I recently started as a Developer Advocate at IBM. The job description detailed my day to day as follows for most part (and I am paraphrasing):
- help educate developers in a specific technology area
- present at meetups and conferences
- help run hackathons and mentor at events that IBM is involved in
- present developer concerns, feedback and comments back to the product team in a timely fashion
- write educational blog posts and publish technical content
- help present and writedeveloper code patterns
- participate in opensource projects
I have over ten years of experience writing product code as well as working with clients on custom projects in various industries using different languages and frameworks. I also mentored at CodePath, a local San Francisco bootcamp, and loved helping students complete labs and projects. I knew that based on my past experience, I would not only be able to satisfy the requirements above, but also enjoy what I do. However, in my head, I was lacking the following qualifications
- have > 10k twitter followers
- have presented keynotes at major conferences around the world
- have every post liked and upvoted at least a couple of thousand times !
After my first six months in this job, I have come to realize that the three qualifications that scared me were just that; internal fears and doubts when embarking on this new journey. I absolutely admire the hard work folks have put in to become an influencer in #devrel and I hope in months and years to come, I will be able to contribute at the same level, but it is not a requirement to get started. Six months is a short amount of time, but I am penning my experience so far in case it helps people curious about this role.
1 It takes a lot of time and energy to prepare quality content for blogs / presentations that engages an audience and more importantly probe them to ask questions and light a flame so to speak. I have a new admiration for the speakers at conferences and meetups ! There is a constant learning process. Technologies evolve and change in a short period of time and as a developer advocate you are expected to keep up to pace. It is okay not to be an expert in everything. It is important to me that the audience always leave my talks having learned something new, but it is okay to learn a few things with them.
2 Public speaking is a skill that needs to be refined and honed over time. I remember my first IBM meetup with Bear Douglas and Roach presenting on chatbots on Slack using Watson. I of course wanted my first meetup to go well, but also had heard both speakers before and did not want to botch it up for them ! I spoke to Erica Webber, a senior executive at IBM and also a mentor, over coffee and she reminded me to make use of this fear. I don’t think I really slept the night before. I rehearsed multiple times on the day of the meetup and then decided to go early to the venue to practice one last time before people started showing up.
I remember my previous manager Kim Newman reminding me of one of the core mantras at IBM, Think → Prepare → Rehearse, when one of the phone calls we were on with the client did not go as expected.
c. 1300, “to give an account of,” from Anglo-French rehearser, Old French rehercier (12c.) “to go over again, repeat,” literally “to rake over, turn over” (soil, ground), from re- “again” (see re-) + hercier “to drag, trail (on the ground), be dragged along the ground; rake, harrow (land); rip, tear, wound; repeat, rehearse;” from herse “a harrow” (see hearse (n.)). Meaning “to say over again, repeat what has already been said or written” is from mid-14c. in English; sense of “practice a play, part, etc.” is from 1570s. Related: Rehearsed; rehearsing.
What stands out for me in that definition is “to rake over, turn over (soil, ground)”. It is not simply rote repetition. To rake over means to ask questions, understand the audience, give enough background, prepare key takeaways, and anticipate questions as best as you can. We had close to a hundred people at the meetup and I thought it went very well despite having cold feet and a pounding hard for the first five minutes.
3As a developer advocate, I work by myself for most part. That being said, I have a fantastic team without whom, I would not be able to do my job. I am constantly learning from each one of them and they are very supportive of me.