re: Developer Advocates: How Did You Get There? VIEW POST


I came from a Computer Science, developer role at a startup. I used to participate in lots and lots of hackathons. I discovered an interest in taking whatever APIs were available that weekend and combining them together quickly into a demo, in a sense, tinkering all the time.

At one hackathon, I was talking with the IBM team and it just so happened the team was hiring. I joined the team of advocates and began supporting hackathons from the other side of the table (among many other things).

To overly simplify it, advocates can have many different backgrounds, it depends on what you're doing day to day and the team you're on. There are experienced engineers that need to understand specifics of the tech they are advocating for and answer the hard questions, or at least be well connected to the answer. There are more broad advocates who need to be able to connect things together and understand the ecosystem as a whole. And then there's the people/business advocates who are there to have conversations and make network connections.

Some skills that are helpful:

  • Outgoing: be human...introverts can do this absolutely have to engage people everyday, be friendly, and available for whatever questions come up. You want to become that friendly neighbor someone can stop you on the street (I've had many people recognize me "off the clock" and want to chat) and talk with.
  • Have a network: you should be able to find answers quickly, either resolving a question yourself or knowing exactly who can help
  • Brand: establish a personal brand, whether it be via YouTube videos, blogs, Github, that represents what projects you're interested in, what you can help with, and a way for "fans" to follow you.
  • Patience: you're gonna get a lot of simple questions that you think are easy to find. Remember that many people are just beginning, just like you were at one time, and just need that little nudge.
  • Work/life balance: it's really easy to become an advocate all day, everyday and never clock out. It's important to manage your time and understand you should clock out. I know many advocates who live on the adrenaline and they "hide" in the corner to regenerate energy. Conferences are especially tough as traveling is fun and glorious, but some days you really appreciate sitting on your sofa at home and doing absolutely nothing. You might think an advocate speaks for 50 minutes and that's it...but there's a lot of prep, travel, and other things that need to happen.

It's such a fun and rewarding role that you wonder how you get paid to do it.

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