Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hello, friends on the Internet! I’m Elisha, and I care about bringing people together to solve social problems. I started a passion project called TechLadies, a community-led initiative in Asia that brings about gender diversity in tech. We teach women the technical and soft skills to switch careers into the tech industry through bootcamps, mentorship, and events.

Professionally, I’ve been working in developer programs at Facebook for the last 4 years, my current role being a Developer Community Programs Manager - I collaborate with different companies and communities for our programs.

I’m always working on a passion project, the latest being a foundation to fund micro acts of kindness. Let’s keep in touch on my website and Twitter!

How did you get into Developer Relations?

By meticulous and deliberate planning over a decade… just kidding - it was a happy accident! I wanted to find a tech co-founder when I started a tech startup because I was code-illiterate. So I started volunteering at tech conferences to meet developers without paying for tickets. 😂

Through manning coffee machines and bringing trash out, I met plenty of nice developers who became friends, and eventually, one of them encouraged me to learn programming. Coding is wonderful!

The developer community helped me immensely in my coding journey, which led me to wonder - why aren’t there more women here? That’s why I created TechLadies to help women switch careers into tech. TechLadies was a way for me to give back to the community that has given me so much.

Turns out building TechLadies helped me build skills relevant to DevRel - from community engagement, organizing workshops, corporate/community partnerships, to designing developer programs. And I love it!

So when the position opened up at Facebook to scale their Developer Circles program, I knew it was for me. Unbeknownst to me, my volunteering experience gave me a leg up in the process. And that’s how I got into Facebook, starting off as the Developer Programs Manager - APAC.

What advice would you give people looking to join you?

Before jumping into secret sauces, I’ll clarify that I do not write code or technical content and I do not manage a community at work. “DevRel” as a profession encompasses many roles with varying skills required.

My role as a Developer Community Programs Manager now is to create and support programs that engage with developers. You can learn my thought-process to designing developer programs at this talk I did at DevRelCon London last year.

My advice is this - start contributing to your community. I’m a big proponent of gaining new skills through volunteering. It has worked so well for me. I could start developer programs at TechLadies with no managerial approval or fear of career repercussions. It was also a great test for me to see if I like DevRel enough to pursue it as a career.

Volunteering also teaches the great mindset of “winning by helping people win”. You only gain the skills you want if you help others. Want to learn how to organize an outstanding hackathon? Sure! Be prepared to put in the time and effort to make sure that participants get the best experience ever. You get what you put in, and I’ve felt this mentality apply in both my career and life.

How has your role changed in the past year?

It was really challenging earlier this year as I managed the developer programs at Facebook in APAC back then, which was the worst-hit region.

I led a big offline-online conference celebrating International Women’s Day, and we planned for a livestream from the Singapore office with in-person watch parties all around Asia. It was surreal to see some watch parties get cancelled around the region to ensure everyone’s safety, but the threat got real for me when a day before we’re scheduled to film the conference, we have a confirmed COVID patient at the office.

Cue panic.

And stress-eating McDonald’s late at night.

Through talking to different stakeholders and drawing up a safety plan, we eventually completed the project the next day and hit all the goals we set out to achieve. This project then served as a reference for various teams within the company. DevRel during COVID was less stressful for me after this trial by fire.

On a happier note, I switched roles within Facebook! I’ve moved from a regional role to a global one, challenging my skills to contribute to developers globally. I am extremely grateful that my career could progress despite what a crazy year it has been.

How do you see the future of DevRel?

If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that crystal-ball gazing doesn’t always work.

But since you asked: the future of DevRel is… decentralized.

The majority of DevRel programs are designed for developers in English-speaking markets, which makes sense given that most developers are based in those markets.

However, DevRel programs cannot be exported and applied as-is in different markets, for doing so ignores local cultural nuances. I talk more about it in an article here. It always makes me want to scream into a void when I see people excluding a playbook that works in the USA and expects the same results in Indonesia.

As the population of developers grows in regions such as Asia and Africa, I’m excited to see more localized or new DevRel programs designed for these developers. It’s going to be exciting to see what innovation the DevRel industry can come up with!