A smooth transition from developer to Developer Relations
By Anna Tsolakou
Are you a developer who loves to build relationships with developer communities? Do you like to wear different hats and be involved in diverse tasks? Do you seek a transition from a full-time coding role to a Developer Relations one?
Thanks to the growth of the developer population, which has risen by 28.6% over the past two years to 24.3M developers according to SlashData research, the Developer Relations (DevRel) market has also rapidly evolved. There is a higher demand for DevRel teams in comparison to years ago when I got my first DevRel job. DevRel teams act as the link between a developer product and its users and our mission is to help them be successful. At Amadeus for Developers we perform various tasks to achieve this mission by improving the developer experience, building relationships with our users, and ensuring we raise their voice internally in order to provide an attractive product.
If you are a developer who shares the same purpose and seeks to get into the DevRel industry, I would love to share with you some practical advice to help you start your journey. Even though each journey is unique I hope you find them useful for a smooth transition from developer to DevRel.
Let’s get into it!
Educate yourself around Developer Relations
Keep learning and educating yourself will only guide you to be a better professional, which applies to both new and older DevRels.
Join communities: being part of DevRel communities not only will encourage your growth and keep you up to date about the market, but it’s a great way to exchange resources, knowledge and experiences. DevRel collective is one of these communities with a lot of great people to welcome you. Don’t be shy!
Read books: books are great resources to let us gain all the knowledge and guidance from industry experts. I would definitely recommend the Business Value of Developer Relations and the Developer Marketing + Relations Essential guide.
Subscribe to newsletters: to always be up to date with the latest DevRel news, articles and trends. I would recommend you to subscribe to the DevRelX, DevRel weekly and Developer Avocados Weekly newsletters.
Practice Public Speaking
It’s almost inevitable in a DevRel role to avoid public speaking even if it’s not your main duty. For this reason, it’s necessary to work on your public speaking skills, and below are some tips that I found certainly useful in my journey.
Attend a training: a public speaking training can be the first step to teach you the fundamental principles and skills.
Find a mentor: a mentor can guide you through your public speaking journey. There are even communities out there that provide voluntarily coaching such as Women in APIs.
Practice: in my opinion, this is the key to apply your knowledge and get the most out of it. Take opportunities in your current work and meetups to present topics you’ve worked on. The more you practice, not only you’ll get better but you’ll feel more confident.
Be open to feedback: every time you do a presentation seek feedback to get to know your strengths and your weaknesses.
Contribute to the developer community
Developers will be your customers so it’s crucial to understand them and be part of the community. With the points below, you’ll be more familiar with the developer community and you’ll also be able to build your portfolio.
Contribute to open-source: find projects that you like and contribute to them, or publish a tool you built and you believe could be useful for developers.
Build blog articles: building developer content is one of our main responsibilities as DevRels so this is going to benefit you a lot for your day-to-day job. You can start writing your own articles about topics you like, technical solutions you found, or something you learned. Be creative and build even other types of content such as videos if you wish.
Be active on developer forums: places such as StackOverflow will allow you to be in touch with developers and help them with their questions. At a DevRel position, it will also be your responsibility to solve developer questions so being active on developer forums will make you familiar with your tasks as DevRel.
Be accessible on social media: I used to be this person avoiding social media until I recognized it’s a good path to spread communication and knowledge. It’s one of the channels to keep you connected with developers and help you build a network.
Apply DevRel practices in your job
Even though you most probably work as a full-time developer you can see this as an opportunity to build your DevRel skills if your current environment permits you.
Build internal tools and docs: as developers, we work out technical challenges by building new tools and solutions. Build and share developer tools and documentation that are going to be beneficial for your team.
Be curious: The DevRel role is transversal which means you are going to work closely with people from several departments such as marketing, strategy and product. You need to get a good understanding of other departments and learn many aspects of your product, not only related to the technical part.
See interviews as opportunities
Who enjoys going through job interviews? They are stressful and energy-consuming for many of us. Yet my experience taught me interviews can be constructive and let us grow.
See the positive side: the purpose of the interview is not only for the company to evaluate your skills, but is the perfect way for you to know more about a product and a team and to discover if you’d like to work with them eventually.
Learn from assignments: similarly to developer roles, DevRel hiring processes contain assignments. Take these tasks as an opportunity to learn and strengthen your skills.
Don’t be afraid: when you try to get your first job as DevRel, keep in mind that the interviewers have already an idea of your previous experiences. DevRel tools and processes can be developed but character traits and competencies are hard to teach. Don’t be afraid to show what you know and what you don’t know and just be yourself.
Remember it’s all about empathy
There are a lot of characteristics you need to have as a DevRel such as good communication, curiosity, ability to learn fast but in my opinion, the key one is empathy. Even if you are an excellent public speaker, or you write great technical content, if you don’t have empathy this is not going to work for you. Our purpose is to understand developers and help them be successful. Being empathetic by nature is great but applying empathy in a professional environment is not trivial. These are my suggestions to improve your empathy once you get into the DevRel industry.
Get your hands dirty: use the product you represent the way your customers do. This approach will allow you to get into their shoes and empathize with their struggles. For example, at Amadeus for Developers we build demo apps using our APIs and it lets us identify what our users experience.
Do customer support: by solving customer support inquiries you will be in touch with a lot of developers daily and you will get to know first hand how they feel about your product. You’ll feel more empathy when you get the message directly from them instead of other teams.
Be open-minded: when it comes to developer feedback you have to be open-minded and understand the power of people outside of your company; they have different points of view, diverse needs and even fresh ideas that may be from inside you can’t see.
These are a few practical tips to help developers transition from a developer role to a DevRel one. I believe these points could also be useful for DevRels who already are in the industry and want to discover ways to improve in their profession.
Anna Tsolakou is a software engineer working as a Developer Advocate at Amadeus. She loves to wear different hats and DevRel is the ideal world for her to fulfil her expectations; software development and connecting with people at the same time. Passionate about open-source and AI.