Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a Developer Advocate Lead on the Academic Team within Cloud Advocacy at Microsoft, with over 20 years’ experience as a web and mobile developer, specializing in creating cross-platform mobile and web apps. I’m a multilingual multiculturalist with a passion for hardware hacking, mobile apps, Vue.js, machine learning and discovering new things every day. With a PhD in medieval French literature, my area of focus is currently in applied machine learning, applying new techniques to rediscover ancient artifacts. I’m the founder and CEO of Front-End Foxes, an international nonprofit charity that promotes diversity in front-end developer communities. Visit Front-End Foxes Inc at frontendfoxes.org. Visit my personal site at jenlooper.com, or via Twitter @jenlooper.
How did you get into Developer Relations?
I was a software engineer for 20 years and wanted to make a small change, so I was recruited by a friend into a great company called Telerik, which gave me my start as DevRel.
What advice would you give people looking to join you?
To be a good Developer Advocate, I believe you need to be a good engineer, to be able to speak the language of developers in the trenches. At least half of your work should be pairing with product teams, so that you can best represent their work to the company’s customers. After all, it’s your job to act as a liaison between the folks building the software and the folks using it. Having mileage as an engineer is really helpful to be able to make that liaison with conviction.
How has your role changed in the past year?
The biggest change for me is that all travel has ceased due to COVID…a big change for folks who spend a lot of time on stage. But before this happened, I was really questioning the sustainability of this business model.
How do you see the future of DevRel?
I think the business of conferences will have to change and DevRel’s role as evangelists as well. An industry around tech conferences has arisen and I don’t think it’s sustainable from a carbon standpoint or from a community standpoint. COVID has forced us to take all our activities online, with varying success. We need to really think outside the box to reach more people in the most authentic manner, without depending on in-person events.