Tell us a bit about yourself

Hi there! My name is Liran Tal and I really like building things and helping people. From a young age, I got involved with the Linux kernel mailing list, and actively collaborated in open source forums. As I built more software and released it as open source, it brought me closer to the tech industry and how I got into professional software development in my career. At my job, I always liked doing presentations to my teammates to share knowledge of my experiences as I was learning. These evolved into department Lunch & Learn sessions, which evolved into meetups, and then into conference talks. I effectively found myself doing the things that DevRel do while being an engineer, or a team lead. At that time, I also published my book Essential Node.js Security, and got actively involved in the Node.js Foundation’s Ecosystem Security Working Group. I was naturally curious as a child, and my interest in software security was molded at a young age, to later shape into my activism in global and local Israeli hacker culture. It would then be no surprise as to why I took the opportunity to lead Developer Advocacy work for Snyk, a developer-first security company.

What do you feel is the most important part of your job?

Security is one of those elusive concepts that you don’t assign value to until you lose it. That’s why it is so important for me to raise the awareness of application security and software security as a whole. It’s a subject that, beyond cybersecurity media headlines, gets little attention in developer scholarship, let alone day-to-day software development practices. Next to this, education activities, such as building best practices guides, and other forms of knowledge sharing is a prime focus for me. There’s a good chance that if you’ve heard or seen anything about web security or more specifically, JavaScript and Node.js security related, it’s something that I contributed to. Genuinely making developers successful at building secure software is something that I’m very passionate about. Next to that, I found that inspiring individuals has an incredibly big resonance in the world because it’s a catalyst that accelerates your train of thought.

What is something you’re struggling with?

In Developer Relations, it is easy to wear many hats and lose the forest for the trees. Speaking activities, user advocacy, content production, campaigns, upstream community working groups and so many other activities that Developer Relations teams handle. Surely, DevRel is a vertical industry that breaks down to more singular areas of focus such as Advocacy, Community, Engineering, Experience, and others. Yet, in most cases, a DevRel group starts very small and it takes time until it matures to a big enough team to justify such an inner-department split.

A force that Jedi DevRels in the universe needs to balance is authenticity, genuine empathy, and the promise of value. If you let it, there’s a thin line between marketing, sales and developer relations. Greed is the path to the dark side. Greed leads to deceit, deceit leads to frustration, and frustration leads to suffering. That means the suffering of both your users and your business, yes? Yes. Not a place you want to be at. And so with that, learning what activities to take on, how to execute them, and when to say “no” are important traits in order to be a true advocate in your developer community.

Tell us about a time you were inspired by someone or something in DevRel.

I’m grateful for this question and topic because I have many folks I look up to. So, here we go. Charlie Gerard, in how she brilliantly advocates for new trends on the web like, Tesnorflow.js and builds fun demos to share her knowledge and inspire others. She also recently wrote the book on this, literally. Anjana Vakil, in the phenomenal way she is able to distill a complex topic into an engaging talk. If you never watched her talks before, I highly recommend doing so now. Anaïs Urlichs is one of my favorite persons in her energy when she teaches about cloud native technology, and how she learns in public.

What’s one change you’d like to see in DevRel?

In the past 3 years, I’ve seen some folks hypothesising the peak of DevRel, yet I can’t help but stress that this couldn’t be more wrong. Hear me out. Software is eating the world. Everything is software, and everyone has a share in the developer economy, one way or another. Much like our universe, software and developer-based verticals are only going to expand. Developer Relations is going to explode. In the past year, we’ve witnessed an incredible growth of developer tooling companies. For example, Vercel, building frontend application tooling at a valuation of $2.5 billion, or Snyk, building a developer-first security platform at $8.5 billion valuation. These leave little room to doubt the future of developer-focused companies.

This incredible growth brings many challenges to DevRel, such as the weight of accelerating user adoption for these companies. This is surely an important pillar of the role, but if not executed with adequate sensitivity and thoughtfulness for end users, it may bring more harm than good. I would like to see Developer Relations roles and responsibilities more involved and in sync with their product peers, allowing for genuine impact on roadmap.