Hi. I'm Meg Risdal, the Product Manager for Public Q&A. Today I shared a bit about what's upcoming on Stack Overflow based on the strategy Sara Chipps, the Director of Public Q&A, wrote about a few weeks ago. Now in this post, I'm pleased to introduce you to the team of folks working directly on the roadmap for the public platform and the community tools that help power it (in contrast to our private Q&A products, Stack Overflow for Teams). Several folks on the team have worked at Stack Overflow for years, while others of us are relatively new (hi!), but we all share a passion for working closely with our community and the entire developer world. Without further ado, get to know the team that's focused on making it all happen and what excites us about our work!
Adam Lear, Developer
What does it mean to you to work in a community facing role? Working directly with users, or at least where my work is more immediately visible, is one of the reasons why I joined Stack Overflow back in the day. It has its challenges, but ultimately I find it more rewarding than being mostly behind the scenes somewhere. I care deeply about what I work on here, and it wouldn't be the same without being on the community-facing side of things. Please share a little bit about your story. I joined Stack Overflow (the site) in 2009. I'd been a developer for a couple years at that point and originally didn't do too much with the site. When Software Engineering launched, I signed up there, ended up getting fairly involved, and eventually became a moderator. Some time later, in late 2011, I was also elected a moderator on Stack Overflow. And shortly after that, I joined Stack Overflow (the company) as a community manager. I was in that role for about two years before going back to being a developer. And the rest, as they say, is history. What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Once upon a time, I was pretty involved in community theatre. But now I mostly play games (both the board and video variety), hang out with my partner and friends, that sort of thing. I'm not a fast reader, but I do always have a book in progress as well.
Brian Nickel, Developer
What does it mean to you to work in a community facing role? It’s easily the best and hardest part of the job. Working on community features and issues means I have a direct feedback loop with a lot of highly engaged and often highly technical users. Both when I was on the iOS app and now on the website, that feedback has played a huge role in everything I do for the network and shaped my opinions on what is important. At the same time, that direct, unfiltered feedback can have a dark side, since you see when users criticize or insult your work or worse, you as a person. It’s a small percentage that really get to me, but when they do, it’s pretty rough. How does your background help you? I like to say all programming knowledge is cumulative. Random bits of knowledge from things like writing a website in C, a .Net FastCGI implementation, and an Mpeg4 parser come up surprisingly often. But, things that feed directly into this role are my past work maintaining open source projects and my first job out of college as a business analyst. Maintaining an open source project is as much about growing a healthy community as it is about the code, working with different types and levels of contributors, from reporters to people who want to rewrite everything to people who want you to write their code for them. Being a business analyst taught me to break things down, turning wants and ideas into functional requirements and then into technical requirements and tests. What do you enjoy doing outside of work? I love costuming and have done a number of fun group costumes. Right now, I’m big into sewing in general.
Donna Choi, Design Team Lead
What does it mean to you to work in a community facing role? It means that our user experience is defined not just by the features we build, but by the community of people from all over the world using our platform and interacting with each other. Therefore, the user experience is influenced by us but it’s not dictated by us. Often that’s great (our small team certainly couldn’t create all of this amazing Q&A content ourselves!) and other times it’s a challenge. I see it as our job to respectfully guide our community to use the platform in a way that fits their needs as well as our mission and values. How does your background help you? In college, I studied Ethnic Studies, which is “the interdisciplinary study of difference,” and started my career as a youth organizer in California. I’m fascinated by people, why we do the things we do, and how culture and external forces influence who we become and how we behave. Those are things I get to think about everyday as a member of the Public Q&A team :) What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Lately, I’ve been interested in cultivating a pollinator and wildlife-friendly garden. I like planting things, learning about backyard habitats, nature, hanging with my dog, and yoga 🧘🏻♀.
Jane Willborn, Developer
What does it mean to you to work in a community facing role? It's really motivating for me to think about the people we're serving. Getting direct feedback and being able to iterate based on what the community wants is exciting. It makes me feel good to know that people are paying attention and we are trying our best to accommodate their needs. How does your background help you? I'm from a nontraditional coding background, so I've done a lot of different jobs. I like interacting with people, and I did a lot of business outreach in the past, but I also enjoy being able to focus in deeply on details, which was helpful when I worked as a translator. There is a lot of specific knowledge that is used for computer science, but a lot of how you pick things up and figure out when to implement them carries over to a lot of fields. I tend to think that if you get really good at doing something, regardless of what it is, you'll have an idea of how to get really good at doing anything else. A Book: Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins A TV Show: Dollhouse A Play: Tango, by Slawomir Mrozek A Game: Mafia
Jon Chan, Engineering Team Lead
What does it mean to you to work in a community facing role? Working on this team means a lot to me personally. I'm a gay, POC, self-taught developer, and making programming knowledge more accessible to people from all walks of life is a way of giving back for me. Becoming a programmer has changed my life for the better, and making sure anyone who wants to code has the knowledge and resources to do so is deeply important to me. How does your background help you? My background helps me think a lot about how people from non-traditional backgrounds get better at coding. I also have experience community building for LGBTQ+ youth, young programmers, and tech professionals passionate about equity in the tech industry. What’s your top watch? Right now, I'm really obsessed with an FX show called Pose. It highlights the lives and stories of people in the New York City house-ballroom scene in the 80s and 90s. I love watching it because it teaches me a lot about LGBTQ+ history and because it has an almost-all POC and trans main cast. It's incredible television.
Lisa Park, Product Designer
What does it mean to you to work in a community facing role? I'm designing for people that share a common space with me. It's gratifying to know that I can help build something that supports others in similar disciplines and fields Please share a little bit about your story. I grew up on the internet and belonged to multiple online communities that are now lost in the digital ether. I used to make avatars and banner signatures in Paint Shop Pro for message boards and eventually found myself on the Graphic Design track at VCUarts. I worked as a designer at a SaaS company for a few years before going back to school to get my Masters in Human-Computer Interaction. I’m motivated by my love for tech and designing digital experiences for real people. I had the privilege of joining Stack Overflow in January 2019, and I’m excited to put my skills and interest to work. What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Outside of work, I enjoy playing video games (PC and console) and critiquing contemporary art.
Meg Risdal, Product Manager
What does it mean to you to work in a community facing role? Nothing excites me more than building great products and user experiences that help the world more easily access and use high quality, open knowledge. That’s exactly what Stack Overflow is to the developer world and this is why I joined earlier this year. Working in a community facing role is personally very energizing for me. How does your background help you? Before I joined Stack Overflow, I spent three years working for Kaggle (a Google company), an online data science and machine learning community and platform. While there, I acquired a passion for working on community facing products. At Kaggle, among other things, I led the strategy and roadmap for their public Datasets platform which in a lot of ways is similar to public Q&A as an online, open knowledge repository. If you’re interested in an example illustrating how I think about building products based on insights from communities, check out my blog post "Better collaborative data science”. What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Outside of work, I love hiking and watching horror and sci-fi movies with my husband in Los Angeles.
Sara Chipps, Director of Public Q&A
What does it mean to you to work in a community facing role? It's an incredible responsibility that I take extremely seriously. The health of the community on our networks is no small task and I'm incredibly honored to be a part of this mission. How does your background help you? I have been a part of this community for nearly ten years. I believe that helps to give me insight into what it looks like at its best. Please share a little bit about your story I'm going to talk about everything besides my career since that's been shared ad nauseam. I grew up on New Jersey, both my parents were the first in their families to go to college. My father is an architect and my mother is a teacher. They taught me about integrity and how to care about our fellow humans through sacrifice and service. I have two younger brothers that I'm incredibly proud of, they are both married and in the industry. They are active users of the SE network! I have a niece and nephew that I love dearly. My niece is a Harry Potter fan and she loves being a Hufflepuff. My nephew loves to draw and is a great soccer (football, for everyone not in the US) goalie. I got married a year ago and my partner is also an engineer. I am thriving in a relationship with a partner who is incredibly supportive. The only time we argue is over classic IC/Manager engineering culture. For example, he hates meetings and process and as a manager those are my favorite! Meetings for everyone! Everyday! Sometimes I schedule meetings just so people will hang out with me (jkjk). We live in Brooklyn with our cat, her name is Tea. She is very old and has started waking us up with loud meows at 7a (she screm!). However, we love her because she is fluffy.
Yaakov Ellis, Developer
What does it mean to you to work in a community facing role? I am very excited to be working on the Community team. I have been on SO since the very beginning (userid 51) and have been an active user and fan of the company for a long time before I became an employee (almost six years now). I am especially psyched to work on implementing different tools and features that will make quality of life improvements for mods, high-rep users and power users, as these are user groups that I strongly identify with. I feel that being able to work directly on the community product gives me a huge opportunity (and responsibility) for being able to affect devs on a global level in a very positive way. What do you enjoy doing outside of work? My time outside of work is concentrated on family time with my wife and children and devoting my time towards Jewish religious study. "And know: a person (in life) must cross a very very narrow bridge. And the principle and main rule is: do not make yourself frightened at all!" - Rabbi Nachman of Breslov What’s your top read? Tie between the Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy, the Hyperion Cantos, and the Old Man's War series. Just because they are great, epic, fun-to-read SciFi.