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Josh Alphonse
Josh Alphonse

Posted on • Updated on

A Few Lessons I've Learned As A Developer Advocate (So Far...)

I don't think a year ago I knew what developer relations was or how one even gets into this role. Although I haven't been in the role for a long time, so much has happened that has allowed me to learn quickly.

To Start

My official role is a developer advocate! For those reading this that don't know what developer advocacy entails I'll fill you in. As a developer advocate I have the privilege of building relationships and engaging with the dev community. This isn't a traditional engineering role, but trust me developer advocates are engineers. You need a strong technical background, relevant experience or even shipped an application to prod.

I went to college and got a degree in computer science but at that time I didn't feel a sense of community. I started to feel the community I wanted to be apart of when I attended a bootcamp for a few months. Developers come in all different shapes and sizes and come from unique backgrounds. Day by day the tech industry is getting more diverse and with that so are our engineering need and wants! Having a developer relations team is one of the hottest trends right now because the value in having one is blatant. Companies realize that it's going to take more than just documentation, forums or blogs to communicate with their consumers. They need dedicated engineers that can be on the ground level to engage with consumers directly. Word of mouth is a powerful tool and the way advocates communicate will shape a community.

Developer advocates act as the bridge that connects the people to the product+ and vice versa. In theory, a developer advocate practices three main disciplines.

Those are:

These three disciplines are used to fill any gaps the technical consumer may have with the product. So with that being said lets jump into the three lessons I've learned!

Build Something Real!

Anyone that works in tech from product managers to engineers, know that this career will always require you to learn something new. Same goes for developer advocates. Just having an understanding of why your product works isn't enough. You have to advocate for the developers so you must gain an understanding of their experience. Keep building example applications but make them interesting and make them related to yourself! I'm a musician and I've built a number of applications themed around my passion. Your engineering skills come into play as you must think outside the box and build something meaningful and engaging for your users! Build applications that have a purpose. Your developers will build accordingly

Community Is KEY!

Advocates shape, educate and facilitate the community. When you're done making an example application, you can take off your engineering hat and put on your community cap. Make a blog post and share how you built the example application. Post the code, explain why you implemented certain functions and try to use best practices! You can take it a step further by creating video content or putting together a presentation. All the content you create is valid to use as material for your meetups and conferences. The way you interact with your community effects the marketing of the product you are representing. With this role you become the face of your product's community and you have the ability to brand yourself!

Be Visible!

It's really convenient to just go straight home after work, or crawl to your apartment after a day at a conference. It's your job to be seen, and theres no better places than meetups, conferences and happy hours. Loosen up and go to a variety of meetups with different topics and audiences. You'll be around like minded people, gain exposure and make friends that can shift your perspective. Being with other developers can spark conversations that will help your journey.

Dont Be An A-Hole!

Just be a good person! Simple as that. Although this role is very technical you are definitely required to use more of your soft skills throughout your journey. Become that go to person for your product and brand yourself!

I haven't had this role for long but I am adjusting to wearing many hats and I'm grateful to be where I am!

Top comments (4)

lizthegrey profile image
Liz Fong-Jones

Thanks for this writeup! I'd emphasize though that attending after-hours events isn't mandatory for our trade, as long as you're doing community outreach other ways. I don't want chronically ill or disabled folks to think they can't do DevRel because of a false impression that it requires being 'on' all the time.

joshalphonse profile image
Josh Alphonse

You're right its not mandatory! This was just something to highlight based on my experience. Thanks for the feedback :)

missamarakay profile image
Amara Graham

Welcome to the wonderful world of DevRel Josh!

joshalphonse profile image
Josh Alphonse

Thanks Amara!