For the Love of Stack Overflow

On October 2016, I stepped into a large conference hall of a Philadelphia hotel. Inside folks were making small talk over coffee and breakfast pastries while others were putting the finishing touches together for the two-day company conference. In a hall with over two hundred people, I barely knew a soul.

I had recently joined Stack Overflow as the first sales hire for their newly created Enterprise team. The idea of joining any company as a full-time employee never crossed my mind. For the past decade, I had enjoyed the freedom of doing my own thing working with entrepreneurs. But a small favor from a friend to help find some enterprise sales reps eventually led to me to accepting an offer.

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My NYC Stack posse doing the lunch thing…

I had known of Stack Overflow from the NYC tech ecosystem and its CEO Joel Spolsky. I also had on occasion relied upon Stack and its various communities to help with various programming questions I had from building websites for different projects. But was there an actual business behind the scenes?

Turns out it’s a pretty sizable business. The two most obvious revenue streams are its Talent and Digital businesses, the former helping companies find talented programmers and the later helping companies to build awareness of their offerings to the developer community. Now they wanted to offer their popular Q&A platform of over 50 million monthly visitors as a private service for companies to share internal and proprietary technical information among their developers.

On the surface, this does not sound like a great business. There are plenty of enterprise knowledge sharing tools already well entrenched in the market, including over 100 open source Q&A products. Stack Overflow wanted to sell a product into this saturated market at a significant premium. On top of all of that, knowledge sharing and collaboration tools are just not high priorities for companies.

So of course I said bring it on. Who doesn’t love a challenge?

It was a huge question in my mind though as to whether this startup within a startup could succeed. I wondered how a company that is so developer focused could support a healthy and successful sales culture. Despite the questions though, three things made me decide it was worth jumping onboard.

Incredible Brand Loyalty

I have worked for my share of software companies. To say that customers loved us would be a huge stretch. It is more accurate to say they tolerated us as vendors, resigned to the fact that they had to use our software. The companies I was employed by were difficult to do business with and often were overtly hostile to the best interests of our customers.

Stack Overflow is the complete opposite. It’s a company loved by the developer community. I have often been stopped on the street when wearing my Stack T-shirt. Many developers I speak with have shared openly how much Stack Overflow has meant for their professional development.

It is truly humbling to work at a place that has been so impactful to the lives of developers. There is a deep trust by users in Stack Overflow to a degree that is rarely seen. Because of that trust, there is a deep commitment to ensure we do nothing to negatively impact that trust and betray our community.

Incredible Company Culture

Stack Overflow is known for its developer-centric culture, something Joel has written a ton about on his blog. And the office environment is pretty awesome with private offices, top end work setups, free lunches and snacks, friendly remote worker policies, and more. That has allowed us to attract some of the most talented developers around the world.

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Where great minds meet everyday…the Stack Overflow office!

But what about the rest of the company culture and more specific to my interests, the sales culture? All the same applies and more importantly, it is one of the most respectful cultures I have ever experienced from the hiring process to every interaction as an employee. Without a doubt, I have met some of the most talented people at Stack Overflow, all smart and driven and genuine with each other.

The prevailing tech startup mantra says that companies are not families. That is the Netflix playbook and seen in companies like Amazon. You are only as valuable as a need exists for your skills. What struck me with Stack Overflow though was the humanity of the culture. It is not just about performance, we are about the people and there is a genuine sense of care for each person that is on the team.

Incredible Future Opportunity

When I looked deeper into Stack Overflow, I saw an amazing business. Given the brand, the global reach, the quality of the Q&A platform that has evolved over the past ten years, we have a position in the market that is unrivaled and impossible for anyone to replicate.

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Hamming it up in Hong Kong giving many Stack props…

Take the value Stack Overflow has delivered to developers. Some have suggested that Stack Overflow has saved developers tens of billions of dollars because of enhanced productivity. That translates into better code, shorter product delivery cycles, faster time to market, and greater innovation.

The value our users have received enabled us to build a massive global community and collect a wealth of insights about developers and technology trends. That gives us a unique position to be the voice of the developer community to drive business solutions around enabling developers and companies to innovate faster. For companies, that means access to a platform to build awareness with developers, to find quality developer talent, and to help developers be more productive.

Just in the past year, I have seen the power of our Developer Enablement story through the number of new companies we work with. For Enterprise, we brought on some of the biggest tech, finance, telcom and logistics companies in the world. But the most satisfying result is the number of technology leaders that we now work with that both appreciate the value of Stack Overflow and see us as a critical provider to help them drive innovation and to transform their organizations.

That is the place I stepped into that far away day in October as we brought the Stack Overflow team together. In a few short months of joining Stack, I knew I was someplace special and I am proud to be part of building the Developer Enablement story. It has allowed me to speak at conferences, travel the globe, and build amazing relationships. All for a company whose mission and values are truly oriented towards our customers and the community of global developers.

Thanks for allowing me to share my personal story. I would love to hear more about your own career journey, so please do reach out and share!

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We help IT leaders in enterprises solve the cultural challenges involved in digital transformation and move towards a community based culture that delivers innovation and customer value faster. Learn more about our work here.

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Thoughts on developers, digital transformation, enterprise agility, community building & software engineering culture. Author 👉 https://twitter.com/marksbirch

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