Please make sure to read Ashley McNamara's post for a great explanation on what developer relations is.
I am currently sitting at Seattle-Tacoma airport where I am delayed for a few hours. I came to town for a summit with members of the Microsoft Developer Relations team. While I was here I was able to attend some workshops to get new skills, interface with people I didn't know and tell better stories. A funny thing happened during the week and it created something I love to do, analogize to explain my thoughts.
A person brought an idea to a workshop about storytelling that helped place what myself and others in the DevRel team do. At one point there is an analogy placed to us about Star Wars that I immediately challenged.
The person writes on a whiteboard, "OBI WAN KENOBI" and begins telling a story about being the master, taking on a student to teach them the ways of the force. I explained I didn't feel that was my position as a Cloud Advocate. Let me explain a bit in the world of Star Wars and how it all fits together but, honestly, I want to be R2D2.
Artoo is a plucky R2 series astromech droid that in the "A New Hope" is now part of the family farm of Luke's Aunt and Uncle. Now this implies ownership in who Artoo works with, but I don't know if the "Droid-Master" relationship really applied to this droid. Artoo is introduced into a universe where ultimately his labor is part of being part of something greater than just a simple droid. Artoo somehow transcended beyond being simply something who serves a master. Rather his time with Luke Skywalker becomes a friendship based on similar situations they are placed in.
Artoo has a number of tools, methods, and bits of information that throughout the experience of meeting Luke, Leia and all he is able to assist them on their journey. Artoo rarely shares opinions, but he will tell you when something isn't good or needs improvement when times are difficult. Artoo will provide you with the information that permits you to begin the journey as Luke Skywalker.
You were in a Universe where technology had practices you knew and understood. You have a job and do it daily but know there's more to the galaxy than what you've experienced already. You can feel it in your bones that the datacenter you've been working with forever has the same ol' same ol' problems that you spend fixing. You add some droids to improve your situation but their automation doesn't seem to fix everything because these other droids, they just weren't built the same. Your manager may have recommended an IG unit to help better eliminate threats, but you just don't know how to get one hired. Maybe your protocol droid is able to make a lot of the changes to translate problems from one group to another... but be honest, C3P0 still always needs a little help beyond the basics. Documentation is absolutely great, but it's not always perfect because it can be missing nuance.
At some point, Artoo enters the situation with information that validates those feelings you had deep inside. That there is something more for you to improve the situation you're currently in. Artoo is your advocate for your potential options moving forward. You get a message from Artoo that the galaxy exists and you're needed to help fix problems. In order to fix those problems, this droid needs to give you some help along the way.
Luke is a student that's actively learning in public. He's understanding the universe around him is filled with opportunity. As a part of the rebel alliance as Artoo, the goal is to help Luke get past his recent troubles and get him to what's next, saving Leia and the galaxy from oppression and totalitarianism.
As R2D2 in this adventure, my goal is not to create a Jedi. My goal is to be always there when you need me with information that can assist as you move closer to the people and places that will lead you forward. I can introduce you to people who currently are running services in production like Han or Chewie. We can then find ways of providing you a platform to leave Tatooine and go into and past the clouds.
I will not teach you the force. You are already force sensitive in this world and I want to just get you places to help you maximize your potential. I have maps, I have battle plans, I have ways that I know how to communicate in order to help you realize where you belong in the galaxy.
I will also help you meet people beyond peers like Han or Chewie. I bring a message that maybe it's time to seek your mentor to assist in your guidance to be a Jedi. I won't be Obi Wan for you or Yoda for you. What I will do is help you with the names out there that could get you on your next part of the journey. As your trusty friend and confidant. I am also going to give you maps to your next great challenge. That challenge might be going somewhere to learn even greater skills.
Artoo has taken you, the young sysadmin and showed you that there is a universe of options to provide you with ways to get out of your current predicament. We traveled to new places, you asked me to get you information, you asked how I can stop the trash compactor when it's squeezing you and making life harder. We got much of our greater mission done, but let's get you the new career. Let's use the force that Obi Wan showed you about, the force that Obi Wan helped you with.
I am going to get in the X-Wing with you when we run the mission. Your goal is to kick that interview's butt and blow up the death star using the skills your Jedi Masters shared with you. If you need support, I can be in the back of the X-Wing, looking after and fixing anything as you get closer to the target.
You're fighting fires, you're avoiding Tie Fighters and all while communicating with the team executing the mission. You're telling Biggs Darklighter what's going on while Vader is trying to take you out. Darth Vader wants your applications to die and your world to be difficult. Darth Sidious wants you to suffer for his outage.
You're going so fast in your X-Wing... you have lasers hitting you from all directions with pager alerts. But I am in the back, watching you use the force. As we get closer and closer to the target, you ask me to watch certain parts of the battle around. You mention when it's hard and I do what I can to help. Eventually, you pull the trigger on your X-Wing's stick and watch the torpedos fly. You explain why you are the best for the job. The one-in-a-million shot.
"WAHOO!" you scream. They hired you. You blew up the Death Star. I watched you, I was there with you the whole time and now it's time to continue your journey as you now are ready to meet Yoda.
I am going to stick around in the background in your story. When you need help on your next journey, I will have more maps, technical plans and moments together to help you still complete new missions.
I can't teach you how to raise an X-Wing fighter out of the water, but I can get you there to Dagobah. I will be there when you do finally raise the X-Wing, watching with awe at your growth and recognizing there still is a greater mission.
At the end of the story, when we've destroyed the empire and created a bigger and better world for everyone. We made new friends, we watched scary things but we did it together. But at some point, you might want to change the dynamic and no longer want to be Luke. Maybe it's time you take the first trip to Luke's house as Artoo yourself. You take your years of experience, you consider developer relations or advocacy job. You effectively have come full circle and become Artoo yourself. Maybe you just help mentor someone and be their guide on their journey when Artoo introduces you. Maybe you become a powerful Jedi Master and you then dedicate your time to managing more Lukes.
The analogy is about discussing how introducing people to technology by being a helpful guide is important. I am informed and connected to my community and recognize that by providing guidance to others looking to achieve what I have, it means stowing away ego, providing less opinion and giving guidance on how to get started, move advanced and continue to grow. As a person who's traveled from continent to continent doing this, I always feel like that plucky droid. When I get off the escape pod into a new city, I can't wait to meet this trip's Luke or Rey.
BB-8 had to help Rey begin her journey before she could ever leave Jakku and become a Skywalker. How will you help someone take to the stars and take their next steps? Please leave me a response below.
Feel free also to reach out on twitter, you can find me at @jaydestro.