This blog will be a little special and a little different. This is because of the relationship Yash (the host of the show) and the guest speaker shared within the GitHub Community. The speaker's pathway to open source and developer relations is truly inspiring. The way he formulated an open-source culture in an environment where the community aspect was missing initially makes you understand the value DevRel folks are actually bringing to the tech industry.
Before we dive more into his journey, I am sure by now you have at least some knowledge about developer relations. If you are new here make sure you check out DevRel.Page and also do check out the blog on the first episode to understand the basics of #DevRel and how "The Campus DevRel Show" started.
This episode's guest speaker is Juan Pablo Flores, the program manager for GitHub Education, leading the GitHub Campus Experts program. I am sure most of the folks who are part of GitHub's student community already know him. He is a celebrity in the Mexican student communities for the amazing work he has done and still does for uplifting the community culture in LATAM.
Juan's journey into the tech sector started in 2014 when he organized a hackathon called "MX Hacks". One of the biggest challenges he wanted to tackle was the interaction between the students. He mentioned that due to colleges being apart from each other --- private or public, there was hardly any inter-university interaction between the students. He focused on building a space where students could build whatever they had in their minds, work with folks they have never met before and of course FREE FOOD!
Did Juan start building a community before the hackathon or did he start building it along with the hackathon?
At the time when Juan started getting involved with tech communities, the ecosystem was very small. There were only a handful of people in the ecosystem who were "that influential". Even a hackathon with 15--20 people was considered big, where everything was organized on a contribution basis. SuperHappyDevHouse --- someone would allow the hackathon to happen at their houses, some other person pays for the pizzas and another brings the beer, the rest was all coding throughout the weekend.
Juan mentions that it was Google that started having strong community events in the country. That's when Juan started attending community events and eventually attended a meetup for Google Developer Group for Dart, where he met a few folks and got the idea for organising hackathons for student communities in Mexico. Juan met Jon, co-founder of Major League Hacking through a meetup. He mentions that the networks and connections he has made over the last 7 years have been the key to his and his community's development.
Random people that you meet at random places at the right time lead to better opportunities.
When Juan started building MX hacks, he was also having conversations with Jon and Swift, the founders of Major League Hacking, about building the league that they had in the US, in Mexico. He also wanted to see if the developer audience would like the idea of the hackathon in Mexico --- experimenting with MX Hacks which turned out to be a success. At this point, they started organising hackathons for governments, corporates, having built a decent community built around it.. After the first MX Hacks, they started getting a lot of emails and requests from people to organise the same event for colleges across the country. That's when Juan and other organisers felt they needed a bigger league for this and started the "La Liga Mexicana de Hackatones" (LMH).
The team that organised the Mexican league were the one that organised everything. But after a while, they merged with MLH which got them more global exposure and access to resources they didn't possess before. He also mentions that not only helped him make connections with the MLH team in the US but also with the DevRel folks in the UK.
The very first thing Juan mentioned was about finding the right people to partner with while you start an organisation and then sharing the same vision with them. He also talks about the process of separation, where the team that he was part of separated to focus on very different aspects of the same idea. This involved a lot of friction, the experience of which helped him develop a different perception and approach at a very young age.. Juan also derives the importance of opportunities that are presented to the student communities for their success and growth.
After working with MLH for almost 18 months, Juan had a lot of offers that he wanted to take but he couldn't due to his delayed degree. Juan decided to go back to university to finish his degree at the same time when he was approached by his friend, who was working at an IT consultancy company, to start Inventive Hack. He went on working and managing his school at the same time, but after 2 years it was getting harder and harder for him to manage time. At that time, they were building apps for various companies and also made an app for Mexico city to solve their traffic problems. Juan recalls that within a week they were having conversations with the CEO of Uber Mexico and similar big startups..He and his team were just paving their way through this new journey being total beginners in their early '20s. They ended up getting a lot of media coverage that made their firm explode leading to big partnerships.
Juan had helped the owner of the lab where he would later join as a researcher, to organise a hackathon and that's how he got acquainted and landed the position as a researcher. He mentioned that writing research papers was one of the most difficult parts of that job. Talking to other researchers and getting involved with their work was a great learning experience for him.
Juan also secured a summer internship at CMU, US to work with "top-top-top" researchers in the field of human-computer interaction.
When GitHub was launching its first-ever batch of campus experts, Joe from GitHub, approached Juan to talk about the program wanting to know if he was interested in joining in. Juan continued his community work alongside his other ventures all along. Juan joined the program and he never felt the need to sell GitHub or force himself to do so. He had already been talking about GitHub right from his college days and he was always fascinated to see students transition from learning about GitHub to their first PR merge. He also had a deeper involvement with GitHub as he became a campus expert and then a field expert. The training into the program was definitely very hard but at the same time, he could also pinpoint the places where the program was struggling. He later also became responsible for reviewing the training of other campus experts. He wanted to be influential in this space to make more students from Latin America and the European region to be involved in the tech space.
Juan recalls that learning how to react to incidents had been great learning, during his MLH days. He also recalls his biggest learning through his journey --- "Importance of access to opportunities". He felt the need to bring the change in the community around him and then branch out to provide the same opportunities wherever possible, which lead him to join GitHub as a community manager. He also knew that he wanted it, but at the same time, he could contribute to the role and make the existing program even better.
What advice would you give looking back at your journey, would you give to students exploring the DevRel field as a career option.
Work on your communications skills.
Communicating effectively, correctly and making sure that you are able to express yourself will always pay off in some way or another in future. DevRels, CMGRs, PMs --- are all expected to write & communicate a lot. If you aren't the best at it, start early! Start writing blogs, there are lots of platforms out there.
Yes! What an amazing insight into Juan's journey into the tech space and communities! Before the blog becomes too long to read, let's wrap this up.
Make sure you check out the first episode in the CDRS series, if you haven't already and also don't forget to check out DevRel.page, we have lots of content to get you started with your journey in exploring everything in and around Developer Relations.
Like always, Keep grinding! Keep working! And.... I'll catch you in the next one.
Adiós 👋🏻 😊