The Great GatsbyJS with Jason Lengstorf


Sure. We raised – I think we officially closed the funding in late 2017. I joined up in March, or maybe February, and we’ve only scaled so far to ten people. We’ve got a few contractors that we’ve hired to help us solve very specific problems… So we’re trying to overcome a few different things. There’s the initial challenge of “How do you take an open source project and inject funding into it without alienating the open source community?” That’s one of the reasons why I’m putting such a big focus on – like, I want to make sure that the people who are part of the Gatsby community and the open source community in general are just taken really good care of. The swag store is one of the ways we’re doing that.

We’ve just started a program where me, Kyle Matthews, Mike Allanson, Michał Piechowiak, Kurt Kemple - we’re all gonna do community pairing hours, where anybody in the community can just basically say “Hey, I’d like to pair up with you for an hour.” We’ll get on a video call with you, and ostensibly, we’re gonna work on something Gatsby-related, but honestly, we just wanna help people in the community… So what can we help with? Let’s debug something, let’s get started on your first Gatsby project, let’s build something together… So just try to pay it forward into the community and give back, because open source is the reason that we’re able to do what we’re currently doing, and we wanna make sure that that goes back into the community and that we are spreading as much of that love and appreciation as we can back into the community, as opposed to becoming a place where it’s soaked up. We want the value to stay distributed.

Then we’re also trying to figure out how do we scale properly. We started out by hiring people directly from the open source community, but that has advantages; we’ve got people who are extremely familiar with how Gatsby works technologically, but it has disadvantages - people who work on GitHub are predominantly white males, so we have a disproportionately white male team right now… So now we’re trying to figure out, okay, how do we work with under-represented communities, how do we make sure that we’re reaching out to the right people…

We’ve been in talks with a lot of developers in Nigeria to try to figure out how to get into that community; can we get contractors out of the Nigerian community? We’re in talks with a group in Portland, where I live, called Women Who Code, and we’re attempting to put together some workshops to try to train – so I’m gonna run one workshop, but I’m gonna have somebody from this group work with me as like a TA, and then the next time they’ll lead the workshop and I’ll work as a TA, and the third time I’m not gonna be there at all; they’ll be able to just run that workshop.

[00:56:08.29] So we’re trying to train up people in the community to be able to take value out of Gatsby on their own, and hopefully, we’ll be able to hire those people and grow our team in that way. And how do we do that in a way that is sustainable, that’s gonna help us grow and make sure that we’re not tripping over our own feet?

There are a lot of really, really interesting and really not related to code questions that we’re trying to figure out as we scale, which is like both extremely fun, because we get to look at – like, okay, we’ve always worked at companies, and I don’t know if you’ve had this experience, but every company I’ve ever worked at (except the one that I owned), I sit down and I look at the company and I go “Oh, I could run this better. Here are all the reasons my boss is an idiot.” [laughter] And now we’re in this situation where we are that idiot boss, so we get to put up or shut up, like “How are we gonna make the company that we always wanted to work at, and what are we gonna do to make sure that this is a company that not just I wanna work at, but that everybody wants to work at?”

How can we make sure that when we open a job opening, we get flooded with resumes from literally everyone? Every corner of the internet, every different group… We want to be that company, so we’re trying to solve that puzzle. How do we make amazing technology that people are really excited to use? What do we do to incentivize the internet at large to use Gatsby as their technology of choice? And beyond that, how do we make Gatsby into a company that is a model company for the tech world, for companies in general, that is a place that people are excited to work at, that if you say “Hey, I work at Gatsby”, people say “Oh man, I’m so jealous that you get to work there. That sounds so awesome.”

This is the most terrifying and most exciting challenge that I’ve ever had, and I think that everybody in Gatsby right now shares that excitement and terror, that we really wanna get this right on all fronts. I’ve been just ravenously reading books on team culture, how do you make communities welcoming, how do you make people feel safe… I was on Twitter like “Hey, send me books so that I can be less of a jerk to my team and make people comfortable giving me feedback.” I don’t know man, I’m terrified, but I’m also having a lot of fun.