As the demand for developers continues to grow, so does the need for great developer relations (DevRel) professionals. Companies are looking for individuals who have strong communication and interpersonal skills, as well as a deep understanding of various coding languages.
Not only must these DevRel candidates possess technical aptitude, but they should also be problem-solvers with excellent time management abilities and even customer service experience.
In this article, we will discuss what employers look for when hiring DevRel professionals and provide tips on how to gain the necessary experience.
What Is DevRel And Why Is It Important?
Before we dive into the skills, let's define DevRel as a career path. DevRel stands for Developer Relations and is often referred to as:
It’s a role within the software engineering industry that bridges the gap between developers and the company they work for. DevRel professionals act as liaisons, providing technical guidance while also advocating on behalf of their company by representing its products and services to the dev community.
The goal of DevRel is to create a connection between developers and their employers, allowing companies to gain insights from their dev audience and providing devs with the resources they need to do their job more effectively. This helps companies increase customer loyalty, build better relationships with their dev communities, and improve brand perception overall.
Qualities Employers Look For In DevRel Candidates
In general, from what we have seen across our job board DevRel Careers, there is a specific set of skills that is important for prospective candidates to have and there seems to be a repeating pattern of the below skills:
"Do I have to code?" is a common question I have heard from younger aspiring DevRel candidates and although not essential in every role, it draws down to how well you will be able to understand your developer community. Often times their problems are complex and it's almost impossible to understand without knowing at least the basics of a specific coding language. This is also the reason why many successful DevRel professionals were devs before.
However, there are also less-code-heavy opportunities available, mostly within roles that are more inclined towards Community Management, Product Marketing or Developer Marketing, and require more interpersonal and marketing skills rather than coding. Within those roles, at least a minimal knowledge of coding is still beneficial though.
In conclusion, without any technical skills, it will be hard to climb the ladder of Developer Relations, and if this is the case, perhaps it's worth asking yourself if it's really what you want to pursue. After all, Developer Relations is all about being passionate about the technical solutions you are promoting and advocating for.
Communication, either written or verbal, is an essential skill for DevRel professionals. After all, their job is to build relationships and facilitate dialogue between developers and the company they represent. To do this effectively, DevRel professionals must be able to convey ideas in a clear and concise manner so that the dev community can understand them. For example, a recent Developer Relations open position at Netlifly states that
This job requires not just understanding things but explaining them in a way that brings others along with you and inspires them to follow your lead.
The ability to share technical knowledge and demonstrate product features in a confident and comfortable manner is essential for successful DevRel candidates. Public speaking engagements can take many forms, from presenting at conferences and webinars to giving product demonstrations or leading workshops. A recent DevRel Engineer position at LibLab requires candidates to
be comfortable with public speaking and representing the company in developer communities
while Discord requires applicants to have
confidence presenting to different types of audiences, large and small, virtual and in-person.
So, developing and practising your public speaking skills can be a great way to demonstrate your DevRel capabilities and make yourself more appealing to potential employers.
Personally, I am very indecisive about whether empathy is a skill that can be learned or a natural talent. Being a mixture of patience and a deep understanding of the person you are communicating with, empathy is a quality that comes up in almost every developer relations job listing. And it's not surprising, because empathy helps DevRel professionals better understand their dev audience and anticipate their needs. In addition to having technical knowledge of the products and services they represent, DevRel professionals are expected to establish a human connection with developers by listening to their feedback and adapting to their needs.
For example, a Head of Developer Relations position at Ably states that
You will be successful if you empathize with the challenges developers face, and are excited by the prospect of reducing complexity for developers.
Problem-solving skills are key for DevRel professionals, as they need to quickly and effectively spot potential challenges and develop solutions. Problem-solving requires the ability to think critically in order to evaluate challenges from different angles and come up with creative ideas to solve them.
Recruiters also look for DevRel professionals who are persistent and can work through problems independently. As stated in the DevRel and Marketing job listing at Packt, the ideal candidate should be "comfortable using a combination of intuition, experience, and expertise to identify potential problems and can take corrective action quickly”.
This is where your technical experience can come in handy, as most developers are problem-solvers and have experience troubleshooting complex issues.
Time management is also a highly sought-after skill for DevRel professionals. This role requires a certain level of organization and discipline to manage multiple tasks, projects, and deadlines. As DevRel professionals often have a large variety of responsibilities ranging from content creation to writing code to attending conferences, it's important to know how to fit everything into the limited amount of time.
Developers expect DevRel professionals to provide them with thoughtful and personalized support. From helping developers understand product features to troubleshooting technical issues, DevRel professionals must be able to work collaboratively with the dev community in order to ensure their success.
For example, DevRel engineers at GitHub are expected to provide world-class customer service and support.
A recent Senior Developer Relations opening at Audiomob states that
the selected candidate will be guiding clients through the plugin integration process and championing their needs.
Why Is Previous DevRel Experience Important
There are companies like Matter Labs or Okta that already have a Developer Relations team and their work structure in place. However, many companies are only starting to put together a DevRel department and most are looking for their first DevRel hire. Someone who will be in charge of responsibilities like:
Establishing operational procedures and standards for developer relations
Building a community of advocates and champions for the company's software
Creating an online content strategy
Creating a strategy around events, webinars, and speaking opportunities
Identifying opportunities for partnerships
So, getting into a role with no actual experience is definitely risky for the employer which is why most DevRel open positions require you to have some. Having a background in DevRel shows recruiters that you understand the role and have proven yourself capable of performing it.
Gaining Skills & Experience
Gaining the necessary experience in order to apply for jobs in DevRel might look slightly different depending on whether your aim is to achieve a role in a more technical direction (developer documentation, developer support) or in a marketing-related role (developer marketing, community management).
If you are someone with technical background, i.e a developer, and are thinking about switching your career to developer relations, then you might think about using some of the below ways to showcase your experience:
Share your knowledge: Start writing, recording tutorials, or speaking about the software you use.
Take on some DevRel responsibilities at your current position: There may be a need for DevRel activities at your company that you are not aware of. Talk to your employer and see whether, for example, creating content for the company could be needed.
If you are someone without a technical background, i.e a marketing professional, and are thinking about transferring to a Developer Marketing role, consider gaining experience with the following:
Research the differences between general marketing and marketing to developers: Create a report/presentation/video of your findings and share this with potential employers.
Learn the basics of coding: There are lots of courses and bootcamps available online for acquiring some knowledge of the main coding languages.
To sum up, Developer Relations seems to be one of the most versatile career paths and it is an increasingly important role in the tech industry. Companies are looking for candidates with strong technical and interpersonal skills, one of the most important qualities being empathy. Whether you have a technical background or not there are ways to gain the necessary DevRel experience through writing content, taking on DevRel responsibilities at your current job or learning to code and sharing your knowledge along the way.
However, most importantly, it is necessary to have passion and genuine interest in the role, because, as ConsenSys has beautifully put it:
While we have a pretty good idea of what we need, we're ready for you to challenge our thinking on who needs to be in this role.
Hope you found this article informative and helpful. If you wish to share ideas or discuss the subject more, you can message me in the DevRelX community. To find job opportunities in Developer Relations, feel free to check out DevRel Careers where we post new jobs daily.