On today’s episode we say goodbye to Sara Chipps, podcast host and Stack Overflow’s former director of community, who is leaving to take a new job as an engineering manager at LinkedIn.
Sara has been part of the open source community since 2001 and was formerly on the board of the .NET foundation. Recently she was elected to the board of the OpenJS foundation and was eager to get back in the trenches, helping people solve computer problems.
In this episode we talk about coding interviews and brushing up on your puzzle solving chops.
Later we dive into Ember.js, the framework Sara will be using with her new colleagues at LinkedIn.
We explore what it’s like to join a team when everyone is still remote and you never get the chance to onboard with your team in person.
This week’s lifeboat badge winner is Perfect28, who answered the question: Linq OrderBy custom order. Spoiler alert, there are char arrays involved.
Sara Chipps I'm gonna wear a suit everyday, I've decided. Got a lot of suits. [Ben laughs]
Paul Ford You kinda could, getting off right there, 34th Street, pretty exciting.
Ben Popper Oh yeah, you're gonna fit right in with that Midtown crowd.
BP Hello, everybody. Welcome to the Stack Overflow Podcast. I am Ben Popper, Director of Content here at Stack Overflow. And as always, I'm joined by my two wonderful co-hosts. Say hello and introduce yourself y'all.
PF [somber voice] Helloooo.
PF Somber times! Somber times! At Stack Podcast!
BP [sings] It feels so hard to say goodbye...
PF No, no! Don't do that! That's not good, can't do that.
BP Okay. Okay. Okay.
SC I'll start crying.
BP I'm joined as always by Paul Ford, cofound and CEO of Postlight and Sara Chipps, Director of Community here at Stack Overflow, but not for much longer. [Paul sighs] Sara has some great news, which is that she found a cool new job.
BP Sara, tell the people what's happening.
SC Yeah, I'm definitely gonna miss Stack and the podcast so much. I'm moving on. I'm taking some time off. And then I'm going to go work at LinkedIn. I really love connecting with people on LinkedIn.
PF Wait, are we friends on LinkedIn Sara? Because it might be now is the time.
SC I don't know. But now's the time.
BP Sara is gonna work on the auto generated messages that come when you want to start a connection. And just like suggest what you might say. She's gonna be writing those, writing code that writes those.
SC No, I'm going back to engineering. I'm gonna help manage an engineering team over at LinkedIn. I'm looking forward to it. But I will definitely miss Stack.
BP Going back to engineering. That'll be the title for this episode. For people who don't know, that is what you started out doing here at Stack Overflow before moving to community, right?
SC It is, yeah. It is definitely a world I enjoy and have been doing for a long time.
PF Well, Sara, congratulations!
BP Congratulations! You told me that you missed engineering. And that's part of why. What do you miss about it?
SC I think I miss helping people solve problems that computers have. That's something I really enjoy. And it is something that brings me a lot of energy. So I'm looking forward to doing that again. Computer problems are solvable.
PF [whispers] I'm so jealous.
BP You've been working on people problems and those are not always solvable.
PF Oh god, you just go in and it's like, hey, I did something today! As opposed to, well, that ended ambiguously. [Sara & Ben laugh]
SC Yeah, exactly.
PF Ah, congratulations. Alright. So let's, we have to help the people who have a, you know, I don't feel that this podcast is like you're truly in our house. It's not one of those. But we do have, you know, people have a parasocial relationship with us out there. So Sara, let's, we have to help people here. Okay, so how are they going to say goodbye? What's the ritual that we need to—and first of all, you're going to be on for a few more shows?
PF So what is the right way to say goodbye to a community leader, as they go to LinkedIn?
SC Print out a picture from Google and set it on fire. Throw it into the air.
PF Okay, so that's what we're gonna do. We'd like everyone to safely in their own home during a pandemic, print out a picture of Sara and set it on fire.
BP Say thank you and goodbye, and then light it on fire.
PF Don't do that. Don't do that. [Paul laughs]
BP Print out a picture of her LinkedIn profile. [Ben laughs]
PF Make like a demo where it appears to be burning and like, you know, eight bit demo graphic—
SC In Rect.
PF Yeah, do it in React, make a little React app to say goodbye. Well, I'm disappointed. When you told me about this, just it was just sort of like, well, I'm happy for her. And I am, I'm happy for you. This is good and people need to make choices like this. And I understand that the need. This is an interesting moment, right? Because I think that I'm seeing a lot of change. I'm seeing a lot of change in management. You know, everyone kind of held on for the last year. And then there's this moment that I think everybody had in the last month or last month or two where they're like, okay, we're gonna get to the end of this. Where am I going to be? What am I going to do? And I'm seeing it everywhere. I'm seeing people step down, I'm seeing people move around, I'm seeing Postlight some folks have have decided to move on. It's also easier to hire than it has been before. Like, we're headed into a moment. And I think in our industry in particular, everybody's been really locked in at home for a year. We're heading to a lot of transition. So of course the podcast is not immune.
SC Not immune, but yeah, that's a really good point. I think people have, like the blurry line between work and home have really like it's almost like, think of it like a work concentrate, right? Like there's no moment where you get on the train or get in the car. And you know, it's hard to draw the line between work at home. So it's like, we really, it gives you an opportunity to evaluate the things that you like about the work that you do, the things that you wish were different and that kind of thing. Yeah, for sure. I, you know, want to foreground by saying obviously, we know the COVID-19 is problem in many places of the world. But for us, luckily here in the US, there is a lot of vaccinations available. And I've had my two shots. And it's been two weeks since, it was two weeks on May 1. And so I went to the coffee shop. And I sat down, and I took off my mask. And I was just like, I felt, I didn't feel like stressed out about that. And then I did a bunch of work there. Yeah, it really helps to get out of the house, to go somewhere else, to be like these three hours or for working to do it. And then to come back. And I didn't really feel super safe doing that before. I'd wear my mask in the coffee shop. And then it was just like, what, you know, though, it was uncomfortable to work.
SC I didn't drink my coffee.
PF I'll tell you as a boss. It's a lot of confusing signals. I've been back in the office again, you know, to Ben's point, my God, we're lucky. You see what's happening in India right now. And it is tough to watch. And I'm glad to see, you know, more people are trying to step up to help. Like, I think Salesforce just an entire plane of medical supplies, which—
PF Yeah, I mean, we all make fun of Salesforce, but it actually kind of tends to belly up to the bar when it's time to do something good. But people are, it's a combo of reactions, right. Some people I can tell are very, very worried about cutting back to the office, they feel that we've we should we've sort of changed the way we work and we should never go back. And other people are looking me in the eye on the video call and saying, can't wait to be back in there. Oh, yeah. Like it's just like. And it's funny, because I think everybody assumes that the everybody's reality is the same. And I think for a year it was right. For a year, it was like, no, obviously follow the CDC guidelines. If you're an essential worker, if you're somebody who needs to go to a place, obviously, you need to take more protections. Let me stay home and keep you safe. Because I work in a silly industry where you can just kind of stay home and talk on your computer all day, right? And so, so now we're about to come out of that. And I think like people are going to move jobs, I think people are going to change around a lot. And I think that some people are going to be incredibly motivated. I think the tipping point, I think here's, here's the thing that will happen. You'll get on that conference call and you'll be the one at home but four people will be in the office drinking coffee, and they'll be little and it'll be your big head. And if you're not actually a remote worker, if you're not actually, weren't doing that before, you're gonna feel a strong urge to get in there.
BP They were like, we were just chatting and we pretty much solved the problem. So we'll get, we'll get you up to speed. But there's consensus here at the coffee club.
PF Yeah. Well, then it's like, Hey, we're gonna go out to lunch, you know? [Paul laughs]
SC Yeah, we'll pour one out for you.
PF You're like, oh, I'm gonna go eat yesterday's sausage. [Ben laughs] With mashed potato in the microwave.
BP It hurts because I did eat yesterday's sausage. That hurts.
PF Yeah, of course!
BP Sara, I wanted to ask a little bit. Another thing you'd mentioned, which I thought was interesting and kind of central to what we talked about a lot on the pod is that you were excited to be doing some work in an open source area, and that you now have kind of dual responsibilities, you're on the board of openJS. And so you have a big, pretty big role in governance. And you wanted to find something where you could be, the work you were doing, just the active work, when he said of being an engineer managing them would be sort of like linked intrinsically to the open source stuff you do. So can you tell us a little about what they use at LinkedIn for the software and how that connects back to your open source?
PF We should point out too, we're saying LinkedIn, but we're actually saying Microsoft, like you're—
BP True, true.
SC Yeah. It's a different pronunciation.
PF Exactly. We've talked, you've talked about being on the board of the .NET Foundation and stuff like that, right. So yeah, put that together. What kind of thing are you going to do as a board member slash open source slash social network or par excellence? [Sara laughs]
BP What kind of parties are you going to be going to? [Ben laughs]
SC Well, LinkedIn does a lot of, LinkedIn runs on Ember JS.
PF Wait, really? Wow!
SC Yeah. Yeah.
PF Wow, Ember survived in LinkedIn!
PF You're free of React.
SC Free of react. Yeah. As far as I know. I mean, it could be hiding. It could be just the profile images are loaded with React and that guy quit.
PF Does this mean that it's possible to build a large web application at scale without using React? I didn't know that was even possible.
SC Apparently, I know! In this year of our Lord 2021, yes.
PF I can't believe it. Maybe LinkedIn isn't a big web application. That's the only thing my brain can can decide. Because obviously, you need more React.
SC No one uses LinkedIn. Yeah, that's it.
PF No, I guess it doesn't really have...pheufff.
BP So if you're listening to the podcast, you probably work in software or know someone who does. They can now check out Stack Overflow for Teams. That's a private internal instance of Stack Overflow just for your company or organization, your group of friends learning to code. You can share questions and answers, build up a great database knowledge that makes it easier for people to solve their own problems. You just search, find a solution, leave an answer. That way, everybody in your Stack Overflow for Teams in an instance can collaborate remotely and asynchronously. You get up to 50 seats for free forever. So you can try it out, see if you like it, head on over to stackoverflow.blog/teams, and tell them the podcast folks sent ya.
BP For people who don't know, Sara, what like, what's the distinctive thing about Ember JS?
SC So Ember came out around the same time as Backbone and Angular, and a lot of the other front end frameworks. If you're asking me the difference between Ember and React... [Ben laughs]
BP Don't want to put you on the spot.
PF What I remember from from Ember early days, it's a little it's still kind of a component based framework, but it's not quite it wasn't at least earlier days, it wasn't quite as much virtual Document Object Model oriented. It was a little like, it wasn't like React came in with the virtual DOM and kind of got everything oriented in that way. So it's got a good little logo. That's what I know about Ember.
PF What is it, it's a rodent of some kind, isn't it?
SC Yeah. It's a little Tomster.
PF There you go. Yeah. Little hamster guy!
SC Yeah, he's really cute.
BP Seems like a miss to me. You need you need like a little piece of charcoal with a little bit of flame on it like something from Spirited, like, an ember.
SC Mmmm. They should've talk to you and they did the branding.
BP Should've talk to me. There's still time.
SC Yeah, Ember's really, it's got a big community. It's really performance focused, which is good when you have a big single page web app. So I'm interested, I'm excited to get more involved.
BP Is it does anything change in terms of I know, you talked a lot about what's interesting Stack Overflow in this day and age is that it's a monolith versus microservices. Is that going to change? Are you going from one monolith to another?
SC That's a good question. I don't know the answer to that yet. That'll be really interesting.
PF You don't have to tell us, I'm just curious for this process, right? Like, tear the band aid off a little bit, right. Like you did this. You went to go get another job. Talk a little bit about what is it like to interview for an engineering job in 2021 in the middle of a pandemic with a giant company? You can be very vague.
SC Okay. Yeah, it was eight hours.
PF Was it really?!
SC Eight hours of conversations, and it was really fascinating. I had to brush up on my, as my partner likes to point out, I haven't been paid to write software in a little while. So I do brush up on a lot of my programming skills. [Paul laughs]
PF Just brings it up, like, "Hey, want some Corn flakes? You don't really code." "Hey, how you doing? I just took the laundry out of the dryer. God, I don't even know if your skills are where they need to be." He sounds great. He sounds really excellent. Like a really supportive partner through this whole process.
SC Yeah, really supportive. Yeah, well, it's always ICEs versus managers in our home.
PF Oh is he a manager?
SC No, he's an ICE.
PF Oh, he's an ICE, ohhhhh. He's a contributor. Well, you could've fooled me. Alright. So you go back to ICE right. So with your lovely spouse telling you that, boy, that's those skills are rusty. Huh?
SC Yeah. Well, they were rusty. I had to brush up. And do some live coding.
PF What did you use to brush up?
SC There's so many resources out there. There's Nailing the Coding Interview, it's called. There's all types of you know, there's code golf things. I spent an evening sorting a binary tree and then did not jump off a building, which was how I felt. [Ben laughs]
PF You know, what's funny is this is all the advice we give everyone. Right? So now you were living it. You know, this is how do I get from point A to point B? Okay, so eight hours, you're like, Okay, I gotta get back in. I gotta get my head back in the game. I need to sort a binary tree, you went through a lot of the exercises. Talk about, was there whiteboarding? Like, what?
SC Yeah, there's live coding exercise. And that was fine. I, I'm surprised. I was joking with my friends. Because I feel like in those interviews, the whiteboarding interviews, you need to like be very serious and come off as very confident. And at the end, when I had finished writing my code, I remember, I distinctly remember saying, I think that's it? I think I got it? [Sara laughs] I was like, oh, I'm not moving on, but it was fine. And then there was some like design interviews talking about, like, how would you approach a system like this? And, you know, what would you incorporate? What would you think about.
PF I feel like that stuff, just experience works in your benefit, like the live coding. It's like, whoa, what do I remember? But the architecture stuff is going to be like, yeah, you would just do these things.
BP I wonder if you'll have this surreal experience of using Stack Overflow for Teams at Microsoft because I think they use it there. So now, that'll be interesting.
SC They do use it there!
BP That'll give you some time to give us some product feedback.
SC Yeah, that's great. I will.
PF Every now and then I freak out because I think we're all in one giant insular Space Station. And like, I'm a little worried. You know, that movie. I can't remember the title of it, but it was like Matt Damon lives on Earth.
BP The Martian.
PF No, no, no, it's the one where he's like on earth and everything is horrible. But there's a space station where everything is beautiful.
PF Elysium! Like, first of all, it kind of sucks that this is Elysium. Like, there should definitely be more garden walls going on. And I should be in space.
SC I want to float.
PF Exactly. But like I do worry sometimes it's like, oh, yeah, of course we have Stack Overflow for Teams over on planet micro LinkedIn. And, and I'm like uh huh, isn't that great? Wooof, boy. Yeah, okay.
BP Paul, get out of your shop and come join us in the Borg. What are you doing?
PF In those moments, I just hear somebody going "First against the wall when their cyber revolution comes" like I'm just like, oh, no! [Sara & Ben laugh] But anyway, here we are. Here we are. This is good.
SC Everyone uses Stack Overflow for Teams.
PF And we'll just lightly brushed aside all the conversations about comp. Okay, so good, good. So then one day they send you a letter. And now do you have a sense of like onboarding? Do they tell you what it's going to be like?
SC I know that I'm being mailed a laptop so far.
PF I love that. I love mailing laptops, I think that it's like, it's just you are now in our world. I don't know, yeah, a corporate laptop to me feels like a structure that's going to go. Like eventually, it'll just be like, take your computing unit and put our virtual environment on it. And then you switch between them, right?
SC Yeah. VPN. Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. Especially in the world of COVID, where we're just mailing people laptops at their home.
PF Your laptop would be fine for this. And then if they wanted to revoke access, they would just revoke access. I guess some you need some local caching in case you're not online in order to be able to work.
BP That's so interesting. So you're going to change the route, you're not going to travel to Seattle or Redmond, San Francisco, you're just gonna somebody's gonna send you a laptop in the mail. You're gonna meet people, you're going to get up to speed and just go? Yeah, yeah. And their office here, they do have an office here and the Empire State Building, but it's not open.
PF Oh right, it's right in the Empire, it's just the wackiest thing. It's like LinkedIn is just in the Empire State Building.
Sara Chipps I'm gonna wear a suit everyday, I've decided. Got a lot of suits. [Ben laughs]
Paul Ford You kinda could, getting off right there, 34th Street, pretty exciting.
Ben Popper Oh yeah, you're gonna fit right in with that Midtown crowd. I'm desperate. I have like, just this closet full of work clothes that I haven't touched in a year. And I'm like, What am I doing? Like should this go into cold storage? Like, why do I even? It just makes me frustrated to look at my sweat pants for the 367th day in a row or whatever. So I'm jealous. Yeah, I would love to go to an office and wear a suit just to feel that feeling.
PF You know what you don't wanna wear though? Really painful shoes. That's what I found out the other day.
SC Yeahhhh. Oh, did you?
PF Yeah, well I started to. And I'm like, I'm wearing. There's nobody there. What am I? Who am I fooling? [Sara & Ben laugh] You know what's weird too, I got to the office, and there's like four pairs of dress shoes under my desk.
BP Right, just Paul walking gingerly through an empty office. I like this opening scene of the movie.
PF No, but I mean, you always like I don't know, it just feels like it's a very New York thing to me to have like your five pairs of dress shoes, kind of scattered around under your desk, because you're, you're kind of stumbling around. And then you end up in these weird social contexts where you're like, Oh, my God, I have to have something leather on my feet.
BP Or you're wearing socks at the office and people don't know why. It's like oh, I was changing between—I had the shoes.
PF And this is a weird thing about I mean, this is we haven't had this experience in a year. But that the sort of like semi dress states that you're in in the office just like trying to get from one social context to another. Like if you bike to the office, then you have like this complicated situation. Last nosy question. Do you know which part of the platform you're working on?
SC Yes, I will be working on the flagship infrastructure team, which is at flagship is the linkedin.com app. But the infrastructure team works to support the developers working on that app. One thing I thought was cool—
PF Developer productivity tools and things like that.
PF You're actually taking some of your context as in community at Stack but making it more operational as an engineering head.
SC Yeah, exactly.
PF So you know, it's good to talk about this. For the people at home with to parasocial relationships, we should be happy for Sara that she's moving on. And that she's found a good path. She's going to come back and talk to us. Well, we're gonna have a bunch of episodes and then she's gonna come back and talk to us pretty regularly. And it's a bummer. It's a bummer. I, you know, but—
SC These chats make my day. So I'll definitely miss these a lot.
PF Well, they definitely gave us a certain structure during the pandemic, right? It was like, okay, yeah, gotta do this. But I'm actually glad to get the context. And really, I think it's, it's good for this show to explain sort of where you're headed and how that came together. So the people out there who are like, I don't know, man, I gotta figure something out. You are not alone. You're in a lovely industry where it's a good time to get in touch with the people that you think are interesting. So take it from Sara Chipps!
BP Alright, today, we are going to award a lifeboat badge to Perfect28. The lifeboat badge is awarded when somebody takes a question with a score of negative three or less, and gets it up to a score of 20 or more. It says "link order by custom order." And as always, with these questions, it's about a char array. One of my favorites TCHAR array. One of my favourites.
BP So we'll put that in the show notes.
PF Pirates are good assembly coders. Okay. Alright. Good like boatin'. Nice transitional episode. We'll talk about good nerdy stuff next time when we come back.
BP Yeah, yeah. And yeah, there'll be, you know, with Ember JS, and all these other things. I think it'll be fun. There'll be a whole new sort of like universe to investigate that you're working on.
SC Yeah! It'll be fun to share!
BP Yeah, it will be fun, as long as LinkedIn approves. [Ben laughs] I'm Ben Popper, Director of content here at Stack Overflow. You can always find me on Twitter @BenPopper. And you can always email us firstname.lastname@example.org. We got some lovely fan mail last week. So I want to shout out everybody who's sending it to us. We really appreciate it. Send us your ideas, your thoughts. Maybe we'll have you on the show for a little guest spot.
SC And I'm Sara Chipps, Director of Community here at Stack Overflow for now, and you can find me @SaraJo on GitHub.
PF Very exciting. I'm Paul Ford, co-founder Postlight. Check out our website, we build software. If you're looking for a job, wonderful place to apply, trust me. And you can connect with me on LinkedIn. Go to linkedin.com. [Ben laughs]
PF I've been there for a while, looking at it right now. And it tells me that I could go work at Fox News in their tech team.
SC Ohhhh good for you!
PF So can't wait till that episode. Alright.
BP Yeah, that'll be fun, Sara. When you come on, you're shouting out new LinkedIn products. I'm actually really excited for this. [Sara laughs]
SC That'll be great.
BP Alright, bye everybody!