Tell us a bit about yourself.
Oh, hi! 😀 I am @andypiper, a Developer Advocate at Twitter. I live in the UK. I’m self-taught in tech - my education was primarily in Arts subjects (History), but I’ve always been fascinated by the possibilities for technologies to improve society. I grew up on British 8-bit computers, and learned BBC BASIC.
Jumping all the way back, I got my first job after university in the UK Post Office’s IT division. After that, I worked as a technical consultant for 10 years at IBM, before some folks noticed me building community and giving talks around a technology called MQTT (which they picked up via my Twitter profile). Through that, I moved into a full-time DevRel role as one of the first advocates for Cloud Foundry. After 2 years in the cloud, I was invited to join the DevRel team at Twitter… and I’ve been here nearly 8 years. For me, it’s the ideal combination of a technical role, on a platform that is all about social - connecting people. In total I think I’ve been doing DevRel activities for 13 years or so, out of ~20 years in tech.
Other things I’ve done - I’ve been an Open Source project lead and admin, I’ve worked with the Eclipse Foundation, I’ve contributed to Ubuntu and was an occasional guest on the Ubuntu UK Podcast, back in the day. Oh, I also currently contribute to a fun weekly podcast called Games at Work, looking at future tech and gaming technologies, with a pair of friends I’ve known since my IBM days - it keeps my curiosity active!
I also love LEGO!
What do you feel is the most important part of your job?
People. Communication. Connection. Empathy. Those are all wrapped together!
I think the thing that got me into the role was an instinct to be open and to contribute (I started contributing to Open Source projects in the late 1990s). I’ve always enjoyed listening and understanding and learning from others, and “joining the dots” - whether that is connecting people to one another, or helping folks to understand how and why things work the way they do.
So for me, it’s incredibly important to participate and to be where other developers are - right now I spend a lot of time on forums, on GitHub and GitLab, in Discord servers, and in Q&A communities, so that I’m “tapped in” to what developers are doing, and what is and what is not working for them. I think this works well for me, and I’ve found that others in my teams often come to me in order to connect more into those same communities. Demonstrating empathy when something is frustrating or confusing, builds trust, respect, and openness.
Short answer summary: 👥
What is something you’re struggling with?
I honestly find it very challenging to keep up with all of the things I’m interested in, and to stay current. I’ve been in tech for a while, and I feel a strong need to keep my skills up-to-date.
As new platforms and coding languages and tools come along, I always want to be trying them out, and to become an expert - but I never have the time to dig in as deeply as I want! I’m a naturally detail-oriented person, and I want to know more than I necessarily need to about any technology that comes across my radar. That means I sometimes struggle to keep perspective, and to manage my time well… for example, right now I feel like I should be more familiar with several web frameworks, as well as knowing more about various databases, oh, and managing apps on different cloud platforms; but I also want to go play with electronics and Internet of Things stuff; oh, but I haven’t built a native mobile app in a while either… so, what should I choose to play with next? 😵
Beyond that, the change to remote has been challenging, because (as mentioned before), I’m all about the people I work with, interact with, and serve. Not being able to get together physically more often in “Real Life” has honestly been hard on my mental health; but on the flipside of that, I’ve also had more time to learn and relax, as a result of not travelling.
Tell us about a time you were inspired by someone or something in DevRel.
Oh, this is the bit where I get to talk about some of my heroes! I love this part 🙌
I’d rather not pinpoint a single specific time or something, but if I may, I’ll mention a few someones. Patrick Chanezon hired me into my first “proper” DevRel role - he made me buzz with his deep passion for, background in, and understanding of the software industry. Bear Douglas is one of the most inspiring leaders I’ve worked with in our industry, so smart, and such a great speaker. Cristiano Betta is also a brilliant speaker, and a great thinker about developer platforms (his talk using LEGO to illustrate developer experience, from DevRelCon a few years ago, is one I particularly enjoyed, I have other favourites as well).
Truthfully, there are too many people that inspire me in DevRel, for me to do a comprehensive job here, so I’ve just picked out a few. I’ve made a lot of friends in the roles I’ve had, I respect the DevRel community hugely. I’m fortunate to be constantly learning how to be better, from the people around me.
What’s one change you’d like to see in DevRel?
This is a tough question for me to answer.
I think it would be great if more organisations intuitively understood the importance of two-way communication with the developer communities they serve, to a point where it’s more natural for product and engineering folks to interact directly with their end-users. I’m not sure what that might look like. I sense that this comes from my Open Source, community-driven mindset.
I guess, in a way, I would love to see more participation across the board; but ultimately, part of the reason DevRel exists as a specialty is to act as a filter or funnel to surface core developer experience and requirements for product, as well as a source of expertise for engineering (and for marketing). If everyone did everything without the need for our specialised knowledge channel and the set of roles that are part of our side of things, then DevRel could kind of… go away. I’m thinking aloud, without a fully-formed answer! I go back and forth on this, similar to how I feel about the value of metrics…