GitHub’s Code For Work Place Happiness
The Utopian workplace that is GitHub didn’t just materialize.
GitHub CEO Tom Preston-Werner is on the phone from San Francisco speaking with the cordial certainty of a professor. Halfway through our conversation, I read to him something he blogged back in October 2010:
At Github, we don’t have meetings. We don’t have set work hours or workdays. We don’t keep track of vacation or sick days. We don’t have managers or an org chart. We don’t have a dress code.
Things have gotten more sophisticated since then, he says. Founded in 2008 by Preston-Werner, Chris Wanstrath, and PJ Hyett, GitHub’s grown from 10 people to 160. A Most Innovative Company, it recently received $100 million in funding at a $750 million valuation. And as a social network for programmers to share code—and the largest host of code in the world—it’s increasingly an integral part of the software that’s running the world.
GitHub acts like a cross between Wikipedia, Google Docs, and Facebook, letting programmers share code and, crucially, discuss the differences between builds. Preston-Werner says that when projects grow, managing complexity becomes the center of software development—making the decision of what code goes in where is more important than the code itself. By keeping the discussion close to the code, GitHub accelerates the engineering process.
But GitHub—like another social network—didn’t begin with the intention of becoming a company. It was a passion project that he and cofounder Wanstrath built on nights and weekends until it grew into their own company.
"We wanted to make GitHub a place where we wanted to work; that was part of the deal," he says, noting that he and Wanstrath were coming from gigs with a lot of process, rigid departments, and inflexible job descriptions."That’s what makes it interesting to us to build a company, not just the product that we’re building, but the company itself."