Chloe Condon on Actress to Evangelist
Sam Jarman 👨🏼💻 Jul 4
This is a article from my "Dev Chats" series where I speak to an awesome developer or techie every week or so. You can read more here. Let me know in the comments if you find these useful to you!
Introduce yourself! Who are you? Where do you work?
🙋🏼♀️ I’m Chloe Condon, and I’m a Developer Evangelist at Sentry.io (an open-source error tracking tool). I usually explain my job as “a liaison between marketing and engineering”, as I’m an engineer who sits on the marketing team. My job involves wearing many hats- some days, I’m filming/writing/creating tutorials around observability, other days I’m emceeing and organizing our monthly Sentry Scouts event (a camp-themed monthly meet-up with rotating topics), some afternoons I’ll be hacking on an example project, and others I’m in an airplane flying to [insert random location here] for a conference on [insert random technology here]. It’s a really fun job that’s always changing based on the community/company needs!
Who or what got you into developer evangelism?
While attending Hackbright Academy (an all-female software engineering bootcamp in SF), I had fully intended on starting as a jr. developer (as most graduates from the program do). However, on our demo night, when we were to show and present our project to an audience, I noticed that most of the women in my cohort were terrified of public speaking. Being a former actress, that aspect didn’t phase me at all- in fact, it was probably my favorite part of the program! I loved writing and finding the words to explain the concepts of the technology I used on my application.
My partner, Ty Smith is an experienced Android engineer and often gives talks and presentations at various conferences and meet-ups. In our first year of dating, I sometimes tagged along on weekend trips when he would speak at various conferences. I remember asking him in a car-ride once “Is that part of your job a job?”. And the rest is history! When I was job searching post-Hackbright, I found that my theatre background was very helpful in getting me interviews for evangelist roles (after all, I had 20+ years of on-stage experience, event planning, and community building). This is why I’m such a big advocate for hiring candidates from bootcamps and diverse backgrounds.
Tell me about the move from musical theatre to software. What inspire that?
To be honest, a lot of it was happenstance. I grew up in the theatre (quite literally)- my mother was a costume designer and my father is a director/playwright. My life from age 0-25 was either spent in a theatre, behind an audition table, in a costume shop, backstage, or in the box office. I went to musical theatre Summer camp, I attended a performing arts high-school, I performed in community theatre, and eventually attended SFSU and received a BA in Drama.
When I booked my first big theatre gig in San Francisco, I thought “WOW- this is it! I’ve made it!”... until I realized the pay was ~$500 for 4 months of work. So, I looked for a day job (as all Bay Area actors must do unless they live at home/wealthy and supportive partner/rich deceased relative), and ended up working at a variety of different start-ups in various support roles. I had no idea what engineers did, but I knew it was “computer stuff” and important.
Fast forward to a couple years later, when I first started dating Ty. I was working at NewCo as the executive assistant to John Battelle, and happened to sit in on a talk at Google about getting more young women exposed to/interested in programming. After the talk, I felt so sad that I had missed the boat (where the heck was Girls Who Code when I was a kid??). When I lamented this to Ty, he assured me it wasn’t “too late”, and encouraged me to take some courses online. After dabbling with some classes, I realized “Hey- I think I can do this?” and started looking into bootcamps.
At that point, I was working as an office manager and doing musical theatre rehearsals/performances nights and weekends. I had been feeling pretty burnt-out on theatre, and felt that I had really accomplished all my bucket-list items, so I decided to take a break and focus on leveling up my programming skills. In my office management role, I was really unhappy and depressed- I spent a majority of my day loading snacks and LaCroix on shelves, and doing other people’s expense reports- I wanted to use my brain more. To make things worse, I felt really invisible to all my co-workers, and wanted a role where my voice and opinion mattered. In my mind, programming was my ticket out of there, and I used my frustration and unhappiness in that role to motivate me to study and work hard and getting out of there. I remember singing this song in my head a lot and imagining the looks on people’s faces when I became an engineer one day.
Now, I love my day job! People ask me all the time “do you think you’ll ever perform again?”, and I usually answer “Well, I get to perform all the time at conferences now!”. Of course, I miss singing, but there’s always Martunis and karaoke... and I’ll sometimes sing at a gala or other one-night-only event that requires a minimal time commitment. Sadly, theatre is a lot of time for very little pay (I usually refer people to this article when asked “why on earth” I’d “leave theatre” because “it seems so fun!”). So, now that I feel like my time is worth a lot more, the idea of rehearsing/performing for 3+ months seems exhausting to me. But who knows- maybe in a couple years I’ll take a sabbatical and play Elle Woods in Legally Blonde the musical! I’m not ruling it out 💁♀️
What advice would you have for developers who want to become evangelists? Do we need any special skills? Anything to focus on in particular?
Make a brand for yourself, and create lots and lots of content! The content you decide to make is up to you: blogs, tutorials, videos, meet-up recaps, organizing your own meet-up, or even answering questions on StackOverflow. When you’re applying for evangelist roles, if your potential employer Googles you to find a goldmine of developer resources, you’re on the right track. Focus on engaging with the developer community and helping others. Videos of you public speaking help, too!
What do you wish people knew about being a developer evangelist? Is it all fun and travel?
Oh man- I wish! This is my favorite visualization of that:
These days, I’m not doing as much conference traveling as I used to. A lot of my time is spent making content and tutorials at Sentry HQ in SF. However, when I’m at conferences I tend to tweet/share more on social media. As a result, I think many people can translate that to “WOW! How glamourous- she travels for work!”, when in reality I’m in my hotel room at 6am getting work done, editing and practicing my talk for 2+ hours, walking the conference floor meeting people and networking, giving my talk, checking my email, answering questions/giving demos after, and curling up into a ball in my hotel room after too much extroverting time. Pretty glamorous, huh? I blame social media, because of course I’m going to share pictures from the after-party sipping champagne and not me eating Indian food alone at 1am going through my inbox 😂 It’s definitely an illusion.
What has been your toughest lesson to learn in your tech career so far?
Learning how to say “no”. I wrote a whole article about it here!
What would be your number one piece of advice for a successful tech career?
See above! Also, be yourself. You don’t have to act/look/behave a certain way to be an engineer or work in tech. Just be you, and bring your diverse and authentic self to the industry. I actually think my quirky brand has allowed me to stand out and have my voice heard more.
Have you got any hobbies outside of your job? Do you think they help your tech career in any way?
I craft a lot in my spare time- anything from making perler bead art, to repurposing my old troll dolls. I also really love Legos! I definitely use my crafting skills as an evangelist (be that with our meet-up, or even fun things to add to our tutorials)! But also, it gives me a chance to get my mind off word and focus on a creative task.
What books/resources would you recommend?
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life and Better Than Before have both shaped me significantly in the last year for decision making and habit forming!