Harrison Barnes Is Facebook’s Newest “Intern”

Golden State Warriors wing Harrison Barnes has had a busy summer. After spending time in Brazil to take in World Cup festivities, Barnes moved onto Las Vegas for training camp with USA Basketball. Now, then, would seem an opportune time for the 22 year-old to relax before getting back into the swing of the NBA season with his Warriors teammates next month. But Barnes isn’t having it. Instead, the ever-industrious Barnes is spending his August days as an “extern” with social media king Facebook.

Mashable’s Sam Laird has more on Barnes’ second summer job. As one of the league’s most active players on social media, the tech world’s brightest are learning from Barnes as much as he’s learning from them.

But sandwiched between workouts this week, Barnes has added another item to his summer list: making the 40-minute drive from Oakland, where he lives, to Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters like any other Silicon Valley grunt.

Facebook calls him an “extern,” not an intern. Barnes isn’t getting paid, and he’s not taking a hungry college student’s spot. But he’s meeting, working with and shadowing Facebook employees this week, giving — and receiving — knowledge in the process. His presence in Menlo Park is twofold.

First, as one of pro sports’ more active and savvy Facebook users, he’s there to learn even more about the platform. Second, he’s there to provide Facebook’s development teams with feedback it can’t get from anyone but the high-profile athletes and celebrities who use their products, particularly the recently-launched Mentions app.

Athletes like Barnes are a valuable asset as the company looks to continue building momentum in the sports world. While Barnes is the first to take part in this particular externship program, it’s one Facebook reps say the company hopes to continue with other athletes in the future.

Barnes has long had high ambitions off the court. The top-notch business school at North Carolina was instrumental in the ballyhooed recruit choosing UNC over the rest of college basketball’s elite, and he has spoken openly of his desire to continue building his brand. In a bright-eyed 2012 piece from The Atlantic, Barnes – then a college sophomore – says that NBA players failing to “transcend [their fame] into off-court endeavors is really a waste.”

Though his basketball career is still in its infancy, Barnes has already used it to great advantage – his “externship” with Facebook is just the latest and most worthwhile example. And even more impressive than his unique off-court drive is that Barnes is actually making an impact at Facebook HQ, too.

Facebook plans to put his feedback to good use. Allison Swope, product manager for the Mentions app, says Barnes’ ideas and insights as a high-profile user this week have been so good she can’t share them — her team actually plans to develop a couple into new features on the platform.

Despite his success in Silicon Valley and appreciation for the work – Barnes says he “loves” technology and social media – he’s not trading in his adidas for loafers anytime soon.

“I don’t know if taking on Facebook is going to be a good career move for me,” he says with a laugh. “I think I’m going to let them do that.”

And though he struggled in a transitional sophomore season after a solid rookie campaign, that’s something Warriors fans should be glad to hear. For as much talent and potential as Barnes has in the tech industry, he has even more on the basketball court.

What do you think?

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