Airbnb Data University aims to increase employees with data skills

Yukai Du

In Airbnb offices around the world, graduates parade about with their college logo splashed across shirts, hats and computers. But they haven’t come from your typical school – each is a graduate of Data University, a programme launched by Airbnb to increase the number of employees with data skills. “It’s fun to walk around and see people wearing Data U T-shirts,” says Elena Grewal, the company’s head of data science.

The Data University course is split into three levels, starting with the basics – such as how to ask a good question of data – and moving through to more advanced skills such as machine learning. These lessons are applied to the kind of data Airbnb collects from its users. For example, employees could monitor how visitors interact with site redesigns, or analyse how many of its hosts use the company’s professional photography services and in which location. The school has already toured Airbnb offices in Portland, Dublin, Singapore, Beijing and Seoul, with 700 students taking part in the first year.

So far, it’s been a success. “We do see an uptake in our data tooling usage which is another sign that people are engaging with data more,” says Grewal. “That’s a really good sign that we see that increase after the fact so we’re really excited to see that people are getting their data now in a way they didn’t before.” The classes will continue to be rolled out across Airbnb offices around the world and other companies have been asking about how it could work for them. “It’s about how you make good decisions as a company and how you understand your users,” she says.

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