Facebook is always growing, changing, and evolving. It’s kind of the company’s whole thing — “Move fast and break things” and all that.
At the same time, a bunch of other companies have apps and services that rely on Facebook to reach users and customers.
Imagine “Candy Crush Saga,” the hit game from King Digital, without the ability to login with Facebook, connect with friends, and keep your progress between smartphone and computer. Or send annoying requests to your Facebook friends.
That’s why Facebook employs its Partner Engineers, a team of experts who spend their time working with outside developers just to make sure that they can “build, grow, and monetise” their apps, to use some language from a job posting.
“We’re a team of software engineers, but our primary focus is external,” says Facebook Partner Engineer Manager Gareth Morris.
For third-party developers who are part of Facebook’s partner engineering program, these engineers give them a direct line to Facebook. That’s a big leg up when trying to navigate changes and updates to the platform to make sure their games and apps still work to the expectations of Facebook’s massive audience.
For Facebook, it’s a way to see into the future. By working so closely with these developers, Facebook’s partner engineers have a keen sense of the needs, concerns, and wants of that community. Gareth describes partner engineers as Facebook’s “eyes and ears” in the developer community.
“We get a lot of insight, they’re kind of trendsetters in the industry,” Morris says.
A great example of that partnership, says Facebook Head of Games Partnerships for the EMEA region Bob Slinn, is in the social network’s transition to mobile over the past few years.
For partners like King Digital, it could have been a big pitfall, Slinn says. When “Candy Crush Saga” first debuted in 2012, it only existed on the web, via Facebook. By the end of the year, it was on iPhone and Android, too.
But thanks in part to the help given to King by Facebook’s partner engineers, it was able to navigate the transition to mobile, using the Facebook platform as a way to keep it all together.
With Facebook’s direct help, King was successfully able to use the social network’s latest advances to turn “Candy Crush Saga” into the smartphone smash hit it became.
“A developer like King, it’s great they’re so open,” says Slinn.
It worked out for Facebook, too, as “Candy Crush Saga” became a big driver of Facebook’s mobile strategy. People made more use of Facebook’s smartphone apps, even as they played more Candy Crush.
“The really interesting thing there was the mutual growth,” says Slinn.
The help that Facebook can give comes in a lot of forms, Slinn says, from writing more and deeper instruction manuals for features, to assistance with new features and API calls.
That’s going to be important going forward, too. A new Facebook initiatives like Facebook for Work and the expanded Facebook Messenger platform start to take off, developers are going to have questions.
If you want to work for Facebook’s partner engineering teams, they look for past experience building apps and games, ideally that run on or integrate with Facebook. Most of the partner engineers employed by Facebook today are ex-developers on console games and other high-profile apps, Morris says.
But the promise is the chance to work with some of the best and brightest developers, doing cutting edge work.
“We work with some of the smartest developer teams around,” Morris says.