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You might have noticed that we posted a VP of Community job description on our “Careers at Stack Overflow” page. It’s a big role, and important here at the company. As we move forward in the process of becoming a product-led company, we’re putting a lot of thought into our original product - our public platform. The communities who use Stack Overflow and the Stack Exchange Network are integral to our success. You are responsible for creating and maintaining the content that makes this platform an amazing resource for people around the world to get answers to programming questions on Stack Overflow, as well as over 170 other subjects across the network.

We are committed to bringing someone onboard who has the right experience, mindset and skills to empower the Community team to best support users, work collaboratively with internal stakeholders, and build appropriate processes and policies to support our diverse user base. As the job listing goes live, we are working on building out the interview process: what areas to focus on, who to include in the process, and the order of interviews. The Community Managers will be involved in both building out the interview process and participating in it. This role will continue to report to me once the new hire joins the company.

Sara Chipps has decided to leave the role of Director of Community and Stack Overflow, and May 11th is her last day with us. We are backfilling Sara’s role with a VP rather than a Director to reflect the importance of our communities and the Community management team within the company. The Community Management team members who currently report to Sara will report directly to me in the meantime and I look forward to spending more time alongside them. Sara has decided to progress her career by going back into engineering leadership and the team and I wish her all the best in her new adventure. I personally am grateful for her partnership since I joined Stack Overflow to help me understand and work to improve our relationship with the community and to support the Community Managers.

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    There's some existing feedback on the job posting already, just so you're aware.
    – Mithical
    May 11 at 12:02
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    VP is... not a universal term, and it carries little to no meaning in some countries, any expansion on what that will mean in practice?
    – Nick
    May 11 at 12:14
  • @Nick see this. TL;DR: it is management position, one or two levels below the CEO. May 11 at 12:26
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    @ShadowTheVaccinatedWizard That doesn't really help, it's like saying a cashier is two levels below an assistant floor manager... okay? How does that make the VP role here different to what Sara's role was, other than by name?
    – Nick
    May 11 at 12:27
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    @Nick by power, it's not just an empty title. VP can achieve more as they have more direct contact with the company managers. Easier to achieve what you want when you're a manager. May 11 at 12:28
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    @Nick Catija♦ said the following about that in chat "It's extremely exciting that the company has decided that we need a VP! It means they're really thinking about the communities and want to give y'all a voice at the leadership table - even more than what Teresa is already doing. "
    – Luuklag
    May 11 at 12:30
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    @Nick In the US, a VP is an executive position, which means they manage their area of responsibility from the perspective of how it affects the company as a whole. They often interact with the company's board and contribute strategic decisions about what the company should be years in the future and build a framework of policies and priorities to achieve that vision. A non-executive position is focused on the daily operations of their area of responsibility. They figure out how to align their organizations with the goals of the executive leadership and handle the implementation details.
    – ColleenV
    May 11 at 13:09
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    To put this in more concrete terms: the CMs had a VP until the start of 2019. Y'all remember 2019...
    – Shog9
    May 11 at 13:20
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    Yes, 2019.... a lot happened that year.
    – John K. N.
    May 11 at 13:30
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    @JohnK.N. A lot more happened in 2020... IMHO. May 11 at 15:32
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    You could add a reference to the podcast: Podcast 337: Saying goodbye to our co-host, Sara Chipps. "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." May 12 at 10:59
  • @Nick This blog post provides some insight into the different responsibilities in US-style management structures. May 16 at 10:02
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+500

Sara, I know these two years have been difficult. We’ve all been through a lot and you’ve borne the brunt of it. You’ve been willing to take on more than you likely should have and you’ve shown me how much you care about this team - and me in particular. I don’t know what the future for us will hold but I believe that the work you’ve done with us has helped us grow and be better able to support our communities. You’ve left us in a stronger place than where we were a year ago. Thank you for that.

While I sorely miss the CMs who have left; you have worked to leave us a stronger team than we were a year ago. Stephanie is an excellent organizer and supporter for us and keeps us unblocked and moving forward. Rosie has already shown her excellence as a manager as well as an eager learner of how our community works and I think it’s fair to say that JNat and I are excited to have her. I can already tell I have plenty to learn from Philippe and Ayo and look forward to getting to know them better. And, as the leader of our whole department, Teresa has been an excellent ally and supporter and I look forward to working more closely with her.

I wish you joy in the world of Open Source engineering.

~ Catija


The last two years we’ve had Sara as our Director have been complicated. Her most publicly-recognized actions at the start of her tenure put her at odds with the community. I recognize that and that it likely still colors how many of you see her. What you may not realize is how much our relationship has changed over the last 18 months. In late 2019 I didn’t feel like I could talk to her about anything. Now - particularly since the start of this year - she’s one of the people I trust the most to listen to me and someone who I know values my experience and expertise. She’s also someone who has worked with me closely to help me grow.

As she departs, I offer you all a bit of an overview of that change and how it’s impacted me. I want to share a side of her that you likely haven’t seen because, as rough as her beginnings were, she chose to listen, learn and grow and devote her energy to supporting us as we’ve worked to rebuild your trust and improve your experience here.

I met Sara in person in May 2019, in NYC, at my first team meetup. She was introduced to us as our new Director of Community and we found out the structure of our team was changing drastically as we were moved under the Engineering organization. Most of our interactions over the next few months were in passing - I don’t remember interacting with Sara much at all between the meetup in May and so much falling apart in September.

After September, it’s fair to say that relationships were strained - I saw more of Sara as the team worked together over several weeks to document, discuss and work towards understanding what happened, how to address it, and how to prevent it from happening in the future. At the company meetup in Austin in November 2019 we spent time as a group with our VP of Engineering at the time, Mary, leading us in discussions to work on that relationship - talking about how we felt in person. Sara heard a lot from us at this meetup - our feelings, pain and struggles, much of it directed at her and - while I’m sure it was difficult, she listened.

While things weren’t “all better” after that meetup, our ability to communicate, be heard and get things we needed seemed to improve… Then, in that January 2020 week, we lost three CMs - the three longest-serving, most community-connected members of our team. Immediately after, we were moved to be part of the Product team and Teresa was hired to be the company’s Chief Product Officer.

With these losses, our team structure changed again - it had to. With only four CMs left, there was only so much we could do and a lot we had to scramble to pick up. Sara became much more active in our work as we started making quarterly roadmaps and working as a team to discuss and plan the projects we wanted to get through each quarter.

Infrequent communication became regular, as work on the Moderator Council and the Moderator agreement were my priorities and Sara was closely involved with both. She was always open to my feedback and guidance and was able to see the value in it and accept it. There were key points in 2020 when things started to change - where I would reach out to Sara when things were stuck and I needed some help and she’d be there with an answer or offer to find one if she didn’t have one.

I spent a lot of 2020 not sure whether working here was where I wanted to be. I was struggling a lot and was unhappy, and that impacted the people around me negatively. It was so easy to see every stumble others made as evidence of malice when, really, there was none intended. The fact is, our system is complex and we’re all learning more about it every day, so it’s easy to make errors. I think the important thing is how we react to others pointing out errors, more than trying to avoid them entirely.

After the new year Sara acknowledged what she saw - my frustration and unhappiness and asked me whether I still wanted to be here - did I feel that I was still able to do good for the Community and myself or had I given up and was burning out. She told me that, if I did want to stay, she wanted to help me change how I was thinking about things. She affirmed that she saw how much I cared about the communities here and that I was an asset to them and the company, but she could tell I was struggling.

And so I thought about it. I had been unhappy, but a lot had changed - the new team structure - splitting the CMs into three teams - was still being figured out and, while I felt lost and unsure what my new role was and as hard as the last 18 months had been, things were getting better. I had chosen to join the Community Operations team and Sara was my direct manager and JNat was working closely alongside me and those were both strong points of support.

I realized that, as much as it’d been hard, I still wanted to be here - things were improving and new people were being added to the team. So, I took her up on her offer and, for the last two months, Sara has listened - we’ve talked twice-weekly about all sorts of things - she’s helped me work through things that were bothering me, answered questions, asked questions and just been there to support me and help me feel like someone actually heard what I was saying and wanted to get action on things I thought were important.

And, so, as she leaves, here I am.


There are good things that Sara's established and I look forward to seeing what the future holds. With this role changing to be a VP instead of a director, there'll be a lot more visibility of the needs of the community at the executive level to support and grow upon what Teresa's already been doing for us.

As I wrap this up, I’d like to end with something Sara wrote in her leaving email to the whole company, which she’s kindly given me permission to quote here:

Please handle our Community Team with care, they mean a lot to me and they deserve all the best things.

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    Thanks for sharing this story Catija. This is definitely a side of Sara at lot of us didn't get to see. And most of our judgement of her is stained by that incident you mentioned. I'm happy to learn that she has meant a lot to you, and the company.
    – Luuklag
    May 11 at 13:55
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    @catija this post has meant the world to me. I've learned so much over the past year from you and the whole team. I've really enjoyed all of the time we've had to get to know each other, and seeing how thoughtful you are in how you approach every interaction with the community. How you use your experience as a moderator to fight for what you see as the most pressing needs and the way you prioritize our community in every interaction you have. Working with you has taught me how to communicate in many different ways and I'm looking forward to seeing you continue your work from the sidelines. May 11 at 15:33
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    Thank you for sharing this Catija! Sara is definitely an awesome person, even though it was a tough period she was able to handle it and improve with time, and just by what she said in the email it showed that she cared for this community, she will be missed! May 11 at 16:26
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    This was a really good writeup. Thanks for sharing that with us :)
    – V2Blast StaffMod
    May 12 at 9:04
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    As no-one else has so far mentioned it, then there's also this achievement for which the Stack Overflow Community should be eternally grateful to Sara: He admits he became "hooked" on Stack Overflow after being introduced to it by developer Sara Chipps. Who is "he?" See the Wikipedia article about him.. May 28 at 10:57
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    @SaraChipps, your profile is not updated, it istill shows that you are Director of Community. Jul 25 at 7:55
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Besides what Catija already wrote, to which I subscribe to – I’d like to write a few words too.

Sara and I didn’t start out in the best of ways; our first long interaction that I remember is the meeting in Austin Catija spoke about, and several of us not only had thoughts about what had gone wrong, how, and why but expressed those. She listened.

What I’ve since come to know is that almost no one has a full picture of what happened in 2019, and even a lot of what I seemed to think was true turned out not to be the case. I’ve seen Sara publicly carry the brunt of the blame for what happened when that wasn’t entirely true either.

In the many months that followed, and throughout the entirety of 2020 and 2021, Sara and I have gotten a lot closer and built a rapport that I’ve rarely experienced in the past. I’ve seen her be open to listen, learn and help CMs time and time again. Whenever I had an issue that needed bringing up or help with, more often than not, I brought it up and discussed it with Sara. She was often able to provide insight, guidance, or advocate for us. She was always open to discussing it over and giving me the whys something was or was not going to happen. Failing that, she always encouraged me to talk to Teresa (who has been great too!).

The Sara I’ve come to work with internally is not the picture that is publicly painted from 2019, and I think it’s important the community knows that. Her eagerness to listen, learn and help will be deeply missed.

Last but not least, Sara oversaw and facilitated the adoption of many great things for this team, such as projects, retros, a move to Jira, establishing of policies and processes, moving the team to three different teams - and that generally is, nor has been, no easy task for a Community Team. All in all, you’ve left this team in much better shape than you found it, and that’s something we all should appreciate and do more often 😊

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    “you’ve left this team in much better shape than you found it” May be, but I can’t say the same for the SE network. E.g. the not-justified changes of question upvotes still not reverted despite of obvious disagreement of community meta.stackexchange.com/questions/337843/… Jul 25 at 11:48
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We had a VP of community in the past, and it's nice to see a restoration of the role, and to see that not only does the CM team finally have a 'home' after bouncing between teams, and that it's one of its own.

It's also an opportunity for a fresh start, and I'm at least cautiously optimistic about the road ahead. In building something new - hopefully, we don't forget the past. I'm reminded of the Monty Python skit about the swamp castle

Listen, lad. I built this kingdom up from nothing. When I started here, all there was, was swamp. Other kings said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show 'em. It sank into the swamp. So, I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So, I built a third one. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp, but the fourth one... stayed up! And that's what you're gonna get, lad: the strongest castle in these islands.

Hopefully, we build something that's strong atop all that's happened over the past few years.

I'd also like to wish Sara a fulfilling, and rather less eventful job at her new employer. I had a significant number of disagreements with her actions in the past, but I feel her personal growth was fairly evident as time went on. The best one can do is to try - to face one's fears and biases, and be better for it. I think this was very much in evidence with her, and I think she's stepped outside her comfort zone quite a bit in the last year or so.

I can't say I'd consider Sara a friend - I've simply never talked to her like I have many folks. Nor can I say it's a clean slate and all's forgotten, but I can say that she's earned a measure of my respect, for whatever it's worth.

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    Thank you, @journeymangeek. Those words are very kind and mean a lot to me personally. I can say this role has pushed me in ways I never expected and helped me grow in ways I didn't know I'd be able to. I'm a better person for knowing and working with the people on this team, and for every interaction with our moderators who work incredibly hard on a platform they care deeply about. We haven't had the opportunity to get to know each other, but if you're ever in NYC please shoot me a DM, I'd love to buy you a coffee and trade stories about our experiences. May 11 at 15:37
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    When I started reading this answer, I pretty much assumed it was a Shog post, until I scrolled down far enough to see a familiar canine avatar. Not sure which of Journeyman Geek and Shog9 will take this as a compliment ;-) May 11 at 19:40
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    Well. I'd take that as a compliment :D
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    May 12 at 0:52
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I'm a layperson on this matter and I've largely refrained from making a comment, but I must admit that I'm confused.

What...does this actually mean? I can respect the gravitas of the news, and I can get that you want to put someone in a higher position to reflect the importance of the community.

But...what does this actually mean, and why are we allowed to ask questions of this? (i.e. Why isn't this a blog post?)

  • Are you going to hire people from the community*?
  • Are you gauging how we're reacting to the news?
  • Do you want to measure how we're feeling about the idea of a VP of Community?

I'm...lost. I don't know if this is something we should care about.

* Y'know, this time?

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    To quote Catija from elsewhere: "It's extremely exciting that the company has decided that we need a VP! It means they're really thinking about the communities and want to give y'all a voice at the leadership table - even more than what Teresa is already doing."
    – Ryan M
    May 14 at 19:56
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    i mean... it just looks like smoke and mirrors to me. the CM team we had routinely could be found all over the place. Chat, meta, main, sites that aren't SO, twitter, actually engaging with and working in the community. I have no idea what it means to be a CM here now days.
    – Kevin B
    May 14 at 20:11
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    Couple things to consider there, @Kevin: first, that sort of responsiveness may not be what they're going for. It's a lot of work. And frankly... It's a hard thing to sell the value of. No one ever got fired for being cautious and biting their tongue. SECOND... Despite a bunch of new hires over the past few months, the entire team is still roughly the size it was two years ago. At which point it was dangerously understaffed and overwhelmed. At this rate, it's going to be a few more years before the sort of stuff you describe is possible, even if it is desired.
    – Shog9
    May 14 at 23:03
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    The reason I posted this was to provide transparency to you all about changes that are happening in the Community team at the company. We have a new role open and Sara has left her role and the company. I also wanted to share how the team would be supported in the meantime. If I hadn't posted about these changes proactively, then folks might have assumed we were hiding something or not being transparent.
    – Teresa Dietrich StaffMod
    May 17 at 16:50
  • Thanks for your reply @TeresaDietrich. The transparency is much appreciated (at least by me)
    – Luuklag
    May 19 at 19:38
  • @TeresaDietrich: Your response doesn't quite explain why this couldn't have been a blog post, but...I'll accept it for now...
    – Makoto
    May 24 at 18:50
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    There's no need for blog posts when you have a perfectly good platform to post things already. A platform that allows feedback and has much higher visibility than a blog. Who was it that said a blog isn't a real blog unless it has the comments enabled? Oh yeah, it was Jeff. MSE is a blog with superior comments; we call them answers. I disagree strongly with this one, and I have indicated as such by using the vote arrows.
    – Cody Gray
    Jun 27 at 5:58
  • @CodyGray: I have no feedback to provide and the other feedback being provided is largely centered around Sara's departure, which...again, doesn't need to be discussed by the community. The open questions that I would have from an opening like this would be if they'd try to hire someone from the community, but as I slyly allude to, if the hiring pool of "community" is still largely States based, then that's not much of a pool at all.
    – Makoto
    Jun 28 at 15:01
  • @CodyGray: So fundamentally, the transparency would've been just as prevalent if it were a blog post since we'd all be able to read the blog anyway. Personally I'm skeptical if someone who fits all of their requirements and uses Stack Overflow on a semi-regular basis would even exist, or if they do, if they'd be incredibly wary of getting involved. Don't go throwing Jeff's guidance in my face on this one; Stack Overflow has light-years to go to get back to that level of idealism when it comes to community engagement and interaction, and this ain't even close to it, chief.
    – Makoto
    Jun 28 at 15:03

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