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There have been some recent hirings for new Community Managers and the Community Team in general recently, including Ayo and Rosie, which is great! The CM team has been severely understaffed for years on end now, so seeing some new hires is great.

However, taking a look at the current members of the team, I'm admittedly a little bit worried. There are only around two current members of the team who were ever deeply involved in the community prior to becoming staff - Catija and JNat. After the removal of Shog and Robert Cartaino, and the leaving of Jon Ericson and Tim Post, there's a distinct lack of institutional knowledge in the Community Team - to the point where some people feel the team was gutted.

Having a knowledge of what it takes to be an active user of the site, including getting involved in moderation, or becoming a moderator, is invaluable when dealing with those moderators. If you don't understand what being a moderator entails (it's a serious commitment and you don't get paid) and how it feels, it makes working with those mods much less effective. With the recent hirings from outside the community, active members of the community have created some resources to assist in bringing those outside hires up to speed, but that's no replacement for extended hands-on experience.

Of course, external CM hires have proven to be great in the past, but - in my experience at least - have not had the same rapport and mutual respect that CMs such as Shog, Jon, and Cat have had, by virtue of having been respected and active members of the community before being hired.

CM experience elsewhere can't beat hands-on experience with the very community you're hiring people to manage when it comes to establishing trust and cooperation and learning how the system and people work.

This is all slightly concerning, though, in the context of the wording of the CM job position. The job listing states as a requirement:

At least 3-5 years of professional community management experience for a large technologically-focused user base

...which excludes almost all of the existing user base right off the bat, including the moderators.

This is a stark departure from the past, where it was said that putting in your cover letter that you were applying to "have more diamonds than ChrisF" would get you at least through the initial screening. (If you don't know who ChrisF is or why it would be a well-known joke that he has a lot of diamonds... here.)

Having this requirement excludes many of the people that the community would most trust to take the CM position - the people who already understand the needs of the community, are experienced in communication with the community, and already have established mutual trust. It makes no sense from my point of view to explicitly exclude these people from even being considered. Community moderation and activity on Stack Exchange should count as experience when applying for a CM job at Stack Exchange.

Can we please open up the CM listing to have either professional CM experience or experience in managing the very community you're hiring people to manage?

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    This post should be [featured]. – 41686d6564 Mar 3 at 4:32
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    @41686d6564 Why? Community discussion of company hiring policy isn't something likely to be of interest to huge numbers of people across the SE network. – Rand al'Thor Mar 3 at 21:54
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    @Randal'Thor I would imagine that it would be of interest to moderators of other sites on the network, at least. Also, users who might be active on a child meta site (e.g., Meta.SO) but not so much on Meta.SE. Side note: for some reason, I didn't receive an inbox notification about your reply. – 41686d6564 Mar 4 at 4:32
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This question came up in our Moderator Face Time meeting this month, and I'm glad it's being asked here more publicly.

Our goal with this round of hiring was to give the team more robust Community Manager experience. The reason this is valuable is that we have learned many similar companies' communities have faced challenges like ours in the past, and learning from them is helpful. Additionally, Community is an established discipline and having a diversity of backgrounds is always ideal. That being said, experience in our particular communities is also helpful.

In terms of onboarding, I think of it as similar to the experience I have had hiring computer science new grads, and bootcamp graduates. Computer science new grads usually need to spend their first few years studying practical applications of code in the workplace, as their knowledge is fairly academic. Bootcamp graduates usually need to spend their first few years learning more about computer science fundamentals, as they didn't learn those as much in their bootcamps.

People that join us with a community-centric background spend time learning about Community Management as a discipline, through many resources online but most recently CMX Pro. Similarly, people with CM experience at similar companies need to spend their first few months with us learning more about our communities. They do that through blog posts, documentation, working with the team, and talking to our community directly.

We plan to continue to focus on a balance on the team, which means we will be relaxing the opening requirements and likely hire people with experience in our specific communities in the future.

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    This may be a cultural thing, but "bootcamp graduates" really doesn't translate into any kind of experience significant enough to hire some over, for me. Bluntly put: "Yay, you wrote some <language>"... VS someone that actually studied for a few years and completed an internship (with the practical knowledge that comes with that). TL;DR: That analogy is completely lost on me. – Cerbrus Mar 5 at 15:22
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    The analogy made perfect sense to me. Seems the first commenter just isn't very fond of bootcamp graduates being hired over people with a CS degree. – user1271772 Mar 5 at 15:48
  • @user1271772 no, I think we have a different interpretation of what "bootcamp" means... I have never heard of this kind of hiring before. I can't be "not very fond" of something if I don't know it's a thing. – Cerbrus Mar 5 at 15:54
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    I am not a mod on any site, and have no desire to work as a CM, or any other position within SE. I believe I'm a neutral outside observer on this subject. With the not-so-long list of hires made for CM positions, I find it hard to swallow that there is any experience upon which to base the analogy, or even the premise supplied here. If one accepts the analogy, my preference in both versions of the analogy would be to prefer the practical experience over the theoretical education. – Chindraba Mar 5 at 15:55
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    .. A person with practical experience can perform the tasks, if HR has validated the claimed experience. Additional theory knowledge might make them better at the job. A person with theory credits might not even be able to do the job, no matter how well they understand the domain. – Chindraba Mar 5 at 15:56
  • I think bootcamp means: place where people learn hands-on software development skills. A bootcamp graduate might not have learned CS terms like "finite automaton" and "formal language thoery" but CS degrees don't tend to teach anything about, for example, Git. Your first comment compares bootcampers to CS grads with internship experience but OP is just comparing bootcampers to CS grads. – user1271772 Mar 5 at 16:00
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    That's where the cultural difference comes in. In the Netherlands, you don't get to graduate without going on an internship. And a "bootcamp" is generally nothing more than a day (or a few) of intensive instruction... There's a humongous difference between a grad and someone that completed a bootcamp, from my perspective. – Cerbrus Mar 5 at 16:04
  • @Cerbrus That makes sense, in the US, coding bootcamps are typically 8 hours a day for 3-6 months where students learn hands on skills in a particular language or framework. – Sara Chipps Mar 5 at 16:05
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    Whoa. Yea, I'd call that a full-blown course / training / education in that specific subject – Cerbrus Mar 5 at 16:05
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    If the position was being filled with freshers, then the analogy might carry some weight. As the position requires experience, the analogy is out the door. Either the candidate has shown they can do the tasks (no matter how they learned to do so) or they are not being considered. – Chindraba Mar 5 at 16:09
  • @Chindraba Can you tell me more about what you mean by "freshers"? – Sara Chipps Mar 5 at 16:29
  • Fresher: Someone new to working in a field, whether college-trained, self-trained, or from "bootcamp". Only experience is from, at best, doing internships. Generally "fresh" graduates with an impressive degree and zero practicum. – Chindraba Mar 5 at 16:36
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    Nothing separates us like the language - pretty sure in india that simply means fresh graduate, and in the uk, a freshman or first year uni student – Journeyman Geek Mar 5 at 16:44
  • In either case the "experience" is similar, even if the education level differs. – Chindraba Mar 5 at 17:34
  • So, [status-planned]? – 41686d6564 Mar 6 at 6:35
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I think I've brought this up to both staff (privately) and openly where the avenues existed. As someone both personally interested, and of the opinion that we need to recapture some of the closeness to the community previous CM teams have had.

We've had many CMs from the community for the better part of the decade, and very few of them started with community management experience. Generally the main failing we had was not in the quality of the CM teams, but rather the general lack of value that the company seemed to put in them, and their ever dwindling numbers. In a sense SE built a very effective, community team, then kinda went all Harrison Bergeron on it

We've lost nearly 40 years of community management experience in a year - including folks who ought to have been in mentorship roles for new folks - and a lot of that mentoring would be in terms of network and site cultures

And while creation of new sites has slowed down - some of the roles that CMs perform include helping new mods (and we have 2 CMs with Mod experience, and one more with experience in building a community that's now part of the network- over the whole network of sites) - these sites still need help starting up, and knowledge of the platform and tools is helpful there.

But there's a lot more that's forgotten - that they were also the folks who helped resolve differences between folks in the network and that requires a certain knowledge of social dynamics. The relationships that CMs build up is helpful there - and that's something that takes an extended amount of time.

And I'm not entirely talking about in community hiring, Our initial community managers, and in a sense, the rock upon which our model of community managers were built, were essentially Jeff and 3 moderators who got hired. Many of the CMs who have passed through the halls of the company started in the community - but not all. While apparently the company didn't feel it was a success, team chaos was the foundation for many of our smaller sites. They had good mentorship from people who knew the sites and learnt the ropes quickly. But "experience" wasn't a factor - they were folks right out of school. I personally felt that was one of the best things that happened to the network as a whole, and... they wouldn't be eligible now.

This isn't just about mod eligibility to me - its about getting folks who are the right fit, no matter the background.

And of course - the really hard part to talk about. Trust.

I think that the company needing to earn that back is a given. But there's also often been a lack of trust from the company to its users and moderators.

Trust is kinda why there's not that much excitement when there's an opening, as there was in the past.

As I am often wont to do, I'm looking back at the past

In Jeff's original blog post on the theory of moderation

As a moderator, your actions now represent the community, so you will be held to a higher standard of behavior. You are an ambassador of trust, with the same sorts of rights that the official development team and community coordinators have.

And often that meant that many community managers (and some of those folks ended up elsewhere in the company) often knew many of the communities, not just stackoverflow well.

It also means, well, that the company is showing a lack of trust in its moderators - to do a job that historically preferred them. And we do run communities writ small, mentor and pass on institutional knowledge on our sites, and even to a small extent often do community growth and outreach. And these are all things we expect of our community managers on a network wide scale

I'd even go as far as saying that the experience requirement is a bit of a barrier to hiring folks who're interested but don't meet that requirement. So to me, its ok to hire out - but its also important to get people from the community in as well as non traditional candidates in either sense of it who might be a great fit.

Many places in the industry also do consider community experience either a good to have, or in this opening someone linked to me, an essential requirement for those roles.

I realise that there's big plans for the quarter and quite a few of the hires are set in stone. That said, I'd really like to see the role to be attractive and available to members of the community, and the role opened up to more than folks with a narrow band of professional experience. In building the future, lets not forget what got us here.

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    In my experience, very few hiring managers live or die by the "requirements" on a job posting. Except for government work, it's more of a guideline -- "we think this is what an ideal candidate looks like." If hiring managers weren't open to hearing why someone who has only 8 of 10 of the requirements would still be a good hire, they'd never hire anybody. – LShaver Mar 3 at 16:13
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    @LShaver Past job listings from SE once explicitly stated this, that people should still apply even though they don't meet all the requirements. However, tellingly, the current listings didn't include this line. – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog Mar 3 at 18:12
  • Its definitely a hard requirement for this round of hiring. – Journeyman Geek Mar 4 at 5:05
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I have to say that I'm also quite concerned.

  • On one hand I do appreciate the benefits of bringing "new blood" into an organization

  • On the other hand, I would feel a lot more comfortable if the process for hiring CMs was a lot more open, and if input from the broader SE community could be considered even if just a little bit.

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    Both Ayo and Rosie have had a post on Meta Stack Exchange introducing them, those posts were also pinned in the Tavern. I'm sorry, but your last point (that you now edited out) is due to you missing those posts despite your hours of activity, not SE messing up. Also, instead of saying you're concerned about not getting input, give the input you have to give, like Mithical did in their post. – Tinkeringbell Mar 2 at 20:27
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    I don't know why me as a member of the community should have a say about SE's hiring process of CMs. Are they also supposed to seek my input when hiring developers or office administrators? OK, maybe not me specifically. But the community? I'm not sure how that's supposed to work even - post a meta question titled "Should we hire Alice or Bob?" and post both people's CVs as answers. We then vote for them election style? How is the community input at all valuable for people we very likely don't know? Also, honestly asking for input on people who don't work at SE (yet) seems creepy. – VLAZ Mar 2 at 20:43
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    @Tinkeringbell being "pinned in the Tavern" doesn't exactly give the announcements a lot of visibility. (If it had been pinned in the announcement sidebar network wide on the other hand...) But if SE decides not to give a hiring lots of visibility they probably have their reasons for that. – bad_coder Mar 2 at 23:54
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    @bad_coder That's a choice the user being singled out has to make, if new employees aren't giving permission for their posts to be featured networkwide, SE shouldn't be breaking their own rules. That's the 'reason for that' – Tinkeringbell Mar 3 at 0:53
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    And we did poke a CM over if featuring was wanted. We don't know Ayo or Rosie well enough to check ourselves like we sometimes do when featuring posts about people. – Journeyman Geek Mar 3 at 6:46

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