Stack Overflow lends its expertise to the #WFH movement
As offices around the world go remote, employees are familiarizing themselves with the basics, including setting up a home office and maintaining a routine. Organizations with little experience working remotely face a steep learning curve to continue business as usual.
At Stack Overflow—a question-and-answer site for programmers—40 percent of the work was already conducted remotely before the company went fully remote on March 9. Khalid El Khatib, VP of Marketing, discusses how he and his team are leveraging their knowledge and extending their Q&A-style tools to create a database with best practices about working remotely.
How is Stack Overflow pivoting in the current climate?
We’re assessing all the information available to us in real time. We're assessing traffic patterns and monitoring the tags that people are reviewing. With this, we’ll hopefully be sharing more about people’s challenges right now and how we and the rest of the tech community can help them. There are many initiatives and tech companies who are making resources available to folks for free. One that comes to mind is Open for Business, which is an initiative that consolidates Atlassian, Box, Zoom, Google, and a number of other companies extending their free trials and waiving fees to support people as they go remote.
How is the marketing team navigating this change?
Early on, I took a subgroup of the marketing team to start working on how we can create content in this era. An enormous amount of our demand generation focus was on live events and conferences, so we had to figure out how to shift to virtual—what we should talk about in virtual events, how we can best help people, and not take the wrong approach in the content we create and how we position it. We also created a Google Drive folder that the full marketing team had access to and started dropping in examples of how others are navigating these uncertain times, how some people are doing it really well and some have left a bad taste in our mouths.
What is Stack Overflow’s experience with working from home?
Stack Overflow has been remote for a long time. Our company was 40 percent remote already, so when we made the decision to go fully remote on March 9, all of our remote colleagues invited us into a Slack channel and started peppering us with best practices and tips. Someone on our people team consolidated it all into a doc and we got smart faster than most. We recognize that people are really struggling, and if there's an opportunity to lend expertise, we want to do that. So we turned said doc into a blog that not only shares tips and best practices on working from home, but also shares tools we use to stay connected.
What are some of the biggest challenges of going fully remote?
One of the bigger challenges will be cascading a new tool or technology to an entire organization. Many of us, especially in the marketing world, take for granted chat tools like Microsoft Teams or Slack, since many of us have been highly digital for a long time, but there are all sorts of industries where that’s groundbreaking. The same way that a text from a friend can be misread in chat-based communication; tone can be mistaken all of the time. That's an enormous cultural adjustment folks will have to get used to.
What are some ways you leverage these tools to maintain communication?
One of our long-standing principles of being a remote company for so long is that if one person is remote on a call, then everyone is. If we had a meeting of 10 people on the marketing team, for example, and eight of them are in the office, but two aren’t, we'll do that meeting over Google Hangout. That's a best practice that's serving us well today. Socialization is also super important, so we don't just use Slack to collaborate on work. We have channels for our pets, our babies, for workout tips and coffee. We occasionally have lunch over Zoom, and on Friday we did a virtual happy hour that was very successful. It’s comforting and reassuring just to stay connected.
Are there any other tools you use for remote collaboration?
Our website is the 35th most popular in the world where developers and other technologists ask Q&As relative to programming challenges. So we’ve taken that Q&A platform and given folks a way to use it as their internal knowledge base. It’s called Stack Overflow for Teams. Tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams are incredible for real time conversation, but they're difficult to search, can get lost, and there’s a lot of redundancy. We use Stack Overflow for Teams to memorialize knowledge and put processes in place. For example, when marketing has new messaging or a new resource library, we'll ask a question on Stack Overflow for Teams, answer it ourselves, and then cascade all of that information to sales teams and update it when appropriate. Also, in order to help other companies go remote and collaborate through this challenging time, we're making the Basic Tier of Stack Overflow for Teams free through June.
What are you thinking about in terms of replacing events?
We're definitely focused on virtual events, webinars and AMAs that we wouldn't have had historically. Some of the conferences that we were supposed to attend are now doing virtual expo halls. Talks that we were planning are being recorded and cascaded to conference attendees. Given how important it is to highlight subject matter expertise right now, we're considering subjects like how to lead an engineering team remotely, how to scale your VPN, and what our tool kit looks like for a product designer who is remote. We're trying to position content that's helpful and comes from a place of knowledge.