facebook agg growth
Market Research

In Big Tech, Growth is Product Led

October 13, 2022

5 minutes

You can learn a lot about an industry or company from the people who work in it and their skill sets. The problem is, most of the time this information isn’t readily available, even if you work within one of those companies.  But, professional data from People Data Labs gives you superpowers to understand trends and changes within any given industry or business! To showcase these superpowers and enable innovators like you, we have begun the Deconstructing series, where we use our data to break down the numbers behind modern business.

In the process of creating the Deconstructing Big Tech webinar, the same, product led growth pattern appeared again and again in our headcount by role data.

Over the past decade or so, many successful companies seem to have shifted their focus away from high touch departments, like Sales, Marketing, and towards Engineering and Operations staff. In multiple examples since 2010, the percentage of employees in Sales and CS departments decreased, while the percentage in engineering and Ops increased.

facebook agg growth

Starting with a relatively young member of the Big 5, Facebook, we see the expected hockey stick growth curve of a fast growing tech unicorn, and we can see that the lion’s share of that growth was in the Engineering and Ops departments.

facebook perc growth

Looking at that same data, but as a share of total employees, the story becomes clearer. Facebook’s Engineering and Ops teams grew faster than the rest of the company, while it’s Sales and Marketing departments shrank as a percentage of the company’s total headcount.

google perc growth

Our data on Google shows the same pattern, increases in Engineering and decreases in Sales, as percentages of total staff.

microsoft agg growth

When we look at Microsoft, an older, slower growing company, we see the aggregate growth is a more stable line, up and to the right, not the steep curve of Facebook’s growth.

microsoft perc growth

But even for the more mature Microsoft, that same product led growth pattern emerges. Most of Microsoft’s growth over the last decade has come in the form of Engineering roles, while it’s Sales and Marketing teams have decelerated.

apple perc growth

Our data for Apple, another older, more slowly growing tech giant, seems to indicate they made a strategic change around 2011 to shift towards product led growth. That year marked a pretty dramatic shift towards growing their Engineering team, while the percentage of the company in Sales, Marketing, and eventually even CS, declined.

The data in this article is excerpted from our Deconstructing Big Tech webinar. Check out the on demand version here to listen to the whole thing.

Dan Zarrella
Dan Zarrella

Dan Zarrella is the award-winning social media scientist and author of four books: “The Science of Marketing,” “Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness,” “The Social Media Marketing Book” and The Facebook Marketing Book. He currently serves as PDL's in-house Content Scientist, surfacing insights from our dataset to illustrate the power of B2B data.