What’s brewing and cooking in your open source community? (part 1)


Alison Yu

As Open Source Community Manager at Indeed, Alison Yu shares strategy, metrics, and learning from a global program of both internal and external community events in the first part of this talk from DevRelCon San Francisco 2019.

See part two from Comcast’s Shilla Saebi.


My name is Alison. I am the open source community manager at Indeed. Prior to Indeed, I spent about seven-ish years in corporate communications with my last role being at Cloudera. So I knew that I really liked the open source community. I went on a quick sabbatical after we IPOd and traveled a lot.

And when I was kind of ready to gear up and come back into the working world, I actually kind of had this great fortuitous event, where Indeed had reached out to me. They were setting up a program office and they were looking for a community manager. So, when they gave me the job description, it kind of seemed like it was a perfect match.

We help people get jobs

I was really excited. And thankfully, they thought the same thing too, because they hired me about a year ago. So you might be wondering, “What is indeed.com?” So if you don’t know about us, we help people get jobs. That’s our main goal and that’s our mission.

If you do know about Indeed, maybe you found your last role on Indeed, or maybe you’re a hiring manager and you’re finding candidates on Indeed currently.

So one thing that people kind of forget about Indeed or they don’t really realize is that we’re actually a pretty big, global company. So, all the orange dots are where we have offices, and we’re over 7,500 full-time employees at the moment. We’re also functioning in 60 different countries, 28 languages, we have over 250 million unique users per month. And we have over 25 million jobs at any given time.

Now, you might be wondering, “What does this have to do with open source?” Well, what it has to do with open source is that we have a lot of data, and we have just a lot of traffic from our site. So we’ve actually built a lot and we consume a lot of open source.

So, today, I’m just going to talk a little bit about buy-in from our executive level, and then our marketing and brand teams. Obviously, we’ve had to get organizational buy-in across the board, but this is just kind of what we’ve been able to do so far. And since we have a compressed timeline, this is what I’m going to focus on.

And then I’m also going to talk about some of our internal community initiatives, and how we measure them, and what the metrics we use are.

Executive buy-in

So since I know that everyone’s really looking at organizational buy-in and more specifically, executive buy-in, I’ll start there.

So I’m going to kind of go down Indeed’s memory lane, not mine, because I wasn’t there at the time. But we had open source, three different open source projects prior to the OSPO being founded, and with varying amounts of success.

So if you can kind of see up there, actually, one of our VPs gives a great talk on how to not open source proprietary technology. And so, we knew that there were different things that we had to do in order to have a successful open source program.

So, Jack Humphrey, who’s our VP of engineering, is really a big fan of open source in general. And it’s great because what he was able to do is get higher-up executive buy-in on actually founding an open source program office, and able to make sure that our engagements as Indeed were complementary to those of the open source community, not only externally, but internally. How do we become good stewards of open source? Instead of constantly consuming, how do we also make sure that we’re giving back?

So, our Open Source Program Office was founded in November of 2017. This was marked by the arrival of our head of open source, who was Duane O’Brien. For those who don’t know him, he has many years of experience in open source. He was at PayPal’s program office prior to joining Indeed.

Shortly thereafter, about a year ago, so in June of 2018, both program manager and myself onboarded to Indeed, and we started to build different programs and our communities around there. And in Q3 and Q4, sorry, in Q4 of last year, our engineering manager onboarded, and we brought on two other engineers full-time in Q1 of this year.

So, without Jack’s buy-in, there would be no ability for us to actually get to this point. Not only did he make sure that we had a clear pathway to found an open source program office, he also made sure we had resources not only in the terms of budget, but also in terms of headcount. So, finding your executive sponsor is really important to make sure that you guys have a clear path into making sure that you are successful.

Marketing and brand buy-in

Now, I’m to kind of dive into our marketing and brand buy-in. So we had a ton of different people in different groups that we had to work with. The marketing and brand team, in particular, was a little bit one of our first ones because we knew that we needed an external brand.

So, who here in the room has ever worked with a marketing and brand team? Okay, good, there’s a few of you. So you do know that with marketing and brand, their kind of goal is to make sure that you have one unified, external presence, so you’re not too far off the beaten path.

So because I had a background in corporate communications, I knew how this fight would end if I had tried to just do what I wanted. So I made sure to approach it as a partnership, and really made sure that we would go into the same things together and make sure we had their buy-in. Marketing buy-in is very important to have in a very good external presence.

Open source sub-brand

So, just a little bit of a preface, this wasn’t an overnight thing, we actually took about two-ish quarters from first contacting them to getting a sub-brand approved and issued to us. So the first thing that they told us when we joined, and when we got in contact with them is, “We want you to propose not only a theme, but also a few colors that we can start working off of.”

So, being a diver myself, and we had a few other people on the team being a diver, we decided that we really wanted to focus on an oceanic theme. And you might be wondering why. Well, it’s because we really saw parallels between an oceanic ecosystem as well as the open source ecosystem.


So everything is so interdependent on each other, and no one piece of the puzzle is more important than the next. So, if one area fails, it kind of all fails. So, we really loved that parallel, and that’s what we proposed.

We also wanted to make sure that our brand colors that we proposed weren’t too far out of our field. So, up on the screen, you’ll see our Indeed primary and secondary colors, this is pulled directly off the public brand guidelines.

And then we also looked at many different open source logos. So this is a small sample of logos that we looked at. And we realized that we didn’t want to completely blend in, but neither did we want to really stand out, we kind of wanted to have a complementary color for that.

So if you go back to our brand guidelines and our colors, we really decided to focus on this deep purple. And that’s what we proposed as our primary color, and this light blue as well for our secondary color. And I think because we ended up actually using some of the colors that were already pre-approved, which helped ease our path, we were issued a sub-brand by our brand team pretty shortly thereafter.

Now, of course, this is a very small subset of what we were actually issued. This is just our color palette. We also got logos, we got different ways to apply the brand, etc., and backgrounds, so much more than this, I promise. Which then led us to redesign opensource.indeed.com.

So without marketing and brands buy-in, there would be no way for us to partner with our web team, HR, or technical content management team, which also helped fine-tune all of our copy, and as well as legal, and I think I already mentioned PR, but if I didn’t, PR as well.

So, in order to get a landing page up, it’s a lot of work. And it kind of starts with brand, making sure that they’re okay with your external portrayal of your brand and your program. So, that’s why I kind of wanted to focus on marketing and brand for this portion, because it really does show how important it was just to get this buy-in, at least initially.

Internal community buy-in and metrics

And now that I’ve talked about organizational buy-in, I’m going to start talking about some of our internal initiatives. So, during this talk, I’m going to kind of be talking about more about our internal programs and metrics. And Sheila will be following up directly after me and talking more about the external communities.

So, if you remember this slide, and you remember all the different offices that Indeed has, you can tell that we’re pretty global. We’re on five of the seven continents. I have no idea, and I highly doubt that we’re ever going to go to Antarctica, so that’s a grand total of six that we might ever open offices in. And in the bright blue, you’ll see where all our engineering offices are, we’re still very global, very spread out. This slide’s actually out of date.

So, I went ahead and submitted this for PR and brand review prior to the announcement of Indeed acquiring a company based in the UK last week. So, if you can only imagine, we have a few more dots on there to fill in. And not only that, this doesn’t represent any of the engineers or developers who are either remote, or work in any of the other offices that aren’t deemed tech centers.

And here’s where the auspice sits. As you can see, we’re a quick two-hour flight away from each other. It’s great for syncing up between our team. But it’s not really ideal for actually making sure that we can hit all the other offices.

Virtual community building

So because of that, we know for a fact that we had to go towards virtual events and virtual community building. So we started with kind of the obvious, our Slack channels and Confluence pages, which is where we host our internal wiki. And then we also used virtual global events that we could piggyback off of in Q4 of last year. So that was both Hacktoberfest and 24 Pull Requests.

So our results to date are pretty good. We have about 150 people in our main open source channel. We then created open source help, so OSS help, that was created two hours, three hours before I had to submit this deck. So, in those 3 hours, we got 24 people.

The main reason why we decided to open this channel is because we hadn’t realized that the conversations that were happening in the main open source channel really moved from generic questions about, “How do I get started,” to having really in-depth conversations about, “Hey, I have this very technical problem. I need help. How do I open source this?” And it was becoming less and less beginner friendly.

The need for a safe space

And as we heard from yesterday, we never wanted to have anyone answer a question in that channel of, “Well, it’s easy.” So, throughout that kind of analysis, and by being able to do many different open source office hours, we were realizing that there really was this thirst to have a safe space to ask those questions, where no one would feel like they were, you know, either bothering a higher-up engineer. So we’ve invited anyone who’s new to open source or anyone who’s willing to be a mentor to join this channel.

For our Confluence pages, we have about 8,000 unique views. If you remember, we have over 7,500 employees at Indeed. We don’t expect that every single one of them has seen our page. I’m pretty sure that many of them, many of our Indeed employees, even though they care about the company, they just aren’t aware of us, we’re a pretty small team.

So what that tells us and what we can infer from these numbers is that we’re seeing people who continuously come back for more content, which is great, because that means that we’re actually making sure that we’re giving people what they want, and they’re not becoming bored, they’re not doing a bounce.

And then in Q4 of last year, we had 62 unique participants in both Hacktoberfest and 24 Pull Requests. And these are people who actually completed the challenges. And the reason we know that is because people opted in and let us know that they were doing this. And we sent them swag bags and handwritten cards out to all the different participants who had completed these challenges.

And so we had participants in Asia, in Europe, and, of course, the Americas. So we found that to be a really successful endeavor. And we’re looking forward to both Hacktoberfest and 24 Pull Requests this year again.

Internal events

We also wanted to make sure that we were making an effort to not only hit the American offices, we do have offices in Asia, as I noted before. So earlier this year, we went on a little bit of an Asia road show.

So we went to both our Singapore office and our Tokyo office. And we also sponsored FOSSASIA, which was in support of our Singapore office. And they were really excited about that because they were able to actually get involved with the community. And also not only the open source community, but our own internal communities as well.

And we’ve also been hosting quite a few different open source events internally. So, we just did our Open Source Summit in May of this year. It was hosted on campus in our Austin, Texas headquarters.

It was a one-day, one-track event, where we not only had external speakers coming, but we also had internal speakers as well. So we highlighted everyone from a software engineer all the way up to our VP. And then we flew in some people from conservancy to talk about how to actually effectively contribute back to open source.

We’ve also had about five different fireside chats, so where we just bring in people from the external communities to talk about things. The way that we’ve tailored these to our audience is that we actually send out polls and ask people what they want to hear about, what projects they want to hear from, and then after we select a speaker, we then have an area where people can go and submit questions prior to the fireside chat occurring.

And last but not least, we’ve started a new series called The Contribution Workshop. These are about half-day events where we only talk for about 30 minutes. So we give a quick Program Office update, and then we invite speakers from the internal offices and the local offices, and those who have been very, very good at contributing to open source, so they’re well known. And we ask them to give a quick 10-15 minute chat on how they got started in open source and why it was important to them.

Response and feedback

So, so far, today, we’ve had, at summit, we had 60 attendees, which was great for us. We didn’t want to go too much higher than that. Our room capacity kind of limited us around that number. So we’re really excited. We had people from every single engineering office attend. And that’s great for us because we did not pay for travel for anyone to come in from other offices to attend.

Our NPS score was also a whopping 41. So for those of you who aren’t aware, NPS score can range from -100 to 100. Being a new event, we were really honestly aiming for about a 25, so to hear that we got a 41 was quite exciting. That means that this is content that people want, and we’re going to continue to do this type of event.

And then our fireside chats, we get about 50 people or so who attend virtually and in person. This is as, of course, an average. We’ve seen at some offices that this is much higher and some offices that this is much lower.

So we’re just tailoring everything to our different teams. And then we have our contribution workshops where we see about 20 attendees.

FOSS Contributor Fund

So I’m just going to quickly talk about the FOSS Contributor Fund. This is an internal program that we run, and we also go ahead and talk about it externally as well.

So, our FOSS Contributor Fund is a program where Indeed donates $10,000 a month to open source projects that we use at Indeed. And this is really exciting because we wanted to democratize sponsorships of open source programs and communities.

So we do have a few caveats. One, you can’t be an Indeed employee that owns this open source project that you nominate, we can’t give you a $10,000 bonus. Our VP will not approve that.

And then you have to opt into this program, and then you have to vote, if you qualify. And to qualify to vote in any given month, you have to make at least one contribution to open source in that calendar month.

So, our internal results to date is that we’ve had 71 people actually tell us that they go ahead and participate, and we have a track record that they’ve done that. And we do this through the GitHub API.

We’ve had 24 unique projects nominated, which is great. We’ve seen many projects getting nominated five, six different times. And we’ve had about 3,000 or so contributions to date this year. And we launched this in January of this year.

So, so far this year, we have donated to Django, Git, pandas, and Homebrew. You might be wondering why May is not up there yet. Voting closes for May on June 10th, so we’ll have an update soon.

External events

And externally, we have a few results as well. We’ve had about 12 companies interested in replicating, we’re in active discussions with them. About three dozen or so inbound inquiries, either through various social media channels or our email aliases. We’ve had three external articles written, and we’ve given three talks at different conferences.

And so we’ve used a lot of external events to also bolster our internal community building. This is just a very few sample size of the different conferences that we’ve attended or sponsored. All of these up on screen, we’ve sponsored in the past 18 months or so.

And the way that we use external events to drive internal community is that we have actually paid for travel, and passes, and all expenses for about over 100 Indeedians to send them to conferences over the past year.

And you might be wondering, “Why does this matter?” Well, number one, we’re able to reward people who are very active in open source. And we’re also able to then allow for people who are new to open source, even new to developing, to be able to get a first-hand experience with the open source community.

And we’re also able to let people who use open source in their day-to-day jobs to go ahead and learn what’s new and everything else. And we’ve had about 15 or more Indeed-led talks, and we’ve collected more than 1,000 leads. We use the leads to actually recruit people.

Don’t work in a vacuum

So, just to wrap up, find your executive sponsor, and don’t work in a silo or vacuum. Really kind of aim to do a partnership with the different teams. And then from internal and community metrics, go where your community is. They might not always be where you’re actually face-to-face with them, and that’s okay. And then also learn how to tailor your events to your different audiences. We’ve found that sometimes, we think that we’re doing pretty good and sometimes, some events are more popular than others at different offices.

And know that sometimes, your internal events and initiatives, you can actually speak about it externally to also make sure that your company and your programs and initiatives are getting the feedback and getting a quick gut check from the external community. And then external events can always be used as internal community building as well. And with that, I think I’m out of time, so… But thank you.

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