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Stripe’s fifth engineering hub is Remote

David Singleton, CTO on May 2, 2019

Stripe has engineering hubs in San Francisco, Seattle, Dublin, and Singapore. We are establishing a fifth hub that is less traditional but no less important: Remote. We are doing this to situate product development closer to our customers, improve our ability to tap the 99.74% of talented engineers living outside the metro areas of our first four hubs, and further our mission of increasing the GDP of the internet.

Stripe will hire over a hundred remote engineers this year. They will be deployed across every major engineering workstream at Stripe.

Our users are everywhere. We have to be, too.

Our remotes keep us close to our customers, which is key to building great products. They are deeply embedded in the rhythms of their cities. They see how people purchase food differently in bodegas, konbini, and darshinis. They know why it is important to engineer robustness in the face of slow, unreliable internet connections. They have worked in and run businesses that don’t have access to global payments infrastructure.

Stripe has had hundreds of extremely high-impact remote employees since inception. Historically, they’ve reported into teams based in one of our hubs. We had a strong preference for managers to be located in-office and for teams to be office-centric, to maximize face-to-face bandwidth when doing creative work.

As we have grown as a company, we have learned some things.

One is that the technological substrate of collaboration has gotten shockingly good over the last decade. Most engineering work at Stripe happens in conversations between engineers, quiet thinking, and turning those thoughts into artifacts. Of these, thinking is the only one that doesn’t primarily happen online.

There was a time when writing on a whiteboard had substantially higher bandwidth than a Word doc over email. Thankfully Google Docs, Slack, git, Zoom, and the like deliver high-bandwidth synchronous collaboration on creative work. The experience of using them is so remarkably good that we only notice it when something is broken. Since you write code via pull requests and not whiteboards, your reviewer needs to have access to the same PR; having access to the same whiteboard is strictly optional.

While we did not initially plan to make hiring remotes a huge part of our engineering efforts, our remote employees have outperformed all expectations. Foundational elements of the Stripe technology stack, our products, our business, and our culture were contributed by remotes. We would be a greatly diminished company without them.

Stripe’s new remote engineering hub

We have seen such promising results from our remote engineers that we are greatly increasing our investment in remote engineering.

We are formalizing our Remote engineering hub. It is coequal with our physical hubs, and will benefit from some of our experience in scaling engineering organizations. For example, there will be dedicated engineering teams in the Remote hub that exist in no other hub. (Some individuals report to a team located in a different hub, and we expect this will remain common, but the bulk of high-bandwidth coworker relationships are within-hub.) We also have a remote engineering lead, analogous to the site leads we have for our physical hubs.

We are expanding the scope we will hire for remotely. In addition to hiring engineers, we plan to begin hiring remote product managers, engineering managers, and technical program managers later this year. (We will continue hiring remote employees in non-engineering positions across the company as well.)

We intend to expand our remote engineering hiring aggressively. We will hire at least a hundred remote engineers this year. We expect to be constrained primarily by our capacity to onboard and support new remote engineers, and we will work to increase that capacity.

We will continue to improve the experience of being a remote. We have carefully tracked the experience of our remote employees, including in our twice-annual employee survey. Most recently, 73% of engineers at Stripe believe we do a good job of integrating remote employees.

Great user experiences are made in the tiny details. We care about the details to a degree that is borderline obsessive. A recent example: we wrote code to attach a videoconferencing link to every calendar invitation by default, so that remotes never feel awkward having to ask for one.

More to come

There are still some constraints on our ambitions. In our first phase, we will be focused primarily on remote engineers in North America, starting with the US and Canada. While we are confident that great work is possible within close time zones, we don’t yet have structures to give remotes a reliably good experience working across large time zone differences. And though we intend to hire remote engineers in Europe and Asia eventually, our hubs in Dublin and Singapore are not sufficiently established to support remotes just yet.

Most engineers working at Stripe are full-time employees, with a full benefits suite. There is substantial organizational, legal, and financial infrastructure required to support each new jurisdiction we hire in, so we have to be measured in how quickly we expand. We can support most US states today, and plan to expand our hiring capabilities to include jurisdictions covering more than 90% of the US population as quickly as possible. We intend, over the longer term, to be everywhere our customers are.

We will continue encouraging governments worldwide to lower barriers to hiring. Our customers, from startups to international conglomerates, all feel the pain of this. We think making it easier for companies to hire would produce a step-function increase in global GDP.

We want to talk to you

We would love to talk about our Remote hub or remote positions at Stripe. Our CEO and co-founder, Patrick Collison, and I will host a remote coffee on May 22, 2019; sign up to be invited to it. We are also, and always, available on the internet.

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