that drives people to make improvements to ordinary things around them, to challenge the norm, and to take on leadership positions that aren’t traditionally possible,” Campos says.

It is this human side of Facebook that Campos most admires. STEM (science, technology, education, and mathematics) is a core area of funding for the company. Under Campos’s guidance, Facebook has donated thousands of computers to underprivileged students around the country. One of Campos’s personal passions is to close the opportunity divide. For him, education and personal ambition are critical in resetting a family’s path for generations to come. Campos’s father, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, offered his family the example of hard work and academic rigor. He spent much of his career as a psychology professor at the University of Berkeley in California, where Campos earned his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering.

Turning his own experiences into teachable moments, Campos volunteers with YearUp, a Bay Area nonprofit serving urban youth. YearUp offers job training, experience, and support. There, Campos has a special focus on mentoring Hispanic students and introducing options in the technology field. “I don’t think that Hispanics are underrepresented because of a lack of knowledge, skill sets, or the desire to work in this field,” Campos says. “I think Hispanic underrepresentation is caused by a lack of role models—people who look like them and come from the same place—to show them the way.”

For Campos, opportunity is everything. He encourages young people who possess an insatiable desire to peer behind the curtain—of gadgetry, software, and the information highway—to pursue technology not only as a hobby but as a professional track. “If you feel motivated by fixing problems, few fields compare to technology in terms of gratification,” Campos says. “If you want to truly make a difference in how people live around the world, then technology is the vehicle to make that happen. There are no limits here.”

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