Using external events to bolster internal community building


Alison Yu

Alison Yu

In this talk from DevRelCon London 2019, Alison Yu describes how participating in events such as Hacktoberfest and All Things Open has helped Indeed’s Open Source Programs Office.


Alison: My name’s Alison. I am the community manager for Open Source at Indeed. Today, I’m going to be once again talking about using external events to bolster internal community building. For those who don’t know, Indeed is the number job site worldwide. And here are just a few data points that show how many people use our site.

One of the reasons why we are so invested in Open Source is that a lot of our main stack is built off of Open Source projects. Today, I’m just going to go through a few different events that we’ve done. I’m going to start off with Hacktoberfest and virtual events, seeing a few of our year over year results from 2018 and 2019. Then, I’m going to go into conference involvement and metrics. And lastly, I’ll go over our case study from All Things Open from this year.

So let’s just dive in. So anyone who hasn’t heard of Hacktoberfest, it’s a global virtual event that happens in October of every year. This year they wanted four pull requests, and then they would send you some swag. Let’s see how we did last year. Last year, this was the result of one email being sent out. We were very low touchpoint at that point. But we sent out one email and got between 3 and 4% of our engineering organization to go ahead and contribute. Now for us, that was great ’cause we were a new Open Source group, not a lot of people knew about us, so we were thrilled with the results of one email getting that much support.

We decided to double down this year, and our goal across the board was to go ahead and double every single metric across the board. One of the things that we did is that we not only had our Open Source program office, which sits only in San Francisco, we got representatives in Seattle, Austin and Tokyo to also go ahead and volunteer to be representatives or liaisons for our team in those three other cities. And this helped us because we were able to set up what we called Open Source study halls, which means once a week during Hacktoberfest, we had an hour dedicated in each of the offices for people to work on Open Source projects, find issues, get mentors, find someone to mentor, or even talk about some of the projects that they were working on. Across the board, we more than doubled in many of the different areas.

One of the other things that we did is we created a Slack specific channel for Hacktoberfest. This was impactful because people were sharing their wins. And when they were halfway through, when they were almost all the way through, or when they completed and they got their parrot. For anyone who actually went ahead and completed Hacktoberfest, they gave a little parrot icon to. And we got a lot of feedback saying that seeing everyone else post their parrots and complete the challenge really encouraged us to do it. A lot of people at the very end were like, “I’m a long-time lurker, but first time poster, and I want to share that I actually completed Hacktoberfest.”

We went ahead and engaged with almost 10% of our engineering organization, and they all contributed to Open Source in this time, and we had over 2,000 contributions, which was great. But now I’m just going to hop into a little bit more about the more traditional conferences or events. These are a few of the different sponsorships and conferences. This doesn’t include conferences that we’ve attended or spoken at. This is a very small smattering of them.

But it is notable that we hold our own conference budget. The Open Source program office is not reliant on sales and marketing in order to get budget to sponsor conferences. We’re sponsoring this conference, we didn’t need to run it by sales or marketing. So one of the ways that we leverage conferences and our sponsorships for internal employee engagement and building communities is that we take employees with us. Generally, as soon as we have a PO signed we’ll go ahead and upload all the event details onto our internal wiki, and it’ll tell them how many passes we have up for grabs, et cetera.

From there, we generally get a ton of people raising their hands because if we have a booth at a conference, we’ll also, out of our own program budget, spend the money and pay for everyone’s travel and expenses, as well, to attend the conference. This means it doesn’t touch their personal development budget, or their departmental budget. All they need to do is ask their manager for time off.

From there, we go ahead and select a few of the people who have raised their hands. We like to do a good mix of people to represent us at the booth. Not only is it people who are newer to Open Source, or if they’re maintainers but also, who has and hasn’t had an opportunity to join us prior. To date in the past two or so years, we’ve sent more than 125 Indeed employees to conferences. And this is really important because as much as you can get a sense of community behind a screen, it’s even better when you’re face-to-face. Not only that, people come back and they’re really excited about the different conferences that they’ve attended, what they’ve learned, they share things, and we get more interest for the next conference or the next Open Source event that we host internally at our offices. That’s really exciting for us to see.

Another thing that we do is we help people get speaking slots. I am the subject matter expert for Open Source for our engineering speaker support program, which means that I help vet CFPs and proposals. I help people get PR and executive approval if it’s needed. I help build people’s decks and templatize many things. And then I also help and sit through different reviews and do a feedback loop with people, so when they’re doing their dry runs. This is all done because we want to make it as easy as possible for our engineers to talk about the cool stuff they do. And guess what? If they’re talking about it, and the cool stuff they’re doing, they’re probably committing an upstream as well because it’s just not that fun to go to an Open Source conference and say, “I’ve worked that, so, eh, you can’t see it.” So that’s really important because when people get excited about it, that means that they’re getting their teams to also collaborate and commit things upstream as well. So far in the past year or so that we’ve had this program open, we’ve helped send about 25 people, I think a little bit more than that, to have Open Source talks at different conferences, which is kind of great seeing that we haven’t been open for that long.

And lastly, leads, because we know that everyone wants to know about leads. As I stated before, we are not driven by sales and marketing metrics, but it is an easy metric just to have when people do ask, “Hey, what was ROI “from that conference?” The way that we measure leads is we’re not trying to sell anybody anything, but what we are trying to do is we’re trying to have people opt into our talent portal because if we can hire more people who are already involved in the Open Source community, that means that when they come on board they’re already having a passion for it and they can help spread the word and they’ll know about our team. We’re a large company, we’re at over 8,900 employees at the moment, so for more people to learn about us and having internal evangelism is just a really good jumping off point. So far to date we’ve had over 1500 leads collected at our different shows, and that’s been in the past year and a half.

Now I’m going to just go and tell you about one of our success stories from All Things Open. So for those who don’t know, All Things Open is a really large general Open Source conference. This year it was located in Raleigh, North Carolina and there was over 5,000 attendees. So the way that we did it this time was we actually raffled off a pass to All Things Open at an internal event. The person who won that pass was actually a part of our legal team. He’s the one who reviews all our CCLAs, tells us if we can actually open source a project. He’s really important, we need him on our side. And our hope was really, hey he’ll go to this conference, see that what we’re doing is not high risk when we share this code and open source it. He did us one better than that, though. He came home from the conference, immediately Slacked me and said, “I want to get more involved in Open Source.” And I said, “Okay, great. “What is it that you want to do? He’s like, “I want to start doing “pull requests and making contributions.” It’s also really notable that this was in early October, which was great timing for us because it lined up with Hacktoberfest.

He was then able to link up with one of our Open Source representatives to help him set up a GitHub account and to walk him through doing a pull request. Also, out of our Open Source program office, we go ahead and find issues that Indeed is dependent on, or find really good beginner issues. Within a week and a half, he made his first pull request. We know that that’s not necessarily what’s going to happen every single time. Believe me, if it was, I’d be bringing every single Indeedian to a conference, but instead, this is a little bit more rare, but it’s really important because what we’re seeing is that it’s not just the engineering org that’s willing and excited to get involved with Open Source. It’s people from all over the company.

Just to wrap up, virtual events like Hacktoberfest are a really great way to bring an external event into your community because it’s very flexible. You generally have a longer timeline, and not only that, it’s not location-based, which means that you can tailor different things to different parts of your audience if you have multiple offices with different cultures. And then, conference involvement is not only about the leads. I know that a lot of sales and marketing, I used to be in marketing, so I am guilty of this, saying “How many leads did you get? Where is it in the pipeline?” So it’s not just about the leads.

You can actually build community from that. Use your additional passes that come with your sponsorship to bring people to conferences. By having people actually communicate with others, it allows them to not only get a feel of the community externally and actually network with their peers, but it gets them more excited about it. And then help other people speak at conferences because when they get really excited about the cool things that they’re doing in their day-to-day job that’s applicable to your mission, they’ll help spread that word for you.

And with that, I went through that really quickly, but if anyone has questions.

Audience member: Okay, so super cool to see this level of engagement from an engineering team and have a corporate level of budget involvement. Do you all have really strong C-level engineering leadership that tried to kick this off? Where did this help originate from?

Alison: It originated from our VP of engineering, Jack Humphrey. He was really excited about Open Source. He’s the one who really kicked it off with our SVP of engineering, so I know it was in the works for a while. Part of it, I have a different talk so I can go into this for a while, but part of it is Indeed had open sourced a few projects previously out of different product groups. Didn’t go too well ’cause they weren’t really engaging with the community, and at that point they decided that it’d be a really good idea to hire a team that actually focused on Open Source engagement. And I think it’s also, from a business perspective, if you think about it, we are very highly dependent on many different Open Source projects. So, being able to talk to those in the community is a good idea.

Audience member: Thank you.

Alison: All right, then. Well, thanks everybody.

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