This month is Open-Source October at Stoplight.
As I was considering different topics to write about this month, I stumbled upon this YouTube channel. Hours of livestreams, collaboration, and even team meetings, all from GitLab.
If you’re unfamiliar, GitLab is an open-source DevOps lifecycle platform featuring a Git repository manager with a wiki, issue-tracking, and continuous integration and deployment. Their goal is to help make development more transparent and more innovative, faster.
So what does the GitLab Unfiltered YouTube channel represent? It’s a video repository that they use as they drink their own champagne. They don’t just claim to be an open-source company – they live it.
Not only do they make their development cycles and product releases public, they also publish all of their marketing efforts. This, at first, seemed absolutely bananas.
Hours of footage, folders of marketing materials. Pages and pages of processes and vision.
Who was all of this for? How in the world is this secure? How does it serve GitLab?
After taking some time to reflect on the way that GitLab does business, I realized that it’s genius.
Marketing can often feel detached from a product-led organization. How often as a part of a marketing team do you hear the following?
- “I can’t find x collateral.”
- “What does your team even do?”
- “How are you contributing to the success of the business?”
By making their marketing work public and open source – not just development – GitLab is changing the way we think about marketing. They’re encouraging both internal and external collaboration, contributing to a culture where marketing is a crucial part of the ecosystem; not just a step in the funnel.
Here are three lessons I learned from the way GitLab does marketing.
Transparency is great, but it's hard work.
Here’s how GitLab talks about its commitment to the value of transparency:
“Be open about as many things as possible. By making information public, we can reduce the threshold to contribution and make collaboration easier. Use public issue trackers, projects, and repositories when possible.”
How many organizations have you been involved with that operate this way? And yet, doesn’t it make sense? Wouldn’t you want the information to be available and easily shared with your team, your customers, and even your investors and stakeholders (congrats to GitLab on their recent IPO, by the way!).
“Transparency creates awareness for GitLab, allows us to recruit people that care about our values, gets us more and faster feedback from people outside the company, and makes it easier to collaborate with them. It is also about sharing great software, documentation, examples, lessons, and processes with the whole community and the world in the spirit of open source, which we believe creates more value than it captures.”
Remember how I said this way of operating is genius? They’re building awareness, value, and community, all at once.
Transparency fuels collaboration which fuels innovation. But this commitment to this level of transparency is hard work. It boils down to process and discipline, both of which are reflected in their product strategy.
Some things for me to remember going forward: my work matters and others inside and outside of the organization can benefit from it. Keep detailed notes and records. Share whenever possible. Highlight not just accomplishments, but struggles and blockers.
It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be polished. It just has to help show others how what I’m doing is contributing to the goals at Stoplight.
I'm doing something right. I could do better.
I mentioned the GitLab Unfiltered YouTube channel earlier. Now let’s dig a little deeper.
I am the Product Marketing Manager (PMM) at Stoplight. Product Marketing is a distinct discipline that sits at the intersection of – you guessed it – Product and Marketing. Our goal as PMMs is to help communicate the value of the product to the market, and help translate the market’s needs back into products.
This is how GitLab describes their PMM function in their dedicated handbook:
“Product Marketing communicates GitLab business value internally and externally to position GitLab as a DevOps partner and solution. The team is responsible for product positioning, value messaging, and go-to-market strategy to support sales and outbound messaging with analysts, press, and prospects. Product Marketing also facilitates market feedback as key inputs into the GitLab product roadmap.”
Naturally, I was interested in the Product Marketing organization at GitLab. They have their own team YouTube playlist.
So I watched a few different types of videos to get a feel for how their PMM team works. And maybe, to get a sense of validation that we’re doing something right here at Stoplight.
Releases and Launches
One thing that struck me as a parallel for how we’re improving processes at Stoplight: release versus launch. We think about things the same way. Let’s continuously deploy, iterate, and allow customers to get the benefits of features right away. But let’s host launches to the market when it makes sense.
New features can ship with or without marketing support
Launch timing need not be tied to the proximity of when a feature was released
The team hosts both Release and Launch livestreams. It doesn’t really matter how many people view these activities live; it matters that there's a record of the work, that there’s a place to come together to celebrate new features and let the world know about them, and that there is a way to go back and learn from the past.
More than Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Another piece of validation is in what the Product Marketing team delivers to the organization. They focus on increasing customer reviews, case studies and proof points, analyst relations, content, and public relations, partner and channel enablement, and sales enablement.
The way they showcase their efforts reminded me that these things matter and that every time I run a customer review campaign, host a call with an analyst, contribute to a customer case study, or write a blog post just like this one impacts the business. I need to focus more on these items as KPIs, not just “part of the gig.”
Being a Better Partner
Where I need to do more work is to partner more closely with the sales team. We have some smart, passionate folks on our team; they deserve a PMM partner who helps them craft and deliver their messages, not just gives them collateral.
Everyone can contribute to open-source projects (even if you’re not a programmer).
I’m a team of one PMM (right now), but that could change at any moment. By setting up an open-source culture within my part of the business, I can enable new product marketing managers to join the team and immediately begin to learn and contribute.
This deep dive switched something on in my brain; I was looking at Git as a DevOps-only tool. The way most repositories are presented makes my eyes glaze over.
But in reality, Git is a transparency and culture engine for the entire organization, not just engineers.
I’m inspired to use Stoplight and our git workflow to better showcase and document the work I’m doing, and to contribute to a better sense of transparency here. After all, Stoplight is one of the leading documentation tools in the API space.
I love the work I’m doing, and I love the team I’m working with. I want to show the world.