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Debbie O'Brien
Debbie O'Brien

Posted on • Originally published at

Learning about Developer Advocates

Being a Developer Advocate is by far the best job in the world, at least in my opinion and for me. It isn't for everyone and that's ok too. There have been many posts written about what is a Developer Advocate and many twitter spaces on how to get into DevRel so I won't go into that in this post but link and embed some great resources at the end of the post that will help you if you are looking to get into DevRel or have just started your role as a Developer Advocate and don't know where to start.

In this post I am going to share a bit about what I do as a Developer Advocate and what I love about it but it doesn't mean that you have to have all these skills to be a Developer Advocate because

everyone is different and everyone brings different skills to the table.

How I got Started

First of all let me explain how I got started as a Developer Advocate. It all started with my love for speaking. I do like to talk. When I went to my first conference I knew from that moment that I wanted to be a speaker but I was terrified. Of the stage? Not at all. I had been an actress for many years involved in film, tv, radio and theatre. Yes I even got to be in a film with Jared Leto. That is about as far as my claim to fame goes I am afraid. My fear was that how could I stand up on a stage and give a talk to a room full of experts. That is what we call Imposter Syndrome and that could be a whole post in itself.

I was lucky to work with a great team who believed in me and pushed me forward to apply for conferences and so I did and I gave my first talk at a conference in Lithuania. I was super nervous but once I was in front of people I just felt at home. But what I really gained from this experience was a network to other speakers, to amazing people who thought I was amazing and that energy is always what drives me forward. And so I kept applying to conferences and mixing with speakers. And that's when I started looking for a job as a Developer Advocate.

But was I good enough? Did I have the right skills? In my mind, of course not. But again, luckily I had my amazing network of speakers who always encouraged me to push myself and so I did and actually it was at a conference that I was offered a job as a Developer Advocate.

You got the Role. What Next?

Once you land the role as a Developer Advocate then what do you do? There is no course, no workshop and no real guidance to tell you what to do. Of course the company you work for will have ideas of what they want from you. For example my first role included docs, blogging, talks, videos, newsletters and in general helping and growing the community which in my opinion is the main goal of a Developer Advocate, at least for the roles I have worked in.

But of course it is hard to understand if you are doing a good job, if your talk has made impact, if your videos are worth all the time you invested in them. It's not easy to measure your work especially over a short space of time. Videos can take months or even years to get massive views and that should be ok with your company. Unless you already have a channel of 100k followers your video is probably not going to get that many visits right away.

Sometimes KPIs just don't work when it comes to DevRel roles.

Typical Day as a Developer Advocate

So what does my typical day look like. First of all I work way to much and that's cause I love my job and I have no idea how to differenciate between what is me working and what is me studying to improve my skills or building something for fun especially when you work for a product that you love. However I do try to have a good work life balance as best I can.

I normally get up at 7am and go straight to the office, the room next door to my bedroom. I try to use my first few hours to learn something new, do a course or a workshop unless of course I have something urgent that I need to attend to. I then go to the gym or for a run or cycle. I love sport and it energizes me and sets me up for the day. When I get back I start checking slack messages. OK here is where I tell a lie. I always check my slack messages as they come through on my watch so even out running I normally know if something is happening at the office and if it is urgent enough to stop my run for. Really should stop doing that. After checking slack messages I either answer them or chat with who I need to chat with or just go about what I need to do for the day.

What do I do in a day? Great question. It varies a lot depending on if there is a new feature of the product that I need to learn, implement, test out etc. Or perhaps I need to create a demo for it to see it working and to show others how it works. From that demo it is really easy to create a blog post or a video. Sometimes I might have to create a talk for a conference or a workshop.

My role is very much mixed with creating content and working on or with the product in some sort of technical way and that is really important to me as I feel I couldn't do my job properly and advocate for it if I wasn't working with it. Another thing I love to do is to help improve the product by improving the developer experience. And of course Twitter. Twitter is an important part of my day as it is how I keep up with what is going on in the developer world and how I connect with other developers.

There is always something to do, always something to learn and the best part of my job is reaching out to the community and helping them as much as possible.

Working as the only Developer Advocate in the Company

Over the past few years I have been really lucky to have a great network of people in the DevRel scene. I haven't had the opportunity to have a team or be part of a DevRel team and that for me has been the hardest part of my job.

But with every problem comes a solution so what I did was reach out to some of my friends who were in the DevRel scene and we set up weekly/biweekly calls which I have been having for almost 2 years now and this has really helped as I can talk openly to other like minded people about how to best do my job and sometimes even just to get an opinion on things I am doing or creating. With other speaker friends we have kept in contact through Twitter DM's and catch up calls and really I don't know what I would have done without them as they have helped make me be a better developer advocate.

Want to get Started in DevRel?

If you are looking to get started in DevRel then don't make the mistake of thinking you are not good enough cause you most likely are. You don't have to be a good speaker to be a good Developer Advocate. I happen to have many years of stage and camera experience so things like that are not a problem for me. But did you know that some Developer Advocates never speak at conferences or create videos? That's because everyone brings a different skill to the table and perhaps you are good in other things like creating content, demos, blogs or even teaching workshops.

Reading Resources

I highly recommend reading this book: Getting Started in Developer Relations by Sam Julien who is director fof DevRel for Auth0.

However there are other free resources if you can't afford the book. The amazing Angie Jones who is very well known in the DevRel scene has a great post on Demystifying Developer Advocacy.

Wassim Chegham, another amazing Developer Advocate who works at Microsoft has created this post along with a great diagram explaining The Subtle Art of Being a Developer Advocate

If you are interested in career ladders for Dev Advocates then Sarah Drasner has created this great resource: Career Ladders DX

Video Resoucres

There have been some great twitter spaces lately on Discussing Developer Relations with some of my favorite people in the DevRel scene including Angie Jones, Sarah Drasner, Colby Fayock, Kelsey Hightower, Emily Freeman and James Q Quick

One of the people I look up to the most in the DevRel scene is Martin Woodward Senior Director of DevRel at GitHub who takes us through the journey of DevRel at GitHub and how they grew the team.

Promoting myself here but checkout our DevRel Round table discussion with myself, Tim Benniks and Lucie Haberer.

Also I have another interview on being a Developer Advocate with Marc Backes, who has now become a Developer Advocate since hosting this interview.

Audio Resources

Another Great Twitter Space is How to Lead DevRel Teams as well as DevRel Hiring Manager AMA which both share some great tips and advice and are well worth listening to.

I have also been interviewed on a few podcasts about DevRel, Developer Advocacy, Navigating Tech, & Frontend Dev with Margo McCabe and Developer Advocacy from Nuxt to React on Enjoy the Vue.


The DevRel scene is a great scene to be in and there are a lot of interesting roles out there. Give it a go and let others decide if you are a good fit or not and if you get rejected then just try another company as roles and skills vary a lot depending on the company and what they are looking for.

As this role is pretty new it is hard to find people with a lot of experience so don't worry about not having experience. Although I would recommend having some sort of experience in creating content, communities, mentoring, etc. Be involved and active in the community as much as you can and don't be reach out to people and make new connections especially if you have already started in the DevRel scene. We are all just one big happy family really so welcome to the family.

I hope this post and the links helped at all. If they do let me know on Twitter and of course follow as many DevRels as you can and learn from them. There is no expert out there, we are all just learning and for sure you will be able to teach us a thing or two in the not so distant future.

Good Luck, You got this!

Top comments (5)

zachjonesnoel profile image
Jones Zachariah Noel

Thanks a million Debbie. I'm looking out for DevRel transition and also do Serverless advocacy. This blog post has given me crazy insights and some starting off points, not to forget the ton of DevRels from whom I can learn more.

dawntraoz profile image
Alba Silvente Fuentes

Amazing article 😍

Very proud to have seen you speak before you became a DevRel, I feel part of your journey and I love how you're doing it 👏

debs_obrien profile image
Debbie O'Brien

thank you so much. your journey is pretty amazing too. Look forward to seeing how far you grow. :)

mrpalindrome profile image
Nayan Das

Thank you for guiding with the awesome article!! 👋👏

raibtoffoletto profile image
Raí B. Toffoletto

Thank you so much for this article! It made me want to investigate more this path in dev.