The first Developer Avocado 🥑 we interviewed for this year’s advent was Ali Spittel. She’s recorded the answers to our questions in a video, which we’ve hosted on youtube and lightly transcribed here for posterity. Enjoy, and we’ll see y’all tomorrow!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hey, I’m Ali, I’m a Senior Developer Advocate at Amazon Web Services on the Amplify team. Outside of that, I do a lot of blogging through my blog welearncode.com, and I also am a co-host of the Ladybug Podcast, which is a ton of fun.
Outside of work, I live in Chicago with my partner and my dog. I really like doing all sorts of active things like rock-climbing and running. In 2020 due to all the stay-at-home stuff I’ve been really vague on crafting, right now I’m down the embroidery rabbit hole.
How did you get into Developer Relations?
How I got into Developer Relations is a long story. I started working at a boot camp instead of being a full-time Software Engineer, almost three and a half years ago, I think. When I was making that career transition, I really wanted to make sure that I was staying on top of the new things coming out in the industry, even though I was mostly going to be focusing my career on teaching. So I started blogging about the things that I was learning, and from there, I started speaking at conferences and built up a network. It really changed a lot of my career for me, but I really did push back on moving to Developer Advocacy.
I eventually made the transition over to doing this full-time around three months ago, two and a half months ago, something along those lines. I’m pretty new to doing this as a job. But I’ve been directing meetups, creating content and all those types of things for a while at this point. So I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of the pieces to the job in an informal format for quite a few years.
What advice would you give people looking to join you?
The advice that I’d give to other people looking to join me, or move into this field is to teach everything that you know! So write it down, maybe for yourself first, and then try to push that, into some sort of content that other people can consume. If it’s a short thing, maybe in a tweet. If it is an answer to a question, putting that answer to the question out there. If it’s something longer, more in-depth, write a blog post or create a video about it! So put stuff out into the world, it doesn’t need to be perfect. And it doesn’t need to reach a large audience. At first, 37 people read my first blog post. And now, a couple years later, millions of people have read my blog posts. It grows over time, it doesn’t need to be an overnight success or anything like that. It can start small, and that’s perfectly valid!
How has your role changed in the past year?
My role has changed a lot this year because I transitioned into this field. I personally am not somebody who would choose to work remote-first. I just like being around people and working with people as much as possible. But I’m really excited about my new role and working so closely with so many, such smart people. People that I can learn so much from! That’s really the most exciting thing about my job, and one of the big reasons why I accepted it.
I also really like the ability to try out different content formats. And I’m brand new to creating videos. Even just like this one, it’s good practice to get my face on screen for a little bit, and get used to it. So I think that’s going to be a continuing part of Developer Advocacy moving forward. I also didn’t speak as much as I’m used to this year. The last couple years I’ve done like 20 something conferences, but this year I only did maybe like 10 or something along those lines. I was planning on taking it slow coming into this year because I didn’t want to do too much travel. But to be super honest, doing online events is a little bit more draining for me and less energising than doing in-person events.
That’s been another thing that’s changed. I’ve been focusing really heavily on content that can be reached by anybody online rather than one-time event type videos.
How do you see the future of DevRel?
As far as the future of DevRel, I’m so new to this - that it’s almost hard for me to even answer this question. That being said, I come from a background where I was teaching code full-time. So I feel like I can advocate really well for beginner developers, even though I personally have been in the field for seven years. I think that that’s something that more and more teams should look for. Somebody who can write to the people just starting out and make it so that the documentation is parsable by anybody out there. Not just people who have been doing this for a really long time.
I also see the rise of asynchronous content. Things that can be repurposed and people can come back to over and over again instead of unrecorded live talks. I’m sure people will be really excited to meet all together again when we can.
So those are my thoughts on the state of Developer Advocacy or Developer Relations and what I see coming up for us. Thanks for watching this video, and thanks for having me!