So, you have a career in DevRel? You've done one or more of the following things:
- Created written content.
- Created video content.
- Spoken at meetups or conferences, virtually or in person
- Worked with the product teams to advocate for users' feedback and why certain changes are important to do.
Do more of the list above or move up? Here's the thing though, it might not be clear what 'up' looks like. Well, you usually have two choices:
- Management. In the management track you are looking at managing functions or teams of people. That's a science all to itself. You should have a genuine interest for people and want to see them grow, to go down this path.
- Individual Contributor. What if you are happy doing what you do but you still want to advance? At this point, it's all about impact and using your time wisely. You need to realize that your time is a finite resource, and you need to make it count.
First realize it's about leveraging yourself and what you do in such a way that you have more impact. At this point it's good to ask yourself questions like.
Based on what I just did, did it:
- Improve the product. At the end of the day, your company hired you to improve the products they have and increase its usage.
- Did I change the way we work?. A very impactful thing to do is realizing that the way you and your colleagues do things is not the most efficient way. can you suggest a better way and can you prove it's better?
- Are other folks aware of the work I do?. DevRel is a lot about impact, impact on the user communities you work with but it's also about making folks internally, in your company, know what you do. The more people see you as someone that brings about changes and comes with valuable input, the more people will trust you and want to work with you.
- Measure, do it and get good at it. You should aim to measure the impact of what you do as much as possible. Is it worth doing if it can't be measured? That last is a bit of hot take but it's to ensure to push you to at least try to measure the activities you do. It's hard to argue with numbers that says you influenced a sale; you drove X more users to a service. What if you can't measure things that exactly? Then you need to be good at storytelling, that can even be the most efficient thing to do at times, but as stated before, numbers are hard to argue with.
You need to grow more skills. You might be a great content creator currently but don't know how to strategize or talk to management, also referred to as 'managing up'.
There are plenty of resources out there but learn how to:
- Write a strategy doc. People won't take your word for it. Write it down in a doc, mission, vision, what you want the impact to be and show it to people. Be prepared though that your doc might stay buried in a desk for 2 years, so write many docs.
- Put yourself in a manager's position. The position you are aiming for, try to imagine being them, how would you do their job, responsible for 100+ people, you most likely would need to formulate high-level strategies and care less about a specific tech. A thing you can do is to look at how they communicate via email, try to emulate that style. Look also how they carry out larger meetings, how they set the context, how they drive the meeting, and how they NOT get stuck in petty arguments.
- Be brave. When opportunity knocks, take it, if someone wants you to handle something, go at it with the fury and passion of a thousand stars. Yes, there will be some things that are outside of your comfort zone, but you need to adopt a growth mindset.
- Laugh in the face of hardship. No really, it's sometimes very hard to navigate being a manager or manage things at a high-level cause it's all about politics. Sometimes you need to circle the problem and listen and just live to fight another day.
- Get a mentor. Someone has done this journey before you. Even though their journey might not be your journey, listen, there's something to be learnt about human behavior.
- Tell people you want up. This might not be obvious to a lot of folks, especially if you like me come from a culture where you shouldn't make too many waves, let the work speak for you etc. The moment you say you want 'up', people look at you differently cause moving up is to commit yourself to the company in a whole new way. It's not just about you anymore, what you do, but realize you are unimportant, it's about the mission of the company. - Align yourself to the mission.
- Get a manager that believes in you. Having a manager that believes in you will make you deliver above your ability as you will do a ton of growing in the process. Of all the things in this list, this is the most important one. It doesn't matter if you work with tech X or tech Y, having that support is E V E R Y T H I N G.
I hope this is helpful and it will make you realize that promotions don't just happen by hard work, it's a mental shift, it's a promotional campaign and it's a ton of work. But for the right company for the right mission, it will be worth it.