Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m from Singapore but I have lived in the US for over 13 years. I left finance for tech because I realized I liked programming and the fundamentally more open nature of the tech industry. I started out in frontend with React, then gradually broadened to Node.js and serverless. I now work as a Senior Dev Advocate at AWS. I helped /r/reactjs grow from 40,000 to over 220,000 developers and then helped start Svelte Society from scratch. I also teach React, Node and TypeScript at Egghead.io and recently published the Coding Career Handbook as a compilation of writing and career advice.
How did you get into Developer Relations?
My first dev job was extremely unfulfilling, so I started blogging and speaking at meetups on the side to continue learning outside of work. After about 6 months of this I got a DM from Matt Biilmann, Netlify’s CEO, asking if I wanted to interview! I had no track record of doing devrel, but Matt and Phil Hawksworth and the rest of the Netlify crew were kind enough to give me a shot. This was what first gave me the idea that learning in public opens you up to all sorts of career opportunities you would not have otherwise.
What advice would you give people looking to join you?
Start Learning in Public. You don’t need permission from others; but you do need permission from yourself to start badly. Your early work will flop. You will compare yourself to others and get discouraged. Don’t. Everyone has a different path. Stick to it and try to get better every day. People will notice and try to help.
How has your role changed in the past year?
I’ve begun to realize that individual speaking and writing can only scale so much, and you can have much more impact working behind the scenes on docs, demos and reusable resources, helping others to speak, and developer exceptions. Covid has of course put a stop to all in-person events, so I am traveling a lot less. However I am still speaking at the same number of conferences, mostly prerecorded! I think this was a good, eco-friendly move to do, but it causes a lot more work on speakers (who now need to learn video production and editing) and there are still big aspects of in person events that cannot be replicated (one of my strengths is making 1 on 1 connections and extemporaneous speaking). Finally, moving to AWS has given me the biggest playground on Earth as it is the Everything Cloud - I’ve had exposure to many new technologies this year, including Flutter, Docker, Rails, Android, S3, Cloudwatch, Pinpoint, and the wide array of AWS Machine Learning technologies.
How do you see the future of DevRel?
DevRel will split into community-focused, product-focused, and content-focused specializations. Currently, devrelopers are being expected to do all 3 functions. I suspect we could be more effective if we focused more. I also think not all devrel work needs to be done in-house - the industry should explore more affiliate marketing and business development, and a lot of wheels are being reinvented creating swag stores and learning platforms.