Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a Senior Developer Advocate at Deepgram, a Speech Recognition API, working remotely from the UK. I’ve only been at Deepgram a couple of months, but so far I’ve got to create a load of content for our brand new developer platform, begin planning our first and third-party events for next year, and support independent developers in using our API.
I’ve been doing DevRel for almost 8 years spanning lots of job responsibilities from building community for professional services, running ambassador programmes, devising and delivering workshops, and building developer tooling. My specialism, though, is in events having run an agency focusing on developer events for two years where we ran both our own events and on behalf of clients wanting to create great experiences for devs. Thankfully, I closed that business in January 2020 just before events became… a bit trickier.
I’m a self-taught developer having first attended a hackathon in 2011 with no programming knowledge (read: dragged by a friend). When I finally decided to go to university I did a BSc in Creative Computing at Goldsmiths, University of London. This had me expand my technical skills by applying them to creative disciplines like generative art, interactive theatre, and some audio programming. Learning through play has always been an interest of mine, and my time at Goldsmiths really helped me understand how to apply this - something I try to take with me to inspire others as a Developer Advocate.
Finally, I have a couple of side projects to shamelessly promote. You Got This is a community event series focused on discussing core skills needed for a happy, healthy work life (cheap workshop day and free conference in January 2022). My other project is Event Handler - a small Discord community for developer event organizers.
What do you feel is the most important part of your job?
Equipping developers with the tools and knowledge they need to be successful in building their projects. To do that I always try to meet developers where they’re at - that could be learning styles, technical proficiency, or their development set up.
“Meeting developers where they are” also means being present where they expect to get help, and making sure they know you are available. Being at both big events and smaller community events, producing educational material about technologies they may be learning, and having a clear way for folks to get in touch that respects both their time and yours.
For Your Team
As Developer Relations practitioners, we understand what our audiences will want and respond well to, but this is sometimes at odds with what your company expects. And, worse, some of our known-to-work activities can look really insubstantial and self-gratifying.
I’m really fortunate that at Deepgram there is buy-in at the highest level for a DevRel program that looks as I would expect, but this definitely hasn’t been the case at every company I’ve worked for and I’m sure that will resonate with some of you.
A key part of our roles, while the practice of Developer Relations is still being understood by many, is educating your leadership teams on what you’re planning to do and why. Pointing to success stories and public sharing of failures from others can be really useful when gaining buy-in.
What is something you’re struggling with?
The biggest challenge I’m facing is my own aspirations vs current capacity. Our DevRel team is fairly new and, with that, is an equally exciting and terrifying blank slate. I’ve worked in a few DevRel teams before with the largest being almost 40 people which allowed for quite a lot of output, but we are currently just 5, and sometimes I should take a step back and remember that.
I can see all of the things I would love our team to be doing, and know we have the skills between us to be successful, but not enough hours between us to take on the whole list. In time, we will hopefully grow and take on more projects, but there’s nothing wrong with being the turtle and picking off just a small handful of things to ace today.
What’s one change you’d like to see in DevRel?
More support for juniors getting started! The demand for developer relations practitioners is growing rapidly, and there is lots of new talent entering the job market. This is great, but I don’t think every company is well-equipped to support juniors in being successful. Many of these roles being filled are sole DevRel posts, and that demands experience which will help form and execute on strategy.
There’s lots of ways companies can remedy this - take DevRel and put it in an established marketing team with capacity to nurture talent, hire some time from an experienced consultant to help form strategy, or accept you may hire someone with limited experience and give them the time and space to hone their skills.
I’m really hopeful and excited to welcome new people into our fairly niche community and making sure they feel comfortable and confident in their abilities.