The idea of DevRel, or Developer Relations and the position of Developer Advocates in the industry has become more defined in the last decade than it traditionally has been. In getting to this point there are several key points that have come up that are practical axioms in industry. Some people don’t agree with all of these, and I’d infer that they’re probably just wrong, but the vast majority in industry and specifically working in DevRel itself have these axioms that they’d often stand by. If not march up on the hill to fight for!
- Developer Advocates and Developer Relations should NOT exist under any marketing hierarchy. Microsoft killed off this organizational structure, Google never let it happen, and AWS also insured this isn’t how this operated. If anything it’s either it’s own branch feeding directly into the executive team under the CTO, or it is a breakout of the engineering group usually under a VP of engineering or related structural organization. Having Developer Advocates under marketing tends to bring out bad habits (forced talks at trade shows that are just the company spiel) or topics that just don’t align to anything (like talks on X feature that nobody uses implemented in a way that is broken). The end product of having Developer Advocates and Developer Relations work and report up to a marketing leadership hierarchy devalues their work, what they can and indeed do provide that is valuable, and can diminish the credibility that advocates have to fight for so diligently in the first place. For further ideas around this axiom, Francine Hardaway also wrote a great post on just this issue, asking where DevRel should exist.
- DevRel & Developer Advocates need to be self-disciplined, build, show, and be technically inclined as much as any software engineer, coder, hacker, or related individual is expected to be. I’m not talking about “make nonsense deadlines and work to death” like some development teams get stuck with, but we advocates do need to build solutions that parallel or innovate on the designs that are in place, in production, and giving us value today. Developer Relations at its core is there to bring value and show value in what X solution can do but needs to provide example and take what exists in industry and build on it.
- Developer Advocates serve a two way street of communication, one to developers and users and one back to the internal engineers, product, and leadership working on building products and services. Advocates collect, or as I sometimes call it, perform reconnoiter or reconnaissance, and bring that data back to the various teams within company to determine actions to take. I personally love this part of the job, since I like to make sure that the development teams have the information they need to build products and services that are really needed, valuable, and will get the most bang for the buck. I’ve also never met a developer that doesn’t want to know the direction their developing in is the right direction. This kind of direct data is an invaluable information base for the development teams.
- Developer Advocates do not always work directly with customers, but we do indeed and should be communicating with them on a regular basis. Helping to organize discussions, conversations, and future directions of research for product and services usage is very important. We can act as that individual or team for companies that often don’t have enough time to put somebody on a research project, where as we can do that, and provide general information deducting what is or isn’t’ the right path to travel. As developer advocates we have the freedom to often take the path of risky research. We provide an extremely valuable service to the companies we work for, the customers we communicate with, and the industry as a whole by doing this research and making it available (i.e. blog it!)
Got anymore axioms you see in industry around DevRel work? I’d be happy to put together a larger list, this is just the beginning so far as I begin the first steps of a journey into understanding future directions and detailed specifics about how advocacy can increase its value for company, customer, and personal efforts.