This page details processes specific to Sid, CEO of GitLab. The page is intended to be helpful, feel free to deviate from it and update this page if you think it makes sense. If there are things that might seem pretentious or overbearing please raise them so we can remove or adapt them. Many items on this page are a guidelines for our Executive Business Administrators (EBAs).
Sid Sijbrandij is the Co-Founder and CEO of GitLab, the single application for the DevOps lifecycle and the world’s largest all-remote company. Sid’s career path has been anything but traditional. He saw the first Ruby code in 2007 and loved it so much that he taught himself how to program. It was during his time as a Ruby programmer that he first encountered GitLab, and quickly discovered his passion for open source.
In 2012, he helped commercialize GitLab, and by 2015, he led the company through Y-Combinator’s Winter 2015 batch. Under his leadership, the company has experienced 50x growth in the last six years and expanded from nine to more than 1,300 remote team members across 66+ countries and regions.
A champion of the open source community and a pioneer in scaling remote organizations, Sid is altering conventional wisdom on DevOps practice.
A pronunciation hint for
Sijbrandij: It’s like when you have seen some distilled wine, and want to point it out:
Sid, see brandy
Transparency and directness are part of our values and I want to live them by sharing the flaws I know I have. I'm fully responsible for improving the things below, listing them is no excuse. They are listed here for two reasons. The first one is so that people know it is not them but my fault. The second one is so I can improve, I hope that listing them lets people know I appreciate when people speak up about them.
If you speak up about them I should thank you for it, it is OK to say 'this was on your list of flaws so I kinda expected a thank you'. I'm sure I have more flaws that affect my professional life. Feel free to send a merge request to add them or communicate them anonymously to one of our people operations team members so that they can send a merge request.
Not a flaw but something to know about me, I have strong opinions weakly held. Or as someone said, I come in hot but am open to new evidence.
Sid is easy to talk to on any subject. He is good at drawing people out and challenging them to grow, in a supportive way. He can meet anyone on their level and have a productive conversation. Watch a quick video from a CEO Shadow recounting her observations.
It’s not a “best practice”, it’s a “boring solution”. The product categories page is a good example. Sid advocates for using MECEFU terms to keep communication efficient.
This section was started by GitLab's Head of Remote Darren M. to coach and provide context to others who meet with and interview Sid. The below are suggestions based on a history of personal interviews, extracted lessons from GitLab Unfiltered interviews, and observations during a CEO Shadow rotation. Others are welcome to create a merge request and add more.
Thanks to Mårten Mickos for the inspiration for this section. All good ideas are his, all bad ones are mine.
I am a visual person much more than auditory, and I am a top-down person much more than bottom-up. This means that I love written communication: issues, email, Google Docs, and chat. Feel free to send me as many emails and chat messages as you like, and about whatever topics you like.
If you have a great new idea or suggestion for me, I appreciate if you can convey it in a picture or in written words, because I learn by seeing more than I learn by hearing. I don't mind if you send me or point me to plans that are in draft mode or not ready. I am happy if I can give useful feedback early. It doesn’t have to be perfect and polished when presented to me.
In written communication, I appreciate the top-down approach. Set the subject header to something descriptive. Start the email by telling me what the email is about. Only then go into details. Don't mix separate topics in the same email, it is perfectly fine to send two emails at almost the same time. Try to have a concrete proposal so I can just reply with OK if that is possible.
I get many email on which I am only cc'd on, I would very much appreciate if you started emails intended specifically for me with "Sid," or some other salutation that makes it clear that the message is for me.
I have accounts on LinkedIn and Facebook. I will not send invites to team members on those networks since as the CEO I don't want to impose myself on anyone. But I would love to connect and I will happily accept your LinkedIn and Facebook friend request. You can also find me on Twitter as @sytses, I won't request to follow private twitter accounts, I assume I'm welcome to follow public twitter accounts, if not please let me know.
Sometimes I will ask to be kept appraised of an action item or follow up. One common way for me to express this desire is by applying the "CEO Interest" label on a GitLab issue. When keeping me appraised please tend toward over-communication. The primary method to communicate your follow up to me should be via MR or issue updates posted in the #ceo slack channel including specific notification when an issue is completed or closed. It might feel like you are being bothersome or distracting, but it is not. If I ever feel like you are truly over-communicating, I will let you know.
I get a lot of @ mentions in Slack, often when I'm being discussed. Please only @ mention me when you need me to see something or approve something, when you just want to refer to me you can just say Sid. This saves time and enables increased efficiency.
I get a lot of email and I'm frequently not on top of it. I appreciate if you sent me a chat message if I need to respond to something. Please quote the subject line of the email in your chat message.
For scheduling a video call or meeting with me or other execs, please see the EBA handbook page.
As part of my role, I participate in a variety of meetings both internal and external. Please see below for a general overview of these.
For scheduling a video call or meeting with me or other execs, please see the EBA handbook page.
To schedule Sid to speak at an external engagement please contact the EBA to the CEO with the details outlined in the Executive External Event Brief. The EBA to the CEO will gain approval from the function head of the requestor on whether the CEO will attend or not. Sid's preference is to not participate in panels with multiple speakers if there is no facilitation of time.
If the organizer of an event requests a prep meeting with Sid to check audio and visual before a remote presentation, we can schedule for 5 minutes before the event for Sid to login and confirm that audio and visual is working as expected. A longer prep meeting is not required as Sid has a robust remote work set up.
If someone else in the company wants to have me send an email they should email me and cc my EBA with:
When receiving such an email my EBA should stage a draft email to the recipient and a draft answer 'done'.
The email should only be the body. Greetings and niceties are handled by the EBA.
Some general guidelines of what travel is appropriate, these guidelines are not fixed, feel free to ask for exceptions:
Consider the following to increase efficiency:
When at conferences I want to achieve results for the company and be efficient with my time. Please ask sales and/or marketing to set up meetings for me in advance. I don't mind doing booth duty, presenting, or any other way I can contribute. I do mind unscheduled time randomly wandering the hallways, I've found this to be ineffective.
Each year I want to attend the Linux Foundation Member Summit (formerly the Open Source Leadership Summit). Please ensure:
If I am asked to keynote a conference, it is up to the executive of the function asking me to attend to decide. For example, if the request is coming from marketing, the CMO decides; if the request is coming from Finance, the CFO decides. Please follow the process outlined under meeting request requirements and work with my EBA who will shepherd the decision about whether or not I will attend.
The CEO will pay for all transport expenses (flight, uber, etc.) personally. By default flying business class. On short flight with other team members fly economy if we can sit together, in this case still pay personally.
If you are a GitLab team-member, you can stay at our home in Utrecht, the Netherlands for free with up to 5 guests. You can check availability and reserve the home by emailing my personal assistant, Anette at email@example.com. If you want more information on the home, please search in Drive for "Sid/Karen: Description of the NL House". If you cannot locate the document, please ask Anette or my EBA to send it to you. We hope you enjoy your stay!
There are three levels of performance:
I'm driven by what is possible, the aspiration, what can be. Others' expectations of a person affect the person's performance with high expectations leading to better performance, this is called the Pygmalion effect. What is possible is more than what we are satisfied with or what we promised to our stakeholders. We can be above what we promised and below what is possible and still have done a good job, we can win without doing everything we aspired to do, or everything that is possible. It is unlikely that we win without doing what we promised. I have to be clear in distinguishing these level when I discuss a goal with my reports.
One of the hardest things in business is not to slow down as the organization grows. An applicant asked how we manage to do this and these are the factors that come to mind:
As the company keeps growing my use of the handbook is also changing.
These monthly office hours are an opportunity for GitLab team members to discuss how to take a more iterative approach to a specific activity or to highlight how a more iterative approach helped drive results. Iteration is one of the hardest things to learn about working at GitLab and these office hours are a great opportunity for me to help coach folks who are interested in better understanding it. We learned iteration at YC, where we took our plan for the next 3 months and compressed it into 2 weeks. Give yourself a really tight deadline and see what you can do. The smaller we split things up, the smaller steps we take and the faster we can go.
See CEO and executive fraud in the security practices section of the handbook.