The Trevor Project streamlines API collaboration workflows with Postman to support LGBTQ youth

Postmanaut working with The Trevor Project A P I. Illustration.


“You deserve a welcoming, loving world” – this is the opening message on The Trevor Project's website, a suicide prevention and mental health organization that supports LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning) youth with resources and 24/7 crisis services.

The Trevor Project's services allow LGBTQ youth in crisis to reach highly trained counselors via a phone call, online chat, or text message 24x7x365. These services are 100% free and confidential. Technology, including machine learning, plays an essential role in providing these services. Machine learning is used for initial intake risk assessment and for roleplaying conversations during counselor training.

Beyond crisis services, The Trevor Project provides a safe space social networking site for LGBTQ youth with TrevorSpace. This moderated online community is for 13 to 24-year-olds with 400,000 members from over 100 countries.

Advocacy for LGBTQ youth mental health through public education programs, research initiatives, and campaigns is also a core part of The Trevor Project's work.

To enhance these services, a new platform is being built that leverages APIs. It has a React frontend that leverages Twilio's Flex platform with an interface that enables complete CMS customization. This allows, among other things, case record management and alerts supervisors of imminent risk youth. The backend is a Node.js application with information written to a MongoDB database.


Enhanced QA testing

Faster onboarding

Easier cross-team collaboration

The Challenge

Founded in 1998, The Trevor Project had been running much like a start-up with services only available in the US. But this has changed as The Trevor Project scales its US services and is currently working toward establishing an international presence, beginning in Mexico. Rapid growth has built an engineering team four times its previous size. Now, 75% of the team works as engineers, while the other 25% is a QA resource.

Previously, the engineering team documented APIs using Swagger files, but these can sometimes be cumbersome or difficult to read. There was also no standardization for the organization's API collaboration resulting in API inconsistencies. It was difficult to work in this way as edits were not easy to share within the team and it took time to ensure everyone had the latest version of the API. On top of that, there was also no formal QA testing process.

Postman is the Swiss army knife for APIs because it lets you do everything you need. With Postman you get API standardization in an easy-to-use platform.

Brandon Ching, PhD, Director of Software Engineering, The Trevor Project

A new methodology was needed, especially as work began on building the new platform. It had very specific requirements as great care is required when communicating with youth in crisis.

The Solution

The Postman API Platform was the first choice for API development due to the team's familiarity with it. So, through the Postman for Nonprofit program, The Trevor Project was granted Postman Professional licenses for the entire team.

Introducing formal processes began with the QA team completing training for Postman. Following this, a well-structured QA testing process was implemented.

When it comes to building new APIs or making updates, a JSON Swagger file is generated and is immediately imported into Postman. The engineering and QA teams then test the endpoints independently.

Through the standardization of the collaboration process, everyone can access the latest version of the API. This has enabled API consistency and ensured that there is a single source of truth. Pre-request and test scripts in Postman also made it easier to set up API requests with less manual intervention.

I love how much time we save with Postman's features. Environments and mock servers have been especially helpful for us.

Brandon Ching, PhD, Director of Software Engineering, The Trevor Project

The team has been using mock servers which allows them to prototype and start building on projects before the full backend is completed. Through mock servers, the engineering team can gain an understanding of how APIs will work with example API responses before they're fully production-ready.

The Outcome

For The Trevor Project, Postman features have increased engineer productivity. For example, environments allow the team to store different variables and quickly switch between scenarios and servers, which has saved a considerable amount of time.

We wanted to use Postman because of its well-established reputation. And from our previous experience with using Postman, we knew it worked really well for our purposes.

Brandon Ching, PhD, Director of Software Engineering, The Trevor Project

Mock servers have provided helpful insights and logs when building APIs. The sum result is the acceleration of the API development process.

Postman has empowered the work of The Trevor Project by ensuring API consistency and enabling easier collaboration. Using shared workspaces means everyone can access the most up-to-date version of the API. Within specific endpoints, pre-request and test scripts are leveraged so when an update is made by an engineer it is automatically shared with QA. Scripts enable automation, and consistency while keeping things touch-free for QA.

Onboarding with Postman is fast because the platform is so widely used and engineers are already familiar with it. Postman's ease of use means engineers can quickly learn new features.

Features such as pre-request and test scripts also reduce onboarding time as the QA team and engineers can use them without fully understanding contextual requests. For example, some endpoints are executed in a series of events and with scripts, it is easy to mock, set up, or tear down automations without having a deep understanding of them. Scripts allow the team to work faster.

With Postman, workflows can be easily shared through a click accelerating onboarding for new team members and enabling collaboration.

APIs are enabling The Trevor Project to build stronger human connections by enhancing the platform to better support LGBTQ youth.

The Trevor Project engineers are keen to continue exploring all the capabilities available in Postman. If you'd like to get involved with The Trevor Project, you can donate, start a fundraiser, join an advocacy initiative, volunteer your time, or apply for a job.

The Trevor Project on Breaking Changes show

In episode 31 of Breaking Changes, Postman Chief Evangelist Kin Lane welcomes Taki Hasegawa of The Trevor Project. Taki shares how the organization supports the LGBTQ community through the development of an AI chatbot for their Crisis Contact Simulator.

View the Episode on Breaking Changes

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