April 6, 2020

Sharing is Caring with Stack Overflow

by Melissa Caffrey

As offices around the world go remote, we’ve heard all of the basics for working from home: maintain a routine, set up a workspace, remember to shower, and if you’re going to wear sweatpants, at least change out of the ones you wore to bed. For many organizations without much experience working remotely, there is a whole new learning curve that has to happen very quickly so they can continue business as usual.

Luckily, there are companies out there that are ahead of the game, like Stack Overflow, which was already 40% remote long before companies sent their employees home this March. Khalid El Khatib, VP of Marketing for Stack Overflow, explains how he and his team are using the knowledge of their largely remote workforce to educate those who need it, even extending their Q&A-style tools to create a knowledge database for people from any industry who are must adapt to the current situation. You can listen to the rest of the interview, here, and if you want to read more about why you should keep your customer’s priorities in mind in our new guide to B2B Brand Strategy, here.

Has Stack Overflow pivoted its focus in the current climate?

We’re assessing all the information available to us in real-time. Because we have a massively trafficked website, 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 that 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.

What are some of the first steps the marketing team took?

Very 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. Very early on, we 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.

Is Stack Overflow familiar with working from home?

Stack Overflow has been remote for a long time. Our company was 40% remote already, so when we made the decision to go fully remote on March 9th, 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 challenges should people going fully remote prepare for?

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 that folks will have to get used to.

How do you leverage these virtual 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 8 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 work out 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.

What else are you using to collaborate remotely?

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.

How do you plan on replacing conferences and 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.