Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name’s Suze Shardlow, I am based in London, England and I currently head up Developer Community at Redis. I’m also a coding instructor, tech event MC and technical writer: I had my first book published this year. Inside and outside of tech, I’ve always loved making things that people use and enjoy, particularly crafts which involve needles or scalpels!
My love of tech and coding began when, as a small child, I got my first computer which was a BBC Micro. I spent many happy hours programming that machine, connected to the only TV in the house (which helped me hone my negotiating skills). However, the UK education system didn’t and, arguably - nearly 40 years later - still doesn’t know what to do with girls who like computing. So I was never shown that I could code for a living.
As a result, I took the most versatile degree that I could think of (Business with Marketing) which kicked off a 20-year career in marketing, management and logistics. I worked in industries including government (UK and Canadian), higher education, mechanical engineering, IT consultancy and law enforcement but never really felt that I had found my calling.
A few years ago I made a career pivot into software and also began running developer communities on a voluntary basis. I’ve organised two of the largest coder groups in London and successfully took them online when the COVID pandemic began.
My current roles are the perfect combination of all the skills and expertise I have developed during the various stages of my career. I was excited to be selected to speak at DevRelCon this year about the principles of marketing and how we, as devrel practitioners, can use them to create more effective developer relations strategies. You can find me at suze.dev - hit me up if you want to chat about anything you’ve read about here!
What do you feel is the most important part of your job?
Developer community is the foundation of devrel, in my opinion. So it’s crucial for me to provide a good base for our team to work with. This means creating and maintaining a safe, welcoming space for our community to come together and engage with us and each other.
Being present is also important - both in the community spaces we own, as well as the other places where people talk about our product, where appropriate.
As a leader in the devrel organisation, and with devrel being sometimes misunderstood by, or mysterious to, other parts of the business, it’s on me, along with my colleagues, to champion what we do and the value we bring, as well as advocate for the community itself and be their voice within the company.
One thing that my colleagues have already commented to me is that now I’m here they’ve been able to deliver a number of things they’d been thinking about doing for a while, but didn’t have anyone who could plan, organise and bring them into fruition. So a big part of the value I bring is not only having a clear vision but being able to execute on that, and enable my teammates to deliver and grow too.
What is something you’re struggling with?
I’m fairly new in post: I started my job in August this year. The previous community manager left the company a long time before I joined, and there were significant organisational changes after that. So I’m currently doing an audit of all recent Community activity and the available tools. As I had no overlap with the last person, there are a lot of loose ends. I’ve also had to leave the in-person events on ice for obvious reasons, but this presents me with an opportunity to innovate and generate some ideas which are completely mine and not a continuation of what someone else started.
My team creates a lot of content. Every week, a new idea pops into my head and I’m finding it hard not to overcommit! In October, I decided to live stream my onboarding for five weeks, as well as organising Redis’ first ever Hacktoberfest project. This month, I’ve put together a season of daily live streams. They’re only 15-20 minutes long, but delivering events every day requires a lot of mental and physical energy. I’ve also set up some cool collabs and have had to schedule them for the new year so I don’t get burned out. If you’re working in devrel and want to collab on some content with us here at Redis in the coming months, hit me up!
One of the most interesting things about my job is that we have an open source community as well as a user community. The challenge is to best serve the needs of both types of developer. They all love creating things, but their priorities are different and they approach it from different directions.
Tell us about a time you were inspired by someone or something in DevRel.
I didn’t know what devrel was until 2019. I went to a public speaking workshop and the mentors were all developer advocates. Being from a communications background and with a lifelong interest in coding and tech, I was amazed that such a job existed. I realised that devrel was the ideal field for me to go into because it represented the perfect combination of all the skills, experience and knowledge I had gained in my career so far. Two years later, I ran the same public speaking workshop for the whole of Europe, I’m working full-time as a developer community manager and I have spoken at DevRelCon!
I’m always looking for new ways to engage developers and I’m inspired by some of the things I’ve seen fellow devrels in the industry produce, especially the coding challenge-type initiatives. When I organised our Hacktoberfest project this year, I was blown away by some of the contributions, especially those from people who had never used our product before.
New and different content inspires me, too: I’ve seen a lot of people live streaming and have been experimenting with that medium. I want to see how I can do more with that next year.
What’s one change you’d like to see in DevRel?
I would love to see more content that is aimed at beginners. A lot of stuff (tutorials, demos, explainers) that you see out there seems to start at step one or two when there is a big segment of the community that needs to know what step zero is. Beginners doesn’t just mean junior developers, either: it can include folks like managers who don’t code every day and are trying to start from scratch with creating something.
So why don’t we produce things that start at step zero? I think it’s because when you’re used to something, it can be easy to forget what it’s like to be a beginner. But this is a form of privilege. As devrel people, we need to be able to empathise with our communities and not leave anyone behind. We need to make our products accessible to all. I took our RU101 (Introduction To Redis Data Structures) course in public as part of my onboarding to show people what it was like as someone who knows how to code but hadn’t used the product before and isn’t building software daily. I would actually love to see a step zero version of that course which caters to those who are new to coding, too.