Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi, I’m Martin from Zurich, Switzerland. I’m a Developer Advocate for the Google Search Relations team. When I’m not writing code, docs or prepare presentations or organize events, I usually dive, cycle or swim. I’ve been in tech for over a decade and spent that on all sorts of stuff, backend, frontend, embedded software, DevOps, so I’ve seen many sides of our job and the systems we create.
How did you get into Developer Relations?
Well, I think for me tech has always been a means to an end; specifically a way to solve problems for humans. That human side of tech is more important to me than the question of using or not using semicolons or tabs vs. spaces. That led to me teaching others how to solve problems, helping users to be successful with the solutions we built and also improve our products by listening and incorporating feedback from our users – but being a geek at heart, I felt most at home when I talked with developers. I eventually wrote a book on Polymer, taught workshops on WebGL and WebXR and soon got tasked with building a developer-focused product at a small startup. Doing that in a startup that is finding it’s product-market fit is hard, so it didn’t work out in the end but I learned a ton in the process…and then Google knocked on my door and made me a great offer to help people building websites and webapps that are discoverable.
What advice would you give people looking to join you?
If you are more interested in the human side of things and have a knack for teaching and empowering other developers with the knowledge and technology available to you, DevRel is for you! But be prepared: Being in the public eye of the developer community means you need to be flexible, patient, respectful and bring empathy with you. It’s very rewarding but also more challenging than some people may think.
How has your role changed in the past year?
It did, actually. We used to do a lot of our outreach through in-person events which… hasn’t been a great choice for this year. That meant we had to change strategy while figuring out working with the new normal as we went along. That has brought many challenges but also amazing opportunities for us. Sure, I didn’t get to meet people face-to-face this year, but I also met so many new people thanks to the events being online where geography and travel aren’t prohibitive anymore. We explored new formats, like the virtual Unconference we did in August and that taught us many things we didn’t know and has made us excited to try more in terms of new formats and new things online. I also started a more-or-less regular Twitch stream that has opened completely different possibilities, so it’s been a wild ride!
How do you see the future of DevRel?
Oh, I am really bad at predicting the future. I can still hear me, looking down on my old Nokia, saying “Who would want to order anything via a webshop on THIS?” and look at us now…
But I think Covid has really changed not only the way us developers work, but also how people engage and interact with our systems. We still have to figure out how to sustainably build human relationships via online conferencing, I feel we are very far from using and leveraging the power of the online world for education and socializing…I am surely excited to see where this is going, tho! The virtual Unconference taught me that highly-interactive, engaging conversations can and do happen online, if done right, so I’m not too worried we’ll figure this out!