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A Sneak Peek at What's Really Behind Facebook's Growth

Tickers in this article: FB

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Facebook has experienced a tremendous amount of growth in recent years, as the social network is now well over 1 billion users and counting. Mobile advertising is now at the forefront of Wall Street's mind, as the company ramps up its efforts in this area. However, with Facebook having trillions and trillions of pieces of data in its wares, it's a lot for any one person or group of people to look at, analyze and make use of. That's where Facebook's growth team, the guys CEO Mark Zuckerberg calls when he needs something done, come in.

Led by Javier Olivan, and responsible for a team of approximately 400 and actively growing, Facebook's growth team is the central data analytics team within the company. Think of them as a very elite team at Facebook that looks at and manages Facebook's most important strategic decisions.

"The Growth team was created in 2007, about when I joined the company," Olivan, VP of Growth and Analytics at Facebook, says in an interview. "The idea was basically to look at all the possible things to learn about what influences how Facebook grows, and focus on those metrics."

Olivan and his team use a wide variety of metrics to work on the products Facebook is putting out, whether it be Messenger, Facebook's app, the Web site, etc. Sometimes, the team builds entire products, like Facebook for every phone, and other times, it's about fine tuning products, optimizing certain areas to help give users a better Facebook experience. "All these things where you come and sign up for the site, all these new users' experiences, we optimize those things."

The normally media-shy group doesn't grant interview requests often, and very rarely speaks about what it's working on. Yet, when you consider just how much data Facebook is receiving on a day-to-day basis (Olivan said his team looks at terabytes of data daily, localized in house using various software programs to make sense of it), you begin to realize just how important the Growth team is.

It's worked on a wide variety of different products, sometimes building products entirely, other times, providing support and services to products. "There are products where we just supply the analytics to the teams with data, and they do a great job with it, and it all works fine. Other teams, we get a little more involved with and help them a little bit more." The group now consists of more than just analysts, including a marketing team. The analysts however, are the heart and soul of the Growth team, coming from a wide variety of backgrounds, including engineers, computer science, and Wall Street.

Some of the best analysts on the team have come from hedge funds, where they've spent countless hours analyzing and looking at data, trying to find fair value of companies or various products. "Guys have accidentally landed here at Facebook," Olivan noted. "They are definitely some of our top performers."

The skill set involved makes it an obvious jump from the fast-paced, suit-wearing environment of Wall Street, to the laid back, casual attitude of Silicon Valley. Olivan, one of Zuckerberg's top lieutenants at the social networking behemoth, is dressed in jeans and a t-shirt during the interview, showing off the dichotomy between East and West.

For a company awash in data, and getting every detail right, fate has helped comprise the team of some of its best performers. "Guys have accidentally landed here, Olivan says, himself being a former Product Manager at Siemens Mobile, prior to joining Facebook in 2007. "Maybe they analysts don't think their skills are sought after on the West Coast, but there's a new completely new world for them and a chance for them to new skills, and they're enthralled by all the data we have."