What Is Developer Relations
The question I get asked the most
You may hear it called developer relations, developer advocacy, developer evangelist, etc., but what is it really? TLDR; It depends… Developer relations can be anything from an API salesperson, public relations specialist, a developer documentation maintainer, a community manager, and pretty much everything in between. In short, Developer Relations, or DevRel as it is often called, is centered around helping improve the developer experience and ensure they are successful in creating or improving their product.
Who Should be in DevRel?
Someone in developer relations should be a jack of all trades. They should typically (although not always) come from some sort of software development background. Most DevRel roles will not have you coding much, if at all, but you need to understand what things are possible and how long they will take. Communication is a massive part of this role. Developers tend to speak their own language (code), and you need to understand where they are coming from. If developer relations has you on social media promoting a product or connecting with developers, you will need to understand life on the internet, filtering out trolls, and absorbing constructive thoughts.
How Do I Know What a DevRel Role Will Be Like?
A developer relations role can mean a different thing to every company, so here are some determining factors that will help you understand a job listing.
The Job Description
This one may be obvious to some, but read the job description and ask questions! Since there is so much variation to developer relations, read the job description thoroughly to understand better what you might be doing. Some of these roles require speaking at conferences etc., so if you dislike public speaking, be sure it would not be expected of you.
What Does the Company Do?
If the company is an API company, they will most likely be asking you to promote their service almost like a sales role. This type of role sounds like a nightmare to me because developers typically do not like to be pushed into products and can see through salesperson garbage speak. If the company has an app store, you will most likely be working with many third-party developers, which can be very different from a company where the developers are all internal.
Who Does Developer Relations Report To?
Does this role report to an engineering manager, a community manager, a marketing manager, or someone else? If you will report to an engineering manager, the role may still have a substantial amount of coding compared to if you report to a marketing manager.
Who are the Developers?
Will you be working with internal developers only, or are there third-party developers and contractors? Will these third-party developers be from large companies, small teams, or individuals?
What is Already Available to Developers?
Does the company already have good documentation? Will you be maintaining/updating any example code? Do you have to start writing documentation from scratch or salvage a mess?
My Role in Developer Relations
I have recently moved from a traditional software engineering role into developer relations. Every job comes with pros and cons, but overall my experience has been great!
What Do I Do?
I am responsible for updating documentation used by third-party developers. I also help them get their work polished and published in our app store. It is awesome to see how proud developers are when their project hits the store. Typically these are individual contributors, but occasionally I get to work with devs from big companies to help them get started building for our platform. I’ve also recently stepped into maintaining the open-source projects we provide, which I look forward to being more involved with. My favorite part of this role is being a part of the idea process. We get apps of all different kinds and from all different industries. I can give my thoughts on them, provide a proof of concept, and then hand it off to someone else to finish the complicated bits. If you are familiar with the Pareto Principle, I only have to work on the fun 20% percent 😅. There are only two downsides that I have noticed so far… The first is that I am a little worried I will lose some of the skills I have grown during my time as a traditional engineer. I think I can counter this by continuously staying up to date with new things introduced to the industry via courses and working on home projects after hours. The second is the salary. At this point, I would call my minor pay cut a very worthy trade for a role I am delighted with, but we will see what the future holds!