hackNY Summer Lecture Series : Joel Spolsky

Joel Spolsky

Joel Spolsky, CEO and founder of Fog Creek Software and Stack Overflow and author of the blog Joel on Software, joined the Fellows for the latest hackNY Summer lecture. As a programmer turned CEO, he provided insight on life both as a programmer in industry and, now, as a CEO delegating tasks and managing a company (or two).

Joel began his talk discussing his undergrad career as a Computer Science major, and, more specifically, a handful of classes that gave him a few key insights and skills. Some of the classes that helped him most were, surprisingly, humanities classes. Writing intensive classes enabled him to become a capable enough writer to begin blogging regularly, and classes like Abnormal Psychology and Cultural Anthropology were useful when he began managing people as a CEO. A key insight from his CS classes, on the other hand, was the incredible 10-20x difference in efficiency between good and bad programmers. This underlined the importance of good hiring and code practice in any software company.

Joel Spolksy talking to the Fellows

Joel went on to discuss his time working for Microsoft and what it taught him about running a software company such as Fog Creek Software, the startup he launched soon after his stretch at Microsoft. Contrasting Fog Creek, a bootstrapped company, to the newer, VC-funded Stack Overflow, Joel discussed the two different startup models, “Bootstrapping your own software company is a great option for programmers,” Joel mentioned, “it’s a slow and steady alternative to a VC-funded company…Just grab a few friends and code for money. It’ll make you aware of what’s in demand and you’ll have more control…A VC-funded company is just a lot faster.”