Sophie Alpert

Hire me to empower and upskill your eng team

June 12, 2023

I’m on the job market! I’m looking for principal/director+ level software engineering roles (either IC or management).

Edit: I found a role I’m excited about! No longer actively looking.

About me

You might know me from my work on React, where I was React’s first production user outside Facebook, became the project’s #1 committer for its first five years, then managed the React team at Facebook, bringing React from laughingstock to industry standard (used by 1 in 4 developers worldwide!).

More recently, I was VP of Engineering on the exec team at Humu, a Series C startup in the HR/people space, building a B2B SaaS product to help companies build fulfilling, empowering, and inclusive work environments.

Some of my superpowers:

  • Being endlessly curious about how both systems and people fit together
  • Clear written and spoken communication about complex topics in simple terms, to engineers, nonengineers, execs, and customers alike
  • Quickly understanding and fixing bugs in code I know nothing about
  • Truly caring about the people around me
  • Encyclopedic knowledge of seemingly everything going on in an organization
  • An unassailable belief that engineers are not more important than everyone else
  • Comfortably “zooming in and out” between technical minutiae and the business overall
  • Telling my bosses they’re wrong (when they are)
  • A genuine desire for people to push me when I’m wrong too
  • Attention to internal communication (eg: at Humu, I built a knowledge-sharing culture with a new home for internal documentation and created an organization-wide newsletter about company happenings with a +93 NPS score)
  • An eye for polish
  • Bringing groups of people who are talking past each other onto the same page

In terms of technical skills, some of my deepest areas of expertise include product engineering (especially “full-stack” web), React and the web platform, framework and library API design, open source, algorithms and data structures, programming language fundamentals, and security and privacy.

What I’m looking for in a role

As mentioned above, I’m looking for principal/director+ level roles in engineering. I’m open to both IC and management roles, but my ideal role:

  • Has a diverse, kind, hypercompetent team: More than anything else, I plan to choose my next role based on the people. I want to work not just with smart people, but with good people. People who write good alt text on their images and care about people different than them, y’know?

    • Also, in past roles, out of the 20 or so folks I’ve reported to (directly or indirectly), all have been men, and none have been Black. I would be especially excited to change this in my next role.
  • Pays well: I tend to love my work and want to be at a place that deeply values employees.

  • Is based in SF or remote: And if it’s in-person, I’ll be curious about COVID precautions (ventilation, outdoor spaces, etc.).

  • Fits how I work best: I tend to be most successful when I can work across teams and consult on a dozen different projects rather than focusing on a single one. I’m deeply collaborative and work best with others, rather than driving projects in isolation. Typical days might often include:

    • Pair programming to unstick junior engineers (and senior ones)
    • Coaching people on navigating tricky interpersonal situations
    • Noticing something broken in some feature I’ve never worked on and just fixing it instead of filing a ticket
    • Debugging a tricky production incident with a calm, clear head
    • Helping engineers and nonengineers with literally anything they’re blocked on
    • Teaching coworkers with a thoughtful code (or doc) review
    • Collaborating on engineering, product, or people strategy

    I realize that “Person Who Jumps Around Fixing Stuff and Helping People” isn’t a common preexisting job post, but if you have space for this role, let me know. (See below to read how my past coworkers have appreciated this sort of work!)

Lastly, I tend to be able to immerse myself in any problem space, but a few product opportunities have stuck in my brain over the years. If you’re working on one of these, I’ll be more interested:

  • Communication tools for async work. Slack could have been great for this, if every part of the interface didn’t push you towards responding fast instead of organized, thoughtful collaboration.
  • Calendar scheduling automation. Humans spend way, way too much time playing calendar tetris. Ever tried to schedule a meeting with 10 busy coworkers for next week? It’s honestly outrageous how bad this is today.
  • What’s between a spreadsheet and a database? If you need a simple ATS or CRM or IT asset tracker or inventory management tool or whatever, the choice is between a homegrown Google Sheet or a $20/person/mo single-purpose SaaS product. There should be something better in the middle.
  • Better databases for product engineers. Schema changes are a nightmare (double writes, double reads, migration scripts, etc). There’s room for big improvements here.
  • A Twitter replacement. Twitter was a magical place for shitposting, industry collaboration, finding community, and speaking truth to power, until it fell in the garbage.
  • React. If React is strategically important for you and you’d like to sponsor ongoing work on it as part of a role, let’s talk. (Why should Meta and Vercel have all the fun?)
  • Anything that empowers independent creators and artists.
  • Anything working towards our collective liberation.

What coworkers say about me

I asked coworkers from my last job for honest reviews of what it’s like to work with me. Here’s what they said:

Sophie is among the tech elite for a reason, and I was fortunate enough to work with her closely while she was the VP of Engineering at Humu. So, what’s it like working with Sophie? Sophie is exceptional on so many levels. Some days she’ll hunt down and fix the most annoying bugs that everyone has worked around because they were too hard to fix, the next she’ll optimize slow execution paths to make customer experience delightful, the next she’ll lead the team in an exceptionally insightful conversation that elevates everyone, the next she’ll work with customer success and implement a new tool that saves the company thousands of person hours, then next she’ll join a sales call and speak to security teams that are notoriously difficult and get them to sing her praises, the next she’ll recruit exceptional talent for her increasingly diverse team… and it goes on and on like this every day.
Having Sophie on the team allowed me to sleep better at night. She tangibly improved every part of the Humu on a regular basis, from the minute details of the product experience to the overall company strategy. While all the accomplishments are exceptional in their own right, Sophie takes it to another level because of how she goes about doing things. Everyone LOVES working with Sophie. She’s an exceptional problem solver, friend, mentor, and leader that takes the time to understand different view points, digs deeply into understanding any topic, makes everyone feel heard, and engages in a conversation that moves individuals and teams through things with grace and style that is admired by everyone. There isn’t a technical or leadership problem I didn’t trust Sophie 100% to be able to navigate and solve — no matter how difficult.

Wayne Crosby, CTO & Co-Founder of Humu (my boss), now Visiting Partner at Y Combinator

Sophie shares that the perfect role might be “Person Who Jumps Around Fixing Stuff and Helping People” and that would be the right description for her skill set except it undersells how strategically she approaches the fixing and helping.
Molly Sands, Lead Product Manager at Humu, now Head of the Team Anywhere Lab at Atlassian

Sophie was my manager for 3 years, and my cultural touchstone in the organization. I knew that so long as she was in leadership, we had someone who cared deeply about not just the work, but the people of the organization, and who would work tirelessly to improve our culture and make it diverse, inclusive, and a joyful place to work. She has a great balance of being opinionated and able to make things happen, while also trusting her reports be independent and make their own decisions (and mistakes).
Kevin Ball, Engineering Manager at Humu, now independent coach

Sophie has an unwavering commitment to recognizing and valuing each person, which has an impact on workplace culture and overall productivity. In my former role of Facilities, where I was at the front entrance of the building, Sophie never failed to say hello when passing by. Her attitude is one of inclusivity, empowering everyone to contribute their unique perspectives.
Mimi Park, Facilities at Humu, now CEO & Founder of Instamommies

Sophie is an absolute joy and privilege to work with. I spent 2 years working with Sophie and her team in a non-technical role and left every interaction with Sophie feeling energised and having learnt several new things. Sophie has the rare combination of extreme technical ability and ability to communicate with non-technical roles and customers. When you hear that she’s involved, you breathe a sigh of relief that everything’s going to be ok!
Catalina Garcia, Senior Customer Success Specialist at Humu, now MBA Candidate at Stanford

Sophie has the most special way of making any work problem just feel like a fun project you’re doing with a close friend – even if you’ve just met her. At her core, she just really deeply cares about people. Her character naturally builds environments that are inclusive, highly effective, and fun. She has been a pivotal person in making me feel understood, valued, and confident in myself and my work. (Even though she can literally spend 30 seconds sketching an idea on a napkin that’s often better designed than anything I’ve thought of all week ;))
Megan Lily Gao, Product Designer at Humu

I was lucky to have Sophie as a manager for just over a year. She fully trusted me to make my own decisions and do what I thought was best, but was always there if I needed advice or a sounding board. She asked questions during our 1:1s that helped me stop and think about what I wanted and was interested in, and she helped me find new, interesting projects to work on that went beyond my day-to-day responsibilities. Don’t hire her if you ever want to win at a game.
Sarah Rosales-Hunt, Head of Product Content and Localization at Humu

I was so lucky to get to be on Sophie’s team! She fostered a culture of learning and community. A specific example of her creating a welcoming and warm environment was that she would invite newer engineers to speak in meetings on topics she knew we were familiar with. There were a lot of incredibly intelligent people on the team, so I would have been too intimidated to volunteer on my own so early. This allowed me to feel more empowered to speak with my teammates on equal terms and more comfortable in volunteering in the future. Speaking of making others feel equal: Even though she was the VP of Engineering and a well-known name in tech, she was still kind and never made gave the impression that she was too big or busy for her team.
Karrie Cheng, Software Engineer at Humu, now at Two Chairs

You are stuck. The error message makes no sense, you are looking at the 10th Stack Overflow thread, and you have read all the documentation. The software bug might actually win this time… until you reach out to Sophie. Within minutes of talking to Sophie you not only have a solution with working code, Sophie also taught you how to solve similar technical challenges.
Though this is a small use case, it encapsulates the impact Sophie can have in an entire organization. Sophie is an expert at managing complexity at scale ranging from code to entire technical teams. She accomplishes this through a deep sense of empathy for those experiencing problems, and then using a first-principles approach to provide a thoughtful solution.

Mark Freeman II, Senior Data Engineer at Humu, now Founder of On the Mark Data

[Sophie] loves to help.
—my elementary school teacher, in a parent–teacher conference

“IT Fridays” with Sophie were a godsend during the isolating times of the pandemic; more than just a professional collaboration, it was a social event I eagerly anticipated. Sophie has an uncanny ability to eradicate the phrase “I can’t do that” from one’s vocabulary. Under her guidance, I found myself achieving things I never thought possible. What sets Sophie apart is her ability to balance professionalism with camaraderie, whether it’s going for an extra round of boba tea despite already having one, or being the spark that lifts your spirits. Sophie is not just a remarkable engineer but a rare blend of tech-savviness, leadership, and companionship.
Lynn (Chikasuye) Zhang, former Director of IT at Humu

Sophie is not only a brilliant problem solver, she’s also one of the most helpful people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. She listens to different perspectives before looking at solutions, ensuring everyone feels valued and heard. Plus, she empowers others to find a solution by asking great questions, leveraging all of her expertise. Sophie’s endless curiosity and collaborative nature make her an asset to any team lucky enough to work with her.
Rachel Callan, Head of Behavioral Science at Humu, now Lead Researcher at Atlassian

If your organization would benefit from a humble and generous teacher, a brilliant problem-solver (truly, any problem), a devoted cultural champion, or someone who eats a lot of dumplings, then hire Sophie! I would!
Trevor Biller, Engineering Manager at Humu, now Software Engineer at Signal

How to get in touch

If you have something that matches my “what I’m looking for in a role” above, send me a note at Do include at least something so I know you really read this post—and please let me know how you found this link!

If you share this post to your network with a sentence about why you think I’d be great, I’d quite appreciate it.

Edit: I found a role I’m excited about! No longer actively looking.