Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hello everyone! My name is Olena and I’m working as a developer advocate at Aiven.
I’m actually very new to this role, this is my fourth month, while for the previous 14 years I was working as a software engineer in such companies as Nokia, HERE and AWS. I worked in a mix of frontend and backend projects and this helped me to grow a wide variety of skills ranging from dealing with css magic to managing databases.
I’ve been paying attention to the work of developer evangelists for a long time, but I got determined to become a developer advocate myself just at the start of this year, 2021. At that moment I was working as a software developer in AWS and just by a lucky coincidence met a couple of developer advocates there. Not only did I learn more about what they do at work, but also I realised that I was already doing some of those things, albeit struggling to squeeze them between my daily development tasks.
I’m so glad I made this transition into the role of developer advocate. Now I can combine two things that I love - digging into new technologies and helping others! Sometimes I pause and reflect on how lucky and happy I am with what I’m doing now.
On a more personal side, I’m originally from Ukraine, now based in Berlin, but also had a chance to live in Sweden and Spain in the past. I love exploring new places through traveling and learning languages. Currently working on my Spanish and German language skills. I am a visual person, so I keep a tiny YouTube channel where I upload a mix of vlogs and thoughts on engineering topics.
What do you feel is the most important part of your job?
I believe the biggest value of our day-to-day work comes to how we influence the development community. And I see two most important aspects to it - on one side it is about translating complex concepts of technical knowledge into useful guidance that is easy and interesting to use, on the other it is to support and encourage learning, make everyone feel included and connected.
I believe knowledge sharing is an essential part of the engineering industry. Technologies are progressing fast and we almost always build our products upon others’ work, relying on open-source libraries, tools, and knowledge base written by others. With the speed we move, we need to have accessible and easy to navigate learning resources that ease the usage of new tools and technologies. And that’s why producing educational content is at the heart of my job, however, at the same time, I believe that no less important is to encourage and inspire those who are at the start of their professional journey. During the past 20 years, I met many people who helped me navigate my career path to be where I’m now. Now that I’ve seen and done plenty, it’s my turn to support others.
What is something you’re struggling with?
My biggest challenge is managing my time and saying “no” when needed, even when I really want to say “yes”.
This might be a part of my personality, but I’m very easily excited about new possibilities, whether it is diving into a new technology or starting using a new platform (hello, TikTok!), or learning a new tool, not to mention that I’m happy to volunteer to take up new tasks to help my team, since we all have a shared goal we want to achieve. However, this often means that my daily todo list never sees an end, and I constantly suffer FOMO, since I literally want to be in several places simultaneously. This is neither healthy, nor sustainable.
Admittedly, I’m lucky that my manager actively helps me to balance the time and regularly reminds me that we need to pace ourselves—it’s a marathon, not a sprint—and we’re here for a long run. What is also helpful is that the work is never pushed on my plate, but rather I consciously pull it, so it is in my power to size and portion it.
However, to be honest, I think it is an amazing challenge to have—I doubt I will ever run out of cool things to do!
Tell us about a time you were inspired by someone or something in DevRel.
This is a difficult question! I started my developer advocate journey because I was inspired by the positive energy, encouragement, and kindness with which DevRel people bring knowledge into the community. It is so tricky to find a single example. But let me share the most remarkable encounters I had this year.
My conversation with Kris Howard at the start of 2021 changed how my year ended, this was a first stone in the direction of a welcoming change. I was extremely lucky to learn a lot from Adrian Hornsby, who was my mentor. Adrian had a profound influence on how I see developer advocacy now. He combines deep technical experience, great listening skills, and knowledge of people psychology (or, at least this is how I see it!). His valuable advice and outside perspectives helped me a lot when I was at a crossroad, and I also deeply appreciated when he advocated for my interests and helped to find opportunities which I needed.
And even though I didn’t stay in AWS DevRel, I continue following Adrian, Kris, and others to learn from them. Luckily with our jobs it is so easy to do!
But now that I work as a developer advocate I observe, learn from, and get inspired from my colleagues. Lorna Mitchell, my manager, holds immense experience, has eagle eyes and golden advice for writing content. My Italian colleague Francesco Tisiot, who holds deep technical knowledge of databases, inspires me to share learnings with an open heart, connect people and bring kindness and care wherever we go (though, we still disagree about pineapple and pizza 🍕) And our community manager, Ana Vasiliuk, is fearless at diving into unknowns of community building.
What’s one change you’d like to see in DevRel?
Because I only recently joined DevRel, I can’t say what I would want to change. At this stage I want to be all ears - listen and learn. I’m a person of strong opinions, but I want to absorb and understand before I decide on these opinions.
However, I believe that as in all industries, we need to evolve in order to move forward. We need to regularly reflect on what goes well and what doesn’t and shape our practices and approaches accordingly. DevRel is relatively a new field, which means that it is still shaping and it is in our hands to build a strong foundation for years to come.