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Scale @Reddit Triple Team Size w/o Losing Control
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| by Nick Caldwell Follow 0 Followers on Dec 13, 2017 | NOTICE: The next QCon is in San Francisco Nov 5 - 9, 2018. Save an extra $100 with INFOQSF18!
41:14

Summary
Nick Caldwell discusses his engineering team's approach to agile development as they scaled from 40 to 120 engineers. He discusses how they use tools like JIRA and Tableau, meeting rhythms, and covers the cultural elements of a successful team that works at every point of scale.

Bio
Nick Caldwell is the VP of Engineering at Reddit where he is responsible for building and operating the 4th most visited site in the US. Prior to joining Reddit, he held various positions in engineering leadership at Microsoft across a 15 year career, including work on natural language processing, enterprise search, machine learning, in-memory databases, and business intelligence.

Software is changing the world. QCon empowers software development by facilitating the spread of knowledge and innovation in the developer community. A practitioner-driven conference, QCon is designed for technical team leads, architects, engineering directors, and project managers who influence innovation in their teams.

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Transcript

I'm super excited to be here, to introduce you to my friend Nick Caldwell, I met him for the first time while I was CTO of Reddit and we were doing a VPN of search, we were doing it for nine months, and we talked to 12 or 18 good people, but nobody quite met, we had an aggressive set of criteria that we were looking for, and we could kind of take our time. Something about the criteria- we needed somebody with a track record of building large teams quickly, and somebody who cares about and knows how to build an awesome, diverse, and inclusive culture and cares about improving the world, somebody that wants to win, and somebody that doesn't mind solving a lot of hard problems. I don't mean tech problems, but various interesting corporate culture management problems that we have to tackle. And most important, somebody that has better taste in clothes than I do, which is all the candidates, so whatever, fine.

So after interviewing a bunch of people, I chatted with Nick on the phone. He was up in Seattle, and after an hour, I turned to Steve and I said, that's the guy. Steve is our CEO. We went to sale mode, I told Nick I would paint his fence, mow his lawn, that offer still stands. And he joined us as VP of Evenge, and he smoothed out everything that we do, how we plan and execute and hire, everything. And that was important, we were rapidly growing and continue to do so. In the last eight months, Reddit engineering grow by 3X, and if it follows normal operating procedure of a Silicon Valley company, it will grow again 3X in the next 18 months. Before Reddit, he was at Microsoft for 15 years as a general manager, he has giant teams and has to make them work really well. Right now, he participates with dev color, a non-profit that works to maximize the impact of black software engineers, and is also a founder of color code, a scholarship dedicated to future leaders of color in tech. So help me welcome Nick to the stage. He is going to talk about growing teams by 3X.

Nick Caldwell: Hey, folks. Hope you are having a good time at QCon, day three. I will see if I can switch over to four. Does that one work? Got it. Okay.

And we will get started. One sec, y' all. Don't want to lose the energy in the room, I have to get the presentation going first. Okay, hey, I'm Nick Caldwell, thank you for joining me here at QCon, day three, and I want to do a re-introduction of myself: VP of engineering at Reddit, I was previously a general manager at Microsoft, there are some folks from there in the audience today. I went to school at MIT, go bears. Any bears in the audience? There we go. Go bears.

What is Reddit

So I want to talk to the few of you who don't know about what Reddit is, that is going to lead into explaining the challenges that I face. So Reddit is the front page of the internet, a social network, there are tens of thousands of communities around whatever passions or interests you might have.

And so, the way that we think about Reddit is exactly that: a collection of passionate communities. And one of the interesting things about that is it means that Reddit has one of the highest engagement scores of any site on the web. So here is Alexa, you know, top 10 list, we have Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Reddit. And if you check out that column daily time on-site, 15 minutes and 50 seconds, next closest is Facebook, with 9 minutes and 15 seconds.

Scale

I want to explain why and how that works. Reddit is unique in the following ways. It has pseudo-anonymous accounts, you don't have to sign in with your real identity, and for those that are asking about the future of Reddit, it will always be that way. We have passionate communities with rules, so that only certain types of content can go into a community. We have voting, and we have this thing called the hot front page, which aggregates all of that great content from across the entire internet.

When you apply scale to that, you get the following thing: just an endless stream of addictive, you know, time-sucking, content. We like to think of Reddit as weaponized procrastination. So that's what I'm to for a living.

So where are we at with Reddit? It is the 4th largest website in the United States, 25 million active users, 1.1 million active communities. What is new this year? A new executive steam, Steven has come back, a new product vision, a lot of the core people at Reddit agree that the site could be more welcoming, and that was a core focus for us last year, now we have a foundation to build on it toward the future. And then rapid hiring, that's what this presentation is going to be about. Last year, we grew Reddit from 40 engineers, we have 130, plus about 25 part-time contractors. And I expect that that is going to continue through next year.

And so why do I want to talk about scale, why is this presentation important to me, and why I hope you guys care about it. A few years ago, there was a report, a start-up genome report, they surveyed about a thousand start-ups, ones that were successful and failed and tried to ask them why and figured out the formula for a successful start-up. This was an interesting statistic, within three years, 92 percent of the start-ups fail, and of those, 43 percent of those fail with issues due to scale. This is a really important statistic for me, I traded my cushy executive-level position at Microsoft to join Reddit, and I would love for us to be successful.

So with that in mind, this is my first week at Reddit. Marty introduced me to, in the first week, to a 30-person stand up. And Reddit was still using the tools and techniques of a very small team, but trying to scale up with them. We saw that 30-person stand-up, we saw that -- Google slides was tracking our work. We had not fully implemented jury yet, we had a lot of people running around themselves and -- calling themselves tech leads, there was not a management structure and resistance to that as well. And there was a slow delivery pace, there was not a lot coming out of the engineering organization. With all of that in mind, tons of stuff to do and ship. Nobody looks at Reddit and thinks that it is done and we need to hire about 100 people. So with Marty's help and the rest of the exec team, we fixed the problems and I will tell you about the rest of my experience and the rest of the exec team's experience at Reddit.

Roles and Responsibilities

So the first thing we had to fix was roles and responsibilities. When you are in a small company, I think that your classic example for any Silicon Valley start-up is you have the technical cofounder and the product cofounder and they do everything imaginable. So you might have the CTO on sales calls if you are at a really small company. And as you scale up, you can attract expertise and you can specialize. That CTO and product co-founder split off into engineering and product disciplines, design, and a whole other constellation of specialties. This was the first thing we did at Reddit and I will give you an example of why it mattered so much. At Reddit, we encountered a lot of different legal issues, we're a big site, a big target.

And I want to talk to you about our chief legal counselor, her name is Missy Tidwell and her first week at Reddit. And her first meeting was the Reddit legal counsel meeting, and in this meeting were 15 to 20IC level engineers that are all very passionate about the law. As if you could take 15 passionate people, cram them in a room, and immediately gain the equivalent of a Harvard law degree. This is what Missy walked into. And she immediately shut that meeting down and proceeded to own legal council at Reddit. And this extends to other areas of your organization, not just law. But you have to figure out a way to tease apart responsibilities as you scale.

R.A.C.I

And a common framework is this thing called RACI, maybe you have seen it before. You make a chart of all the people in your organization, as well as all the different responsibilities that they might have. And RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed. So you make the chart, and then you assign people R, A, C, or I depending on their relationship to the different tasks. And the nice thing is that you get very, very clear ownership outcomes. Everybody knows who is responsible for what after you go through this operation.

Product vs Program vs Engineering Managers

At Reddit, we had to tease apart the relationship between product, program managers, and engineering managers. We had a lot of people who were program managers, and if you have them, they are switching, they are doing a lot of running daily stand up and the customer interaction and so forth. So we split that into two roles- the product managers are responsible for the who, what, and why of what the product organization is producing. And then the engineering managers are responsible for how and when things are going to be built. This immediately allowed us to get people focused on the things that they were best at; the program managers converting to product managers and engineering managers allowed to run the engineering organization.

Voight-Kampff

And now, the second thing with engineering managers, I will go back to what I said at first, we didn't have any engineering managers at Reddit when we started, we had folks calling themselves tech leads, and tech leads is a difficult title. I don't know if you have tech leads in your organization, I remember when I was first starting as an engineer, I asked my manager what a tech lead was, and he said that nobody knows. It depends on your organization. And 15 years later, people ask me, what is a tech lead? Well, I don't really know. I do know what engineering managers are and what architects are, so I needed to come up with a formula to convert all of these folks that are calling themselves tech leads into roles with clearer functions. I came up with the Voight-Kampff tests for engineering managers. Do you know blade runner? You go into the machine, it tells you whether you are a human or a robot, it will tell you if you are an engineering manager or architect. Do you care more about people or architecture, pretty straightforward. And what are your thoughts on shipping on a deadline? If you are a manager and don't ship on time, you might have a bad time.

So your PM goes to the direct ports and tells you to start working on a feature. As an engineering manager you need to stay on top of that, and you spend a day on LinkedIn, fishing with recruiting, how do you feel? This splits the tech leads into people that care more about building the team and process, and another class of people that care about the code and the architecture.

And now, the disadvantages of using this RACI technique is it is inflexible, sometimes you have people that switch hit, sometimes you have an engineer that is good at design or product intuition, and it does not address some of the deeper issues, which is trust. And you cannot scale your organization ultimately without trust.

Organizational Trust

So I won't go into detail on this slide, but it talks about the advantages and the disadvantages of running an organization with high trust. This comes from a book called the Speed of Trust, I encourage you to check it out.

And the long story short, you are more efficient the more you can take dependencies that you trust. And later on, I will talk about microservices and how that idea relates to microservices. And for now, just imagine that to fix this, we had to go to executive off sites with leadership training coaches, we did not quite do trust falls, but we did find a way to put our faith in each other. And I think, in general, people feel okay to say that is not my job, when they can also say the person that we hired to do it is amazing. And a quick tip for you that are scaling your organizations, and you might have this problem now- when you hire people into your organization, I strongly encourage you not to put them in a position where they have to prove themselves to the organization before you give them a responsibility. Because you just spent weeks interviewing them, and convincing them to work for your organization, I think a better way to handle on-boarding new people on your team is to trust them, give them tasks, and then verify they are delivering what they said they are going to deliver. So trust, but verify when you are bringing new people into your organization. All right?

And so, that's how we ended up in an organization with good roles and responsibilities, but we still didn't have an org chart. Those are pretty scary, the most terrifying part of constructing your organization is really deciding on the structure, who reports to who, what the responsibilities are, etc. And so I caution you that this next section might be terrifying, but it is one of the keys to success at Reddit.

Conway’s Law

And now, I want to introduce a concept called con Way's Law, he is an academic, many years ago, he wrote a paper about organizational structures and one key insight on that was, organizations that design systems are constrained to produce designs that are copies of the communication structures of these organizations. And all that really boils down to, is you will ship your org chart. I think you can see this in products, many of you; I was at Redfin the other day, I was trying to test this on them. I said, when I look at the product, there's an area for realtors, there's an area for people who are searching for real estate, and there's an area for people who are trying to analyze data. And I bet somewhere, in your org chart, there is a group for each of the three people and they said yes, of course. And I think you will see the same pattern emerging across any company. So Conway's Law is fairly well-trot.

And the challenge, then, is that your organization needs to continually reflect the organization's most immediate goals, and the best people for each goal should be continually moved to where they are most needed. That's an ideal statement, a very ideal statement, but intuitively, that should make sense.

Reorganizations

The challenge is reorgs suck, nobody likes switching -- raise your hand in this room if you like re-orgs, you want to switch managers. Marty, thanks, Marty. So re-orgs suck, people don't want to change, they don't like change in general, and they don't like the risk and uncertainty, the feeling that the ground is moving out from under them that comes with re-orgs.

And I should tell you a story about that- Reddit's first re-org. At Reddit, when I got there, there were 35 people and we needed to move one of our key engineers around, you can guess why. Reddit had a great front-end engineer and we needed to get him into a position where he could work on the site redesign, and in order to make this happen, in order to move one engineer from one part of the organization to another part of the organization where he was most needed, we had to get HR involved, they called his wife. To get permission. And many of the PM teams, who had never been involved in the re-org, also submitted their opinions through back channel, just to move one engineer from one part of the organization to another. So re-orgs can be really painful.

And just so you know, ultimately, that engineer became one of the key leaders at Reddit. He is now leading our front-end guild. I will say that re-orgs have the following advantage: A, they put your resources where they are needed and, more importantly, they allow leaders who are comfortable with change and who want most urgently to participate in the most important aspects of your business to surface. And so there can be good and bad, but I think that for the efficiency of your organization and for surfacing new leaders, re-orgs can be quite useful.

And now, with Reddit, it took us about five or six months; it took us one month to get to the first person moving, and about five months later, here is Reddit's first org chart. And so, I would like to revise Conway's Law in the following way. You are going to ship the org chart, but you have to make sure you are continually shipping the right one. With Reddit, we ended up with groups, product groups around significant investments, like the site redesign, doing chat, there was initiative called Reddit social vertical teams to attack specific customer problems, and then shared teams that go horizontally and are used by every part of the organization. Those would include things like your foundational infrastructure team, we have a team called anti-evil, which fights crime, I guess, across the entire site. And then each box in the org chart has a very clear, time-bounded mission statement. This is what we ended up with after five months, and we are pretty happy with it.

What’s Next?

And what is next? If you go back and read that original Conway paper, it has an interesting note at the end. The design that occurs first is almost never the best possible, the prevailing system may need to change, therefore flexibility of the organization is important to an effective design, which I think is a -- it is subtle, but it is very important. And I think that, in today's modern world, it is something that everybody who is responsible for designing organizational systems needs to pay attention to.

Reverse Conway’s Law

And the idea here is that you can actually reverse Conway's Law. That is to say, the architecture that you are building can inform the organizational structure. And microservices, and the strong push toward that, which a lot of -- which is a lot of what the conference is about, enables that scenario. Microservices fundamentally change how we think of an organization. This is a cool diagram, it is called the death star architecture. And, on the left, you have Amazon, on the right is Netflix, this is their constellation of microservices that hold up Amazon and Netflix. And I think if you end up with an organizational, or an architecture of this form that, in the future, mission, value, and culture will probably end up being more important than rigid organizational hierarchy. And if you look at Amazon and Netflix, and you examine how those companies exist and how they form, both of these companies have inch-thick culture decks. I don't know if you have seen the Netflix one, it is literally, like, 120-page slide deck. Amazon is similar about culture values, and both of these companies aspire to have small teams. Amazon is famous for its pizza-box sized teams, and Netflix, I don't know if you are aware of this, but they only hire seniors because they want people to act independently, and they also have small teams. And one thing you should be aware about through the days as we talk about culture and and microservices is how they are affecting the shape of organizations; it’s something that is fascinating to me.

So Many People

Okay, we will move on. Other things that change, as you scale, people. First photo on the top left, that is one of my first teams at Microsoft, the Power BI team at three months old, you can see every single person on that team fits on my porch. They fit on my porch. And the next photo is the same team a year later, I cannot even fit everyone in the team into the frame, and unfortunately I don't know most of the people in that photo. So the more people that you have, the more disconnected you feel from the team. So as you scale, everyone is going have one of these moments, the elevator moment, I would like call it. If you are MadMen fans, here is Don Draper in one of his reports, he is in the elevator, and the reports says, I feel bad for you. And Don says, I don't think of you at all.

Your experience will not be that bad, but you will eventually start bumping into people that maybe work for you that you don't recognize. What do you do? Don't feel bad about it, there's a concept, Dunbar's number, and there's research done about how many people you can actually know. And it turns out the answer is 150, and that above 150 relationships, the human mind simply cannot maintain the connections.

And, you know, Reddit, we are up to 300 total people now, we are well beyond Dunbar's number. But, I will claim that you don't need to know everyone at the party to have a good time. So it is safe if you are responsible for organizational design to assume that sub cultures are going to form. But how do you handle it? Well, at Reddit, and I think at most companies, you can use a technique of forming technology guilds or affinity groups; these are great ways to give people a place to call home as the company expends. At Reddit, we have a front-end guild, back-end guilt, a guild for dungeons and dragons, just give them a place to connect to. And even though sub cultures are going to form, you have to make sure that they are not forming in a way that goes against your core company values. And that's the final point.

Make sure that your core company values are crisp and clearly understood, and that they inform all of the sub cultures that may form within your organization. Reddit solution, guilds, weekly all-hands, where we celebrate key elements, and then we have company megaevents, we will take the company to Tahoe to talk about the successes, failures, and our cultural values.

What about Communication?

And what about communication? As you scale, you still need to talk to people and disseminate information. Unfortunately, this is an unsolved human problem. You can try all of these different techniques, newsletters, team syncs, company meetings, interest groups, documentation, press releases, Slack channel, email, Wikis, dashboards- unfortunately none of them work. You have to use them all. In my lifetime, I will see drones delivering pizza, I will see -- I will see self-driving cars, I will see stem cells solve most modern ailments, but I will not see a solution to getting two groups of people 50 feet apart to speak to each other. You know I'm right.

And so, what can you do? You do have to try all of those things, and I will add to that, you can beat the telephone game by messaging with extreme clarity. You have to make sure that with your message, you have something in it that applies to everyone in your organization. You have to repeat, repeat, repeat, reinforce, and getting the leaders to understand the core of the message and repeat it out, and over communicate. This is a photo of some posters that we hung up in the wall of my last team, because we had quality problems and we had problems with people implementing telemetry. So anywhere you would go in the building, you saw these posters: quality and telemetry, and they became the core values for the year. So extreme clarity.

Engineering at Scale, What Gets Harder

I will end the section by talking about engineering, and what gets harder with scale. And this is kind of the core of what I did at Reddit to get them operating effectively. There are three things that change. The first is awareness, and your company is bigger, and everyone wants to know what everyone ELSE is doing, but they don't necessarily want to say what they are doing. Right? And so coordination, all right, you have more teams with more dependencies, and not only do you need to can know what everyone else is doing, but you need to align ship schedules. And bottlenecks can hit you hard, if you have tons of dependencies in your organization and you are getting network dependencies, a failure in one part of the organization can knock out the schedule for multiple other teams.

And this is what gets harder. I want to show you, and let me, sorry, one second. I think my clicker is -- why does it get harder? I went to, I think I mentioned this before- I went to Berkley so I could get an MBA, so I wanted to pull out this $100,000 slide. And so, my MBA enabled me to make this efficiency curves. So one thing, you can add more people into an organization and things will get more efficient- it turns out to not be true. As you add more people into an organization, the efficiency goes down, that is because of communication overhead, or breaks in your process. And coordination costs, scope increase, eventually kill your efficiency and you need a process change or re-org in order to overcome this curve.

Reddit’s First Project Tracker

And so, with that, I want to show you where we started at Reddit; this is Reddit's first project tracker. It is a Google spreadsheet, excuse, me a Google slide. And you can see that we have copy and pasted Jura links into the slide carefully, some of the items in the slide have green or yellow check marks, also hand edited, and we also have importantly Aqua Man and Bat Girl. We spent more time talking about the images than the actual information on the slide. And there were 12 of these slides that we had to go through during our stand ups. This is where we started.

Process Advice and Caution

And now, I needed to come in and convert that into something that would work for an organization and that we could scale with. I want to caution anyone else that finds themselves in this situation to do it carefully. And the reason for that is, you know, you don't want to, in an organization that is not used to process, be the guy who comes and lands a ton of process on the team. They will generally not react that well. If you find yourself in this situation, I would say just avoid boilerplate solutions. If someone comes to you with an, here is an agile framework book, I'm telling you to back away slowly. There are some variants of Agile that promote inter-team coordination, and coordination more than they promote actually shipping software, and that's a very dangerous thing to bring into your team.

I will talk about the original Toyota Kanban boards. If you wonder where they come from, they came from Toyota. They have a process, Kaizen, an important process for how they build engineering teams. If you are in the factory and working on the production line, there is this thing called the add on cord on your production line. If you are working on a part and something goes wrong, you pull on the cord, the whole production line stops, the managers descend from manager heaven, or where ever managers come from, and they say what is wrong with your station? And only then does new process get added to the production line. And the reason I like this is because it means that process forms from the bottom-up in an organic fashion, and it is tailor-made to what that production line needs.

And now, stepping that back up, and getting a little bit more meta, I think that is important because your process will become your culture over time. For Reddit, we want to be agile and flexible, and that is starting the company with this bottoms-up organic process is going to take us to the future in a way that I want the engineering organization to grow. All right.

Reddit’s Jira Evolution

And so, let's walk through what we did really quick. This is Reddit's JIRA evolution. Actually, Marty and I put this together. We started with a six-step instruction manual that we came up with: definition, planning, staffing, execution, launch, monitor, any work in the organization can be one of the states, we work with the IT department to get that into JIRA, that's a screenshot of it there.

And this allowed us to get to team dashboards in JIRA, you can see, this is for our Reddit community experiences team. And you can see across that entire organization all the epics and what state they are in- backlog, staffing, planning, execution, monitoring; this was not useful for daily stand ups. But when we got the team committed to putting stuff in a JIRA, we got everybody Kanban boards which was great for stand ups. And then we needed to report out, it was not enough to get the boards, we had to report out to the rest of the team. Here is the first attempt, which is integrating the JIRA with tableau, it allows you to see a real-time dashboard of all of the work happening across the teams at Reddit in real-time with a health monitoring metric and an automatically generated calendar, I was pretty proud of it when we put it together. And what we ended up with, I think you will like it. Where we ended up with, instead of this, is executive dashboards. These are updated in real-time, and people like them a lot more because we brought the cartoons back.

The Results

And the results of that, I think, speak for themselves. In 2017, the new releases, ad platform, new search platform, chat platform, complete site redesign coming soon. All right. Wow, nobody is happy about that? Thank you. All right.

Three Quick Career Tips for Scaling

Okay, so that's what we did at Reddit, and now, I know that there's a lot of non-managers in the audience; I want to wrap up my talk for a couple quick tips for how you can take advantage of scale as an IC. So three quick career tips for scaling.

First one is to get comfortable being uncomfortable. As your organization grows and changes, you have to believe me that there is opportunity in change. Comfort is the enemy of progress. And this advice kind of applies more broadly as well. If you are in a rapidly-changing organization, you will see more opportunities and, in general, as a software engineer, one of the reasons you will like working in this industry is because you get to continually learn. While I have given this talk, three new JavaScript frameworks have been released. And get comfortable getting out of your comfort zone. For me, that meant leaving Microsoft to a start-up, it meant me doing an MBA while working full time, find ways to push yourself.

Second, follow the investment. And so re-orgs, you know, you may have a manager, your manager is always going to tell you that the work you are doing is the most important thing in the organization, trust me. But nothing speaks louder than a re-org to tell you where the managers and executive team want to spend their bullets. So if you understand the reorganization, then you understand the priorities of the leadership team, if you understand that, you can put yourself in the most valuable positions in the company.

And finally, be a process pilot. If your organization is growing and scaling, it means that people like me, people like your managers, are all trying to figure out the right process for your team, and it is actually very, very hard. Because you never know the right process up front, I told you explicitly, don't try to land on a team with this agile framework, it will solve all your problems, don't do that. And you as the manager in the organization can help to pilot to find the right solution. And the other thing that is important about this that I said before, your process will become your culture. If you want to have a great culture, try to participate in this. You will have your manager and your future engineers. That is quick advice.

Final Thoughts

Final thoughts on scaling fast at Reddit. Two opportunities, and one challenge I want to leave you guys with. And these are both maybe a little bit more personal to me. I think that, at Reddit, because we are scaling so fast, we have an opportunity to do a great job of diversity and inclusion. There will be a track on this later that I think will be interesting, but this is important for me, because I believe that diverse and inclusive teams build better products, and more importantly, I think they are more fun to work in and that is overlooked. Coming into an organization and meeting all sorts of different interests and types of people is something that I enjoy and I think your teams will as well.

And, like any cultural aspect, you want to get this fixed early as you scale, because it is extremely difficult to fix later on. I don't need to tell you guys about all the different stories about D&I problems in the Valley right now, but at Reddit we believe, as we grow, we can solve this problem, and make it part of the DNA from day one.

And right and wrong ways to do this, I think that rather than hiring a head of diversity, the best thing to do is to get your entire executive team involved. And so, at Reddit, each one of our execs has KPIs associated with D&I. We don't assume that everyone cares about this topic, but we try to find ways to allow them to participate through employee resource groups.

We don't complain about the hiring pipeline. One of the fundamental things that I learned when I came to Silicon Valley from Seattle is the value of boot camps. I think my first week at Reddit, we invited a group called Hackbright to the company for mentoring and I got to meet the hardest working women that wanted to switch careers in technology that I have ever met in my lives. And we have took many opportunities to hire boot camp graduates into Reddit; I can tell you for sure they are some of the strongest leaders in our organization, and this is not something I would have expected, but I'm a strong believer. Don't complain about the pipeline, find ways to actively change it.

And the final thing, don't ever in your organization say "diversity of thought". I will find you. Never say that you don't see gender or color, I will find you. When you say those kind of things, it kind of means, if you tell me that you don't see color, that means you don't see me and that can be hurtful. If you are a leader who is responsible for building an organization, be intentional and be patient and stay focused. You can move the needle. I think you have the tools and the opportunity now.

Social Impact

And, uh, social impact. As your company gets bigger, just remember that you can add more value to the world than the software that you shipped. Here we have us at Hackbright, extra life; play video game and raise money, nothing wrong with that. And this is where a director went to Uganda to train some up-and-coming entrepreneurs there.

And finally, a note to managers about scale: long ago-- when I was a new manager. Sorry, last story, I promise. Long ago, when I was a new manager, I was trying to -- I was bold and I was starting to -- I was trying to understand what it meant to be perhaps a director some day, or even an executive. And so one day, I went to the office of my senior vice president, Kirt Delbenny, I camped outside of his office until he showed up. And I asked when he showed up if I could come in and pick his brain. After a long conversation, I asked him, what do execs even do? What do you do in your office all day? He showed me, me took me to this desk and he showed me an Excel spreadsheet. And he said, Nick, I change the numbers in this Excel spreadsheet. I'm not kidding, he showed me that, I was baffled. I thought he was joking. I change the team sizes here, it changes this budget allocation here, that's pretty much what I do. But he told me, following that, the hardest part of his job as a leader, as an executive, is remembering that when he changed the numbers, it affected hundreds of people.

So, as your organization scales, you can sometimes find yourself in this very risky, very unsafe proposition where you forget about people and you start calling them resources. So if you are a manager in this room and you are responsible for growing an organization, please be careful. Just remember that people are the most valuable part of any organization, and that the reason that you became a manager in the first place.

And so, with that, I have a few calls to action. Reddit is hiring, I have to get that pitch in. We also have an internship program if anybody is interested in that. Follow me on Reddit, Twitter, medium, or LinkedIn, and my wife and I started the Color Code fund, we are raising money for people of color in the tech industry. With that, you have been an amazing audience and thank you so much.

Live captioning by Lindsay @stoker_lindsa

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