Airbnb data science skills gap
Airbnb. Image: Have a nice day Photo/Shutterstock

This is how Airbnb is tackling the data science skills gap

29 Jun 2017

If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. At least, that’s what Airbnb thinks when it comes to training data scientists.

The tech industry en masse is suffering from a talent gap, but there are a few pockets in particular that are suffering more than others.

It’s no surprise that, in light of the massive surge in malware and cyberattacks, cybersecurity is suffering from a massive skills gap.

Future Human

However, another industry in desperate need of more talent is data science.

As one of the hottest sectors in tech right now, countless organisations are crying out for data scientists, and, while educational institutes are starting to catch up, the supply simply won’t come fast enough.

This has led to industry taking matters into its own hands. On that note, online accommodation company Airbnb has been running its own Data University in a bid to address its own data skill requirements.

While there are a huge number of data science courses, both in institutions and online, Airbnb started its own programme because general courses were simply not tailored to the company’s individual needs.

Data University was introduced in Q4 of 2016 and Tim Rathschmidt of Airbnb told that 630 employees have participated in the programme, with each one taking an average of four or five classes.

“Data University is already being well received across the company,” he said. “Our vision is to empower every employee to make data-informed decisions.”

The company’s plan is to roll the programme out to all 22 of its global offices by offering distance-learning options. However, classes are currently being offered in certain offices around the world already, including Beijing, Singapore and Dublin.

“Data is essential to us at Airbnb,” said Rathschmidt. “Through Data University, we’re creating a network of recognised data experts who will become the front line for answering data-related questions on their teams.”

And it seems the results are already showing. Rathschmidt said the percentage of employees who are weekly active users of Airbnb’s data tools rose from 30pc to 45pc since this time last year.

He said this is “due to a combination of Data University, data tool improvements and data evangelism”.

With the continuing need for data science professionals in both tech and non-tech firms, it seems Airbnb’s approach to upskilling its own staff in-house could be an effective way for other companies to narrow their own data science skills shortage.

Airbnb. Image: Have a nice day Photo/Shutterstock

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the deputy editor of Silicon Republic in 2020, having worked as the careers editor until June 2019. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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