February 10, 2021 How to Build and Sustain a Strong Talent Community with Topcoder’s Jessie Ford

Every week on the Uprisor Podcast we talk with technologists and thought leaders about the future of work and on-demand talent. This episode is extra special, featuring Jessie D’Amato Ford, Topcoder’s own Senior Director of Community. Jessie leads the global community team and manages the annual Topcoder Open design and programming tournament.

Jessie shares why she’s so passionate about the future of work, and how on-demand talent is shifting how managers and team leaders handle projects and tasks. She also discusses what makes Topcoder different, and how she uses on-demand talent in her own job day-to-day.


As Senior Director of Community, Jessie has her finger on the pulse of Topcoder’s global network of freelance talent. In her 15+ years with the company, she’s seen first hand how:

  • Connecting like-minded individuals helps foster learning and growth, especially in terms of knowledge sharing.
  • People do better work when they feel supported by their colleagues, especially in a remote or on-demand environment.
  • Brands and companies can set themselves apart in a crowded marketplace by investing in community building and culture.

“Anyone can come to our business to earn money, but it’s also about the insight you gain and the friendships you make. That’s the one thing that I take great pride in: that Topcoder is different.” —Jessie Ford

Embracing The Philosophy of On-Demand Talent

Jessie describes the Topcoder mission and intention succinctly: Why do something yourself if you can instead use the best people in the world who are already doing that task, and doing it in a specialized, expert manner? She leads by example, tapping Topcoder talent as a team leader and project manager. When starting a project or task, she says anyone should ask themselves three questions:

  1. Is this a “me” job?
  2. Is this a team job?
  3. Or is this a community job?

As she puts it, “It doesn’t matter what the task is — a spreadsheet, or designing a logo, or game-planning a project — if I’m not the best at it, I know someone in my community who is the best at it.”


Once you learn to trust working with people outside of your four walls, you can start to push the boundaries of what freelancers can do. Jessie and Clinton discuss strategies for working successfully with on-demand, including:

  • Thinking of freelancers as not just a resource for small, menial tasks, but true team members who can own strategic projects.
  • Fostering a project management process that brings freelancers and on-demand talent into the mix.
  • Being willing to get comfortable with unconventional team structures, as that’s where true efficiency, ideation and productivity can often be unlocked.

We loved talking with Jessie about Topcoder’s community and what makes it unique, and how she harnesses and benefits from the use of on-demand talent.

“Our members get to choose what they want to do. They can choose to work on what they’re most passionate about, and that choice is so incredibly powerful. That means they’re not going to go anywhere because they continually do what they want to do.” – Jessie Ford

Annika Nagy

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