Case study: E-health service Doctolib perfects the onboard-from-anywhere process

E-health service Doctolib applies its virtual mindset inward, making 100% remote onboarding a breeze

Founded in 2013, Doctolib is one of the fastest-growing e-health services in Europe. Its app is used by millions to book health appointments and conduct virtual consultations with doctors. This approach to medicine is more important today than ever, and Doctolib was recently chosen by the French government to assist users in scheduling their COVID-19 vaccinations.

Over the last two years, Doctolib has been on a tremendous growth trajectory. In 2019, it had 10 teams of software developers, each working on a feature of its app. Today that number is 22, with plans to grow to 40 by mid-2021. Its engineering department is split between Berlin and Paris, and with a headcount of more than 300 developers and tech workers, the company knew it needed to find a way to share knowledge effectively across the two offices.

When Fábio Guerreiro took a new job at Doctolib, he knew the process of joining would be different from anything he had experienced before. A global pandemic that began just a few months earlier meant offices were shuttered. Like so many companies, Doctolib had gone fully remote.

When starting a new job, setting up your development environment and learning the nuances of an entirely new codebase can be tricky. It’s not always clear why something was built in a specific way, or who the best person to ask would be when you’re confused by a line of code that is several years old.

As a new employee, the last thing you want to do is distract your colleagues with dozens of questions. The challenge for Guerreiro was figuring out how to bring himself up to speed and start contributing without having any of the usual face time around an office, introductions at a stand up, or casual conversation at lunch.

The goal was to improve the knowledge transfer between co-workers and dev teams. Also, to offer a better onboarding for new hires.
Thibault Boyer, Head of IT Products and Projects at Doctolib

A map of colleagues and knowledge

Luckily for Guerreiro, there was a piece of the onboarding that was familiar to him. As a developer, he frequently visited Stack Overflow’s public site to find answers to coding questions. Doctolib uses Stack Overflow for Teams to build its own internal instance of the Q&A platform.

Because Guerreiro could see who had asked and answered questions on various topics, he could identify subject matter experts and avoid wasting time—both his and his new colleagues—when searching for solutions to obstacles. “We can easily see which person usually answers which type of questions and create a mental map of which person we should go talk to.”

I joined right in the middle of the pandemic. Everyone was fully remote. Stack Overflow for Teams made the onboarding experience much easier.
Fábio Guerreiro, Full-stack Engineer at Doctolib

By the time he jumped on his first video call with colleagues, he felt he already knew them. “It was really funny to finally assign a face to the name and speak to someone who already helped me three, four, or five times with questions that I posted on Stack Overflow for Teams. Someone that I already had debates with about the best answer. I think that's the new normal; first, we interact online and then we actually meet that person.”

Asynchronous collaboration

Guerreiro’s experience proved that Doctolib had achieved one of its core goals: getting knowledge out of the heads of their engineering team members and into an accessible format that everyone, even new hires, could easily search and understand.

“When I joined, I immediately had this huge sense of community. Everybody is super available to help.” He describes Stack Overflow for Teams as Doctolib’s own tech community. Team members collaborate on questions and answers to synthesize different viewpoints into the strongest answer. “We debate through it. Sometimes this means we split a question in two. Sometimes it means we combine several answers into one. We might chat in the comments, or via our Slack channel for Stack Overflow questions, and then always feed back the result into an answer.”

How Doctolib uses Stack Overflow for Teams

The simple format of questions and answers encouraged the team to write documentation on the fly. What was traditionally a slow and compartmentalized process transformed into a natural extension of daily conversation and collaboration. “You just get into the habit of it. If you think something is useful for the team to know and not on there yet, you ask and answer your own question. Most of the time, another person then adds to it.”

Even before the pandemic, Doctolib did a lot to create opportunities for intellectual exchange with monthly tech time breaks. People would stand in front of a crowd and present on topics. In a fully remote world, Stack Overflow for Teams has helped to facilitate something similar. After it went remote, the company began a new initiative. To create a place for internal thought leaders to share their expertise, and for the team to discuss new technology trends, developers at Doctolib began sharing bite-sized knowledge under tags like “hot tips” and engaging in friendly competition to see whose contributions would receive the most votes and comments.

Create spaces for internal thought leaders to share their expertise
Allow the whole dev team to discuss new technology trends
Using tags and votes to 'gamify' and create friendly competitions

Within their knowledge-sharing tech stack, Stack Overflow for Teams has filled the gap for collaborative documentation, but also made existing knowledge more accessible. “We use Stack Overflow for Teams to index the knowledge we have sitting in Confluence. As a developer, I already use public Stack Overflow in my work, so having both next to each other on my start page and being able to find links to other documentation we have at Doctolib makes things so much easier.”

“Stack Overflow for Teams was the first product we introduced for this purpose,” says Thibault Boyer, the head of IT Products and Projects at Doctolib. “The goal was to improve the knowledge transfer between co-workers and dev teams. Also, to offer a better onboarding for new hires.” Doctolib began with 137 users in 2019 and has since expanded to 300 users. “With Stack Overflow for Teams, we have better cohesion and team spirit. Also, new joiners are quickly onboarded by themselves. We have improved the knowledge transfer and ensured our code logic is crystal clear for anyone.”

After starting out with half its developers, the company quickly expanded Stack Overflow for Teams to the entire engineering organization. For Guerreiro, it means he can get more done and distract his colleagues less. “You no longer need to break someone’s focus by asking them a question. And even if we did, then the knowledge would be stuck between me and them. This way we have it available for everyone else that might have the same question.”

Guerreiro says it has turned him into a contributor. “On the public Stack Overflow, I was just a reader, but on Doctolib’s instance, I began writing questions and answers right as I started.” What works for him and the others is the gamification. “Personally, what I would miss with a different solution is the points, achievements, and medals. As an engineer, you work towards targets, but you also work for recognition from your co-workers. This tool helps me get both.”