A position of global significance

Cranbrook-raised man lands hard-to-get job with one of the world’s most popular websites

Chad Birch

Chad Birch

A 29-year-old man from Cranbrook is blazing trails working for a globally popular social news and entertainment website.

Chad Birch, who now lives in Calgary, began working full-time for the San Francisco-based Reddit.com in January 2013.

“Having a job that I’m truly excited about is really nice, and makes it so that most of my days hardly feel like ‘work’ at all,” Chad told the Townsman.

Massively popular, Reddit allows members of the public to provide links to interesting sites, often related to news and entertainment. Other users of Reddit can then discuss the link and, if they like it, “upvote” the post so that more people will see it.

“Reddit is very much a user-run site, and has been described as ‘an engine for creating communities’,” Chad explained.

“Popular submissions often generate large discussions in their comments, and it’s possible to find active discussion on Reddit on just about any topic.”

According to Alexa.com, which rates websites’ popularity, Reddit is the 55th most popular website in the U.S., and the 122nd most popular website in the world. It is more popular than the New York Times, Skype and Etsy.

Last month, more than 54 million people visited Reddit, viewing almost 4 billion pages.

“Users can even create and manage their own ‘subreddits’, sections of the site devoted to a particular topic. The site has thousands of active subreddits, with over 100,000 new submissions and millions of comments being posted every day,” Chad said.

One of Reddit’s most popular features is the Ask Me Anything series. In February, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield held one of these question-and-answer sessions from the International Space Station, where people could ask him questions online and he was able to answer from space. President Barack Obama also held an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on Reddit last August.

“AMAs have been done by an incredible range of people – everyone from famous actors, musicians and authors, to people with interesting and unique jobs or living situations, all the way to an astronaut answering questions from the International Space Station and even the President of the United States,” Chad explained.

Raised in Cranbrook by parents Dave and Linda Birch, Chad left town to study computer science at the University of Calgary, after graduating from Mount Baker Secondary School in 2001. He met his wife at university, and they now live in Calgary, although they visit family in Cranbrook often.

Chad began working full-time for Reddit this January, in a position centring on Reddit Gold, the website’s subscription service.

“(Reddit Gold) gives access to some extra features and benefits for members,” Chad explained. “By making Gold more desirable and increasing the number of users that pay for it, we shift towards being more user-supported instead of advertiser-supported, which gives us a lot more freedom overall.”

Chad had already been involved with Reddit for years, he went on.

“I’ve been quite involved in the site for the past couple of years, including creating various programs that interact with the site. So I’ve really been working on Reddit for quite a bit longer than I’ve actually been working at Reddit,” he said.

When a developer position became available last November, Chad knew some of Reddit’s employees, which helped when he applied for the position.

“I went through several phone interviews, flew down to San Francisco for an in-person interview with most of the team, then had a couple more phone interviews before being offered the position. Reddit is still quite a small company, so it’s a major part of their interview process to make sure that any new employees will fit in with the existing team well,” he said.

The job means Chad can combine his hobby with his career, he went on.

“I was already spending quite a lot of my free time on the site, so it’s definitely great to be able to have it be my actual job now as well,” Chad said.

“It’s also very interesting to be working on such a large-scale site. It’s really neat – and a little terrifying – knowing that the changes I make will be affecting millions of users.”