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Facebook’s Professional Twin: Identified Co-Founder Adeyemi Ajao (Part 6)

Posted on Tuesday, Jun 12th 2012

Sramana: What was it that you made available in late 2011? A goal-based system that could recommend career options based on your career background?

Adeyemi Ajao: That was the ambition, but normalizing that amount of data is a huge project. We figured out that we could classify people into professional categories, and we could tell people where their categories will show up when it comes time for companies to explore categories. We give people a number that tells them how they are doing professionally. A brand new MBA graduate might have a score of 17, whereas Mitt Romney might have a 100. We then give them a series of things that they can do to improve their score. That number was based on where you went to school, where you worked, and who your friends are. That scoring system is what we put out there in late 2011.

We launched on September 20, 2011. We had 50,000 users and today we have added a million users. We saw a lot of growth because people wanted to increase their network score so they would invite friends.

We found that people [had left out] lot of data. The information people had on Facebook was not professional. Most people put their schools, but only 30% of those put what their majors were. Those are important fields for a professional tool. The majority of people who join Identified will add professional information to their profile.

Sramana: What type of information are you providing to employers?

Adeyemi Ajao: When we launched in September 2011, we did not have an employer site. They could search our database and that was about it. Our algorithms are computationally expensive, so from October until about two months ago we have really focused on scaling. I had to find and hire a professional who had done scaling at this level before.

This also made us realize that it was time for our company to grow up. Brendan and I hired a bunch of people who had backgrounds in the gaming industry. I also hired PhDs who worked with big data in the financial industry. We are now almost done with our scaling problem, but it required expertise and then application of the knowledge the experts brought in.

We realized that in order to do this right, not each student at every school should receive the same school reputation scores. If someone goes to MIT and studies engineering, he should be acknowledged for that, whereas if someone goes to MIT and studies literature, that person should not have the same score.

In addition, scores should be dependent on the career path chosen. If your dream is the be Steve Jobs, then you probably don’t want the literature degree. There is also complexity in your professional network. It’s not just who you know, but how you know them. Have you worked together on a project? If time management is considered a great asset for a CEO, and a CEO has endorsed me and mentioned that I have great time management skills, that should count more than a generic endorsement.

This segment is part 6 in the series : Facebook's Professional Twin: Identified Co-Founder Adeyemi Ajao
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This interview has been an interesting story, and it's thus regrettable that in part 6 Mr. Adeyemi expresses such an uninformed view of the value of studying the arts and humanities. For example, he says that for his website "scores should be dependent on the career path chosen. If your dream is to be the next Steve Jobs, then you probably don't want the literature degree." I found this comment narrow minded for two reasons. First, it suggests that Mr. Adeyemi is not familiar with what the study of literature entails and how it (or other humanities subjects) can prepare students for many types of careers. Especially in the context of higher education in the United States, a career could be in a different field altogether from the student's major. He also appears to rule out the possibility of combining a degree in the humanities with a second major or a minor in a professionally-oriented subject, which many people do.

Second, talking about Apple's success in an interview with Terry Gross of National Public Radio, Jobs himself said, "I think our major contribution was in bringing a liberal arts point of view to the use of computers… Our goal was to bring a liberal arts perspective and a liberal arts audience to what had traditionally been a very geeky technology and a very geeky audience."

I've observed that there are more than a few entrepreneurs and engineers in Silicon Valley and elsewhere who have the attitude described above, and I would encourage them to learn more about humanities study at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and what scholars and students aim to accomplish. To dismiss so many fields that seek to explain our world as irrelevant to business is a mistake. Finally, the humanities' tradition of teaching how to think, not what to think, and its emphasis on the development of communication skills remain vitally important in our sound-bite society.

There are many resources where all readers can learn more about the role of humanities in the modern workforce. A good general site is, and Stanford's BiblioTech conference, now in its second year, is a forum to discuss how to close gaps between the two areas ( Readers may be surprised to learn that one speaker at the 2012 conference was Geoffrey Moore, partner at Mohr Davidow and literature PhD.

Melanie Blake Friday, June 15, 2012 at 7:16 AM PT

I don’t think he said that at all. He just said studying literature at MIT isn’t of the same value as studying engineering at MIT. MIT just isn’t known for its Literature program.

Studying literature or humanities at Harvard is a different story. Or at Oxford, for example.

Sramana Mitra Friday, June 15, 2012 at 10:24 AM PT

My comment was not so much about the value of particular programs at particular schools, MIT included. MIT actually offers as BA in literature that is well regarded; a lot of people just don't know about it, and it doesn't have the international recognition that other schools do because it does not offer graduate degrees in some humanities and arts fields. Oxford is an excellent place to study some areas or periods of literature but is weaker in other areas, such as literary linguistics. There are many variables at play.

My comment was addressing a much larger and more important idea. I think that we should be thinking the opposite way: If your goal is to be the next Steve Jobs, it could be a very good idea to undertake advanced studies of the humanities, whether those studies take on the form of a university degree or are done independently. Deep understanding of different fields helps people to make connections, see problems differently, and just bring a richer body of knowledge to their work.

Melanie Blake Monday, June 18, 2012 at 6:52 PM PT