Why I am joining Sourcegraph

Nicolas Hernandez
7 min readDec 8, 2021

Earlier this year, I took some time off to unplug from Zoom and plan my next move. After reflecting, I decided that I was looking for a company that had 1) an awesome product solving a big problem 2) the opportunity to build a culture with impact beyond the company 3) the operational focus to build a great company on the foundation of 1 & 2. I met with some amazing companies in my process before deciding to join Sourcegraph. Sourcegraph is a lesser known unicorn, likely because the category of code intelligence isn’t well known (yet). Code Intelligence is a set of tools that helps you understand, navigate and change your code quickly. This is my attempt to share my excitement about what we are up to.

  1. Problem Space: Helping Developers swim in an ocean of code

Most knowledge workers spend a lot of time working through low value tasks to get to their high value tasks. To use an example from sales, this means cold calling and scheduling meetings to meet executives and help customers use tech to solve business problems. Over the past 20 years, sales tech has transformed the profession by enabling sellers to spend more time on high value tasks. Previously, salespeople used a phone book or rolodex to “dial for dollars” hoping to start sales conversations. Reps made 1000s of cold calls to irrelevant teams then traveled extensively to win new clients. Here is a quick chart of some of the tools rep have available to help them work:

As a sales rep, I now have a research team, administrative assistant, and personal coach in my browser.

If computers are bicycles for the mind then salespeople have e-bikes. On the other hand, dev tooling has faced a historical drought of investment leaving some of our most important knowledge workers walking along while others zoom along on their bikes. Demand for developers has grown immensely while infrastructure like AWS and systems like CI/CD pipelines and code repositories have given developers more power. Yet these advances often mask the amount of time spent on low value tasks like deciphering cryptic comments, reinventing the wheel, or seeking out key devs to understand what code is doing. This lower level work makes developers reliant on a combination of brute force and hard won intuition while disrupting flow. This hurts productivity and leaves newer coders at a disadvantage.

This lack of tooling is a serious problem given the acceleration in velocity and importance of software development. Large enterprises like banks have reams of legacy code and even newer organizations like Uber & Lyft have code that can be up to a decade old. In that environment, organizations are asking developers to deliver more applications in a shorter amount of time on top of an increasingly complex mix of languages and technologies. Imagine the effort required to keep those systems running, much less deliver new changes quickly. Developers must navigate growing these code bases while needing to deliver more software than ever. In order to succeed, business leaders need to arm their developers with the tools to be effective in the era of big code.

For people as users of technology, Big Code is great. It means there’s more software out there, it’s more personalized, it’s faster, it’s on their desktop and phone and watch, it’s localized, and so on. But for developers, it’s way harder and takes way more work to build software than it did 10 years ago. — Sourcegraph Company Strategy

Sourcegraph is changing this by arming developers with amazing Code Search to understand growing code bases. This reduces low leverage work like demystifying or updating old code and increases the time spent solving problems and bringing solutions to life. Given the talent shortage of software developers, we need to start focusing on making devs more productive while making it easier for new folks to join the profession. Sourcegraph is moving the needle on both those challenges while laying the groundwork for more developers to flourish.

Sourcegraph gives us the ability to search for and refactor references to deprecated services, libraries, URL patterns, and more across our 2000+ repositories, and the confidence that we’re not leaving anyone behind. — Software Engineer, Lyft

2. Culture: Sourcegraph is pioneering the future of work

While taking a break to travel the country by train and visit national parks, I heard similar sentiments of burnout from friends. People feel overworked, underutilized, or unmotivated after the last year. The pandemic turned 5 minute in-office conversations into an endless marathon of 30 minute zoom calls to discuss endless minutia. For years, workers have faced growing commutes that often took priority over family, health, or personal wellbeing. During the pandemic, people migrated all over and realized the magic of having commute hours back in their day. These are big advantages but we still face burnout, less transparency, and reduced feelings of connectedness. Business as usual is not the answer. We need to be more creative.

In my interview process, I noticed that some companies are approaching these problems proactively instead of maintaining the status quo. Others stick their head in the sand by forcing people back to office or merely tolerating remote workers instead of empowering them. Few companies invest in making the remote experience on par with the office experience and remote employees often bear additional costs while feeling less connected with their teams. Forward-thinking companies are recognizing that meeting overload combined with the expectation to be online at all times is a recipe for burnout.

Sourcegraph is approaching remote work differently. Instead of buying zoom licenses and calling it a day, they are designing an experience on par with the best in-person experiences. Sourcegraph emphasizes quality of engagement over quantity of engagement while being 100% remote and working asynchronously. Our CEO has a great anecdote about how a week spent sightseeing in Berlin built stronger relationships than working heads down in a coworking space. Sourcegraph offers unique benefits like company meet-ups, functional team get-togethers, and a yearly budget to visit another co-worker anywhere in the world! Their journey to all-remote started before the pandemic. I was a remote work skeptic but Sourcegraph lays out a compelling vision on building culture intentionally even if you aren’t sitting together.

Sourcegraph Team meeting up recently in Berlin

Sourcegraph is building the infrastructure to scale in a remote world by relying heavily on written communication, a skill that will grow in importance as business moves away from in-person and real-time. This means a fully remote workforce can participate in decision-making without being glued to Slack or feeling out of the loop. I’ve had a hunch that many meetings could be emails and now I will put this theory to the test. This is a tremendous learning opportunity and should be a long-term competitive advantage. Sourcegraph also values transparency and shares many of these operating practices with the world via their handbook.

I am really excited about how Sourcegraph is leading the way to a future where remote work is appealing to a much broader set of people. Other stand outs in this area are Typeform, Webflow, Gitlab, and Zapier. The Sourcegraph interview process gave me similar vibes to the experience I had at MuleSoft where I had the pleasure of working in a best-in-class culture built by folks like Greg Schott & Simon Parmett. That experience was the source of lifelong friends and was a huge accelerant to my career. I believe Sourcegraph is laying a similar foundation for a unique culture with huge impact.

3. Sourcegraph has the operational focus to build an iconic company

A great product and culture are necessary traits for an iconic company but execution and focus are the determining factors in long-term success. While most of the story is still unwritten, there are some early indicators that Sourcegraph has the track record and focus to build an iconic company. The founders have been working on the problem of code search since 2013 and continued to make progress despite limited early traction and a rare pivot from cloud to on-prem. The early Sourcegraph team had strong conviction that code search & code intelligence would be very important problems to solve and went through a number of iterations to build out the current product. That level of commitment and conviction are strong indicators of a strong point of view and commitment to leading the category.

More recently, Sourcegraph’s commitment to serving the needs of developers with consumer grade experience has resulted in some serious momentum. As of their most recent funding round this summer, “over 800,000 developers had used Soucegraph in the last 12 months, including devs from General Electric, Uber, Plaid, and 3 out of 5 FAANG.” This resulted in a roughly 4x revenue growth in the same time period. Developers use Sourcegraph daily and its effectiveness results in viral adoption across the enterprise. These dynamics result in a strong growth flywheel where developer advocates and the Sourcegraph sales team work together to bring code search to more development teams.

In chatting with customers about the significance of universal code search, we heard over and over from developers: “I can’t live without Sourcegraph, but I didn’t know I needed it until I tried it.” — a16z investment press release

These sorts of metrics are impressive in any context but Sourcegraph has much bigger ambitions. These are expressed well through values like “customer-first” and “high quality” and our long-term objectives to “democratize code” and “democratize coding”. While a $2.6B valuation is impressive on its own, there is a long runway for developer productivity tooling. In response to the funding, Quinn Slack, Sourcegraph CEO, shared, “We want to be a public company eventually…this funding certainly shows that we are growing, and that we are going to stick around and we’re going to be vendor independent.” Despite the success so far, I see a lot of opportunity for Sourcegraph to build an iconic company while rewriting the playbook on being all-remote.

I am excited to get started in helping Sourcegraph on their way toward the mission outlined above. If you are interested in roles at Sourcegraph, check out the careers page or give me a shout.

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Nicolas Hernandez

Sales/BD @ sourcegraph, Stanford alum. Mostly write about tech, cities, & living the good life.