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Stack Overflow and Andela partner to provide education beyond borders

posted under by on 05-27-15 1


Jon is a web developer and heads up developer evangelism efforts at Stack Exchange.

When I think about the impact that Stack Overflow has had on the world, it’s tempting for me to think about numbers: how many active users we have, how many questions are answered in a day, how many jobs get posted on our Careers platform. These are things that I, as a developer, think about on a daily basis to measure how we’re helping programmers around the world grow. But I find that these numbers are hard to wrap my head around: it doesn’t quite give me a feel for what our work is doing. What is the quality of our impact? What does it feel like at an individual level?

In just a week into our new partnership with Andela, that impact is becoming clearer than it ever has before. Over the course of eight weeks, six of Stack Overflow’s developers based around the world are providing one-on-one mentorship to six new Andela developers in Lagos, Nigeria. Twice a week, the developers “meet” over video chat and cover everything from pair programming to preparing for technical interviews and sharing career advice. We chose Andela as a partner because of the amazing work they are doing training world-class developers in Africa. We have a shared commitment to remote work and providing access to tech education in underserved communities, and we are so excited to advance these goals together.

Our initial sessions with the Andela developers have been incredible, and we’ve all been very impressed by how bright and energetic the fellows are. Marco, one of our developers has said of his mentee Bosun: “[He] is very enthusiastic and smart, and constantly reminds me of a kid in a candy store. I am very impressed by him.” It’s a testament to how thorough Andela is at finding and growing top technical talent. As we were talking about our first few sessions, Nick, another one of our developers, recalled a conversation he had with his mentee Abimbola: “the Andela program itself is pretty crazy…if you haven’t talked to your mentee about it yet, I highly recommend it and prepare to be amazed at what they go through just getting into the program.” The level of training the Andela developers gets prepares them to hit the ground running and it allows each mentee to get personalized training from their mentor. Max and Fiyin covered how we do automated testing and builds at Stack Exchange. Oded and Adeleke are going over MVPs and user-centric design. Pairs are covering everything from data structures and algorithms, solving coding challenges like N-Puzzle, to building apps targeted at the African market.

Another thing we’re picking up on is how everyone’s cultures intersect and what challenges we face working across so many boundaries. In just our group of twelve developers (both mentors and mentees), there are four different countries represented across different ages, genders, and races. Given our own focus on remote work, some of this comes pretty naturally to us. For example, coordinating meetings across time zones is something we’re used to, but there are some challenges unique to our partnership with Andela. For example, some of us had connectivity issues with Google Hangouts, and many of us have switched over to Skype for its reliability on Andela’s end. We quickly realized some of the things many of us as developers take for granted are larger factors in our partnership. But even with these challenges, we’re finding that individuals across the world are thinking about the same issues in the technology industry. Roberta, one of our developers based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil brought up the following about her first few sessions with Mirabel in Lagos, Nigeria: “She also had questions and concerns regarding diversity and I think I convinced her that things are getting better and that being a programmer is super awesome. <3” We’re learning that many of the questions we think about at Stack are the same questions individuals in vastly different parts of the world are thinking about.

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 11.11.48 AM

We’re just getting into our first few sessions with the developers at Andela, and we couldn’t be more excited to be working with such bright individuals in a truly transformative organization. Over the next several weeks, we’re going to continue to see how we can help the Andela developers grow and discover what we learn working across boundaries we’re not used to crossing. As the program reaches its end, we’ll give another update here. My sessions with my own mentee, Babajide, are something I look forward to every week, and they give me perspective on how the work Stack Exchange and Andela is doing to educate developers around the world really impacts people at the individual level. It gives richness to the numbers that I think about every day.

If you would like more information about our partnership with Andela, email me at or reach out to me on Twitter.


Stack Exchange Podcast #64: Diverse Hiring and a Cat Named Alan Turing

posted under by on 05-11-15 23

Podcast studio construction project

Welcome to Stack Exchange Podcast Episode #64, recorded in the podcast studio at Stack Exchange HQ in New York City, NY. Our podcast today is brought to you by string cheese! (It can be eaten by pulling strips from the cheese along its length and eating those strings.) Our hosts are Jay Hanlon, David Fullerton, and Joel Spolsky, joined today by guest Roberta Arcoverde.

Roberta is visiting NYC on vacation, and she’s obviously doing a terrible job taking time off because here she is at work. Roberta joined the team in March 2014 and has been working on Careers ever since. She’s currently our only employee in Brazil. (We used to have another employee in Brazil, but he moved to Ithaca, which has Cornell University, rain, and its own currency.)

Anyway. Roberta’s not from Ithaca. She’s from Rio de Janeiro and she works on the Careers team, where her first big project was our internal Candidate Query Language (CQL). As a computer science researcher working with languages and compilers, she was really pumped to work on this project. It’s what allows employers to do advanced searches on our candidate database.

More recently, Roberta’s working on rewriting our message processor, Back Office. It used to be written over ServiceStack, which we’re phasing out, even though we love it (and Demis used to work with us). Discussion of ServiceStack and what it’s good at (and where it falls short for us) ensues. And StackExchange.Redis. And Wasabi. And Roslyn.

Moving on…

Roberta’s been working remotely from Brazil since she started with us, and it’s her first time working for a remote company. At Stack Exchange we try really hard to make remote culture work. Now we do stuff like Remote Bev Bash, where we get everyone to grab a beverage and hop in a Google Hangout together on Fridays. (balpha figured out how to rig two hangouts together so we don’t have to worry about participant limits.) One time we made origami, and one time Dalgas joined the bev bash from a pub. It’s how we make remote work work.

(Also, very importantly, Roberta’s going to get another cat, and name it either Donut or Chelsea (or Alan).)

Roberta didn’t apply to work here when she first saw the listing (even though she knew David worked here). She knew we were a great company making a product admired by many, but felt hesitant about applying because the team page made the dev team looked like a boys’ club. (This was June 2013, when the dev team was 100% male.) Fortunately for us, she changed her mind – thanks in large part to our podcast with guest Sara Chipps which reassured her that we’re aware of our representation problems and we want to make them better. We’ve learned a lot about how to represent our open jobs over the past few years, and we hope folks from all walks of life feel confident applying to work with us.

(We’re relieved that Roberta joined our team and discovered that we are not jerks. Well, most of us aren’t.)

Here’s a link to the results of our developer survey, in case you got to this part in the conversation and wondered where it was.

Roberta’s hesitance to apply with us isn’t surprising given lots of her past experiences with programming while female. Example: at a conference last summer, which she attended as a representative of Stack Overflow wearing a Stack Overflow t-shirt, one of the conference organizers assumed she was a booth babe. Lots of people visiting the Stack Overflow booth addressed their technical questions to Gabe, who does not work as a developer here. This is the kind of thing that happens all day every day in real life and on the Internet.


Another relevant link: Coding Like a Girl.

So, how can we fix it? How can we make sure we’re not turning more amazing programmers like Roberta away from our company because of our image? For starters, we’re trying to be more open and public about our commitment to the idea that diverse teams create better products. We toss around some ideas about changes we could make on the sites to improve diversity and visibility, too. What it boils down to is that if you can see people who look like you doing a thing (being president, working for Stack Exchange, etc), you’re more likely to believe you can do it, too. (And that’s why Joel will never go to a Joey Graceffa meetup.)

One thing we need to work on is shouting at each other less on hangouts, because not everybody likes to make decisions that way. We have a lot of healthy disagreement, and we’re proud of that, but we have to figure out better ways to do that without making everyone feel like they have to defend themselves.

So what can we get better at? We put Roberta on the spot but she’d rather talk about all the stuff we’re working on so far. If you (the podcast listeners) have ideas, we’re always happy to hear them in the comments or on meta

Thanks for listening to Stack Exchange Podcast #64, brought to you by string cheese. See you next time!


Introducing Beyond Coding: Free professional skills training for emerging devs in NYC

posted under by on 05-05-15 33

Today, we’re excited to announce that online registration is now open for Beyond Coding, a free new summer program designed to equip emerging computer programmers in New York City with professional skills needed to help them succeed in their first job working with code. The program, slated to launch June 11, is part of our collaboration with New York City’s Tech Talent Pipeline initiative to support the growth of the city’s tech ecosystem. And we’re thrilled to be taking part, along with some other top-notch New York startups: Crest CC, Foursquare, Kickstarter, Tumblr, and Trello.

This Tech Talent Pipeline initiative, which launched in May 2014, has three objectives: Work with New York companies to help close the skills gap between open jobs and candidates to fill them, provide training and educational opportunities to New York residents, and ultimately, to build a talented and diverse workforce in the tech sector.

Since the program kicked off, we realized that while we are hiring, we’re not doing it fast enough to make a real difference for New Yorkers who want to learn to code. On the other hand, one thing that we do have (thanks to Stack Overflow) is access to a wide range of resources and knowledge that we can offer to the greater community. And several other New York startups fell into the same bucket. So we decided to team up — you know, like a less super-heroic League of Justice — and build out a formal educational curriculum for the New York tech community.

With nearly five open jobs for every available software developer, the need for qualified technical talent is higher than ever. In New York City alone, there are 13,000 firms hiring for highly sought-after skills, such as web development, mobile development, and user-interface design. To meet this demand, it’s critical to get more talented people coding, and do it fast.

Beyond Coding’s goal is not to teach hard coding skills; it’s to ensure that anyone in this city with a passion for technology can get the mentoring, training, and support they need to succeed as a developer. The curriculum is designed to accelerate the learning curve for new programmers by attacking skills gaps that often prevent talented young developers from actually landing jobs. We’ll cover professional networking, technical communication skills, the best way to prepare for a technical interview, and what happens next: how to continue learning programming skills beyond the classroom.

The Beyond Coding program is open to anybody in the New York City area with an understanding of coding and is currently looking for a job as a software developer or a related role, but lacks access to tools, resources, or a professional network they need to succeed. Once the 10-week program concludes, students will receive a formal certification and be introduced to top tech companies in New York City who are hiring junior-level developers.

This is just one of the ways that we’re working to promote inclusion both here, and in the tech community as a whole. But we’re still figuring out how we can make a positive difference, so we welcome any feedback or ideas you may have. And if you live in New York City, are learning to code and can use a little help kickstarting your new career, you can apply at


JNat and animuson: workin’ on ur problemz

posted under by on 04-22-15 26

The Community Team’s first and most important job is to help you, the users. Every day, we hang out on meta sites and in chat, watching to make sure that someone is working on your problems. Until very recently, community managers also fielded each and every request that came through our support ticketing system.

(And before that, Jeff Atwood handled them all. The whole team@ inbox, singlehandedly.)

Our approach to customer service via email has changed as the network has grown: we’ve tried many new processes and tools over the years to help community managers handle team@ efficiently and still have brainpower left over for the rest of their jobs. (If you’re curious about it, you can take a look at Jon Ericson’s ongoing blog series.) But still, support tickets stack up and all too often lose out to more pressing issues on the sites themselves; more and more often, we found ourselves struggling to resolve problems as they came in, much less fix them in two ways.

Some companies respond to this problem by just giving up, hiding support emails and shunting requests into a poorly-monitored forum somewhere. We know this because we’ve repeatedly gotten emails from members of such sites, from people searching desperately to find anyone willing to help. But we don’t believe in treating our users – the people whose patronage we depend on – as annoyances to be brushed off and forgotten. So we decided to double down on our commitment to friendly and efficient user support: we’ve hired two new staff members to handle email support full-time. And we hired them from the communities they will be supporting.

Please join me in welcoming our two new Community Growth Operations Specialists

Kyle, aka animuson:

profile for animuson

Kyle was an elected moderator on Stack Overflow, spending a significant amount of his time helping out others on the site. Some personal background:

  • He visited Australia for 18 days as a student, which is probably longer than you’ve ever spent in Australia (unless you live there);
  • He plays an obsessive amount (his words) of video games, and has over 100 platinum trophies on the PlayStation Network;
  • He previously worked at his county’s Election Commission, which is (unintuitively) the most non-political job one can have.

João, aka JNat:

profile for JNat

João was a pro tempore moderator on Anime & Manga SE, contributing greatly to the health and growth of that community. Some personal background:

  • He studied Arts in high school and has a masters degree in Architecture and Urbanism, so it should be obvious how he ended up in operations for an internet Q&A community;
  • He’s Portuguese, so Gabe now has some assistance in supporting the needs of our Portuguese-speaking members.
  • He credits his love for anime and manga with getting him this awesome new job.

You might be thinking: “Wait. Operations Specialists? I thought they were just handling emails.” But that would be a waste of their considerable talents. Once João and Kyle have tackled team@, there’s no telling how many new and efficient ways they’ll find to help make our team better at supporting our communities.

If ever you find yourself having to contact us, it’s likely that these brave souls will be fielding your request. Feel free to say hi, or tell them what the best part of your week has been so far!


Two new user pages. One new stat. This one’s big.

posted under by on 04-15-15 73

In the time since we started working on the profile, generations of dinosaurs were born, fell in love, had families, and were killed by a comet. Or climate change, or maybe texting and driving or some nonsense like that. Anyway, as of today, it’s live on SO and about half the network, and we’ll be rolling out to the rest over the next few weeks. And it was worth the wait:

One user page isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion user pages.

Unfortunately, the designers said I could have… like two, maybe? At most. So, we went with that:

One page for you, one page for them:


  1. The Profile Page lets you show others a summary of what you’re all about. Share your interests, favorite charities, or your Twitter, Github, and SO Careers activity. Or don’t. And it automatically shows off your most helpful posts and tags from the network.
  2. The Activity Page lets you instantly see just how much good you’ve done here. And it provides new, individual suggestions for specific ways you can contribute next.

How many people have you helped?

  • “People Reached” is a new way to see just how much your efforts here matter. For the first time ever, you can see roughly how many times an actual human being – very likely one looking for help – found your contributions here. Personally, I like to call it the “Saving-the-frigging-world-o-meter”. Which may be why I’m no longer allowed to name stuff. Whatever.

Not big on words? Stop reading this. It’s long. Just go touch it!

  • Already have a profile? Go update it; you can add new Twitter, Github, and Careers links, and you’ll want to check your “People Reached” to see just how many people out there would high-five you if they could.
  • Never filled out a profile? If you’ve ever gotten help here, create one today, and you’ll be ready to pay it forward the next time you run across a question you can answer. And the new layout is designed to make you look pretty great even before you post.

Sticking around for the details? Well, I warned you.

Why?!? Grimlock say NO changies! I LIKED THE OLD CHEESE!


Why the change? Well, the legacy user page served proudly for many years, but the design team got bored. And they had some long, tedious point about black never really being black, or tortoise-shell glasses or something, so we eventually just gave in. (Okay, not really.)

Because the old page was being asked to do two different things, it was okay at both, but not awesome at either:

  • When you looked at your own profile , the top section was full of stuff that you A) know, B) can’t forget, and C) almost never changes. “What’s my name?” “Where do I live again?” At least “Age” was exciting roughly 0.3% of the time: “Whee – it’s my birthday today!!”
  • When other people looked at your profile, the whole bottom section was full of stuff that you may care about, but others probably didn’t. (“It’s sure been a while since Jay accepted a bounty – I hope he’s doing okay!”)

So, we left all the stuff that was working exactly the way it was, and split the info into two pages. Anyone can see either page, but the default view will be the one with the info that you actually care about.

Your beautiful new Profile Page: Show others what you’re all about.

What do you want to share? What you do. What you build. Your favorite quote, or least favorite N’Sync member. (Just kidding. They’re all equally awesome.)

Let others see your best work, whether it’s here or on other sites. Not active here yet? Not a problem. The new profile has dedicated fields for links to Github, Twitter, your Rick Schroeder Fan Fiction Tumblr, or wherever you have something to share. If you never felt you needed a profile before, today just may be your day.

Already been helpful? We’ll show off your best work. Your top posts – along with the technologies or tags you’re strongest in – show others what you’re all about. And if you’re active on multiple communities, your best stuff from those sites will show in the sidebar, too.

The new Activity Page: Track your impact and find new ways to contribute.

Not sure what to do next? We’ve got you covered. 2015-03-23_17-49-25
“Next Badge” helps you figure out where you can contribute next. If you’re new, it suggests badges that help you learn the ropes. If you’ve been helping for years now, it suggests badges for activities you seem to have enjoyed in the past. And for most of ’em, it links right to a half-decent place to go earn them.

Wondering what your future holds? The “Next Privilege” bar offers a slightly more realistic goal than “catch Skeet“, tells you what powers are in your immediate future, and shows you just how close you are to earning them.

2015-03-23__18-06-31 Already have mod-like powers?
Not a big fan of “other peoples advice”?

Good for you! Don’t let the man tell you what’s up. The next badge picker lets you pick the goals you want to track, and shows you just how close you are to each of ’em.

And the page adapts to serve our most generous users. Once you’ve earned all the privileges, the “next privilege” bar automatically starts tracking your progress toward your closest tag badge (or another one of your choosing).

70 million humans in need land here each month. How many find your posts?

Long before I worked here, the thing I found most appealing about 2015-03-27_15-48-52contributing to Stack Exchange sites was the idea that when I took the time to write something here, my efforts would help more people than they ever could buried on some forum.  An answer here doesn’t just help the one original asker, or the five up-voters. The real impact comes from the sixteen thousand searchers who land here looking for help with the exact same problem.

Every time you take five minutes out of your lunch break, or ten that you might have spent watching creepy hands open eggs to post here instead, you’re choosing to donate some of your most most valuable asset to do some good. And holy crap, have you done a lot of it. In the past, we hadn’t given you any way to even estimate just how much, though. Today, we’ve fixed that. So if you’ve contributed even a few up-voted posts, go- take a look.  I think you’ll be damn proud of what you find.