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Your DevRel pipeline

Heidi Waterhouse
Heidi is a developer advocate at LaunchDarkly. She is passionate about clear communication, humane workplaces, and conference speaking. In her spare time, she sews dresses with pockets.
Originally published at heidiwaterhouse.com on ・2 min read

According to my inboxes, developer relations/advocacy/evangelism is a hot job title. I am a little surprised by this since those of us already in the industry thought we might get pushed off the ice flow if there was a downturn and we weren’t physically in front of people. But it’s really really in demand. Yay for us!

This penguin is thriving and learning to use a webcam instead of physical travel

However, most of the people who are at the mid-to-senior level of DevRel fell into it sideways. I started as a technical writer. I know people who have come to it from theater+bootcamp, from product management, from sales engineering, from pure coding positions. There wasn’t a path, there was a series of happy accidents for most of us. This un-pattern makes it really hard to say “this is the way you get into the job”. We can list some skills, but we don’t have a progression to offer people.

Happy accidents are no way to build a sustainable pipeline.

So as we’re looking around and trying to think about how to create the next generation of DevRel that companies so desperately need, I’d like to suggest…..

Support

A Black woman taking a call and writing notes

Yes, support. They’re like 3/4 of the way to doing DevRel already, and the support progression could easily include DevRel as an outcome. Here’s what they already bring to the table:

  • Product knowledge, especially of actual implementation as opposed to the ideal
  • People skills
  • Tolerance of reaction- or interrupt-based work
  • Implementation, glue code, and auth experience in a hands-on way

That seems like a really solid foundation for most DevRel roles! And the great thing is that you can retain senior support people by giving them this additional path to try, either part-time or full-time.

I think the reason we aren’t already recruiting heavily from our support departments is because we’re a little biased — we tend to think of it as an entry-level, non-technical (hah!) role. Technology culture generally values ✨creation ✨ over 🛠maintenance 🛠. But you know, because you have been saved by that level-3 support person at some point, that it’s pretty darn technical.

So if you’re recruiting heavily for a mid-level DevRel type who can connect with your developer-users, talk to pain points, come up with creative solutions, and can get up to speed on your product almost instantly, look inside.

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