I’ve been a developer advocate full-time at Contentful for 6 months. I feel extremely fortunate. I love this job so much. There’s an unsaid tradition to write a blog post when you cross the 6-month milestone, so here we go.
As a Developer Advocate your job is to raise awareness and create a positive image of a brand/product with developers. Concretely, you do that by:
- Creating educational content that helps developers (tutorials, demo apps, podcasts, open source projects, etc) often featuring said product/brand/API, but not always.
- Taking part in developer community events in the largest sense, where you can meet your customers and understand their problems.
A Developer Experience Engineer? A Developer Relations engineer? (ahem) A Developer Evangelist?
It’s all the same job. Or not, it depends on the company. There are real semantic differences, Developer Experience is often focused on tooling, but in practice I saw offers with many titles for the exact same job.
Now onto the fun bit, here’s what I’ve been up to for my first 6 months.
#CascadiaJS group shot!
— Tiger Oakes (@Not_Woods) September 1, 2022
- Blog posts
- Created 2 turnkey technology starter repos for:
- Met my colleague Harshil in London and my manager Jen in Seattle. Our whole team met in London for the first time in October
- I was a guest on 2 podcasts
- Attended developer events in London and CascadiaJS in Oregon
- Organised the first IRL Contentful Developer Meetup since 2019 in London
- Found a venue and arranged the logistics around it
- Reached out to speakers for talks
- Tried my best to make sure my US colleagues had a nice time
- Made an interactive version of a diary from 1887 with Sveltekit, MapLibre, and Contentful: https://rtw.voyage/
After 6 months, I feel like I identify with both Contentful and its audience.
- The company was founded by 2 devs. And they both want Contentful employees to have a good time. Sasha (co-founder, COO) remembers dragging his feet to an office, and doesn’t want that for us.
- Contentful is a remote-first startup with more than 750 people from 70+ nations distributed around the world. As an expat, I’m among friends.
- The audience is mainly front-end engineers like me.
- I love working as part of the Developer Relations team. We’re all aligned on our mission to help developers. We all understand and appreciate everyone’s ways of working. And we’re all fans of musical theatre 💃. Stefan did a fantastic job hiring us.
Happy Halloween y’all 🎃
— Jen Sable Lopez (@jennita) October 31, 2022
I got lucky with Contentful. When I was researching developer advocacy, one advice I found online was to find the right product. This is so true.
As a DevRel, you’ll be immersed in your product. You’ll be using it and talking about it all the time. That’s what developer advocacy is. Critically, you’ll be thinking about problems in the adjacent domain of your product.
The good thing is, all sorts of companies need developer advocates. It’s still staggering to me how many software developers and companies there are. The bad thing is, companies vary greatly in terms of size and target audience. For example, a DevRel at Unity (game engine) and Cisco (networking) will have the same job title, but completely different audience demographics.
As Developer Advocates at Contentful, we have a lot more trust than I anticipated. If I had the same level of autonomy with a product and a target audience that I didn’t understand as much, it would have been harder. Maybe a bit demotivating? Again, this highlights the importance of finding the right product for a first developer advocate role.
Since spring 2022, conferences have been back in person. There were a lot of them. Public speaking is what DevRel is known for, and what attracts many to the job. I love travelling like everyone else, but doing talks was never the main motivation for me.
I’m not hiding that I’m one of those “Covid cautious” people. I still wear a mask when indoors and surrounded by strangers.
It’s so true, so many people are coming back with Covid from conferences. It’s really unfortunate. — Svelte Radio, Episode 47, about 21:52
Seeing that a few people caught Covid in conferences in 2021, I mentioned early on in the application process that in-person events were probably a “no.” I wanted to be upfront about this. Most companies I talked to said that wasn’t a problem. Still, I realise that I’m extremely lucky to be part of a team that accepts this.
Despite that, I still went to events. It was incredible.
I met with a lot of people in-person (outdoors) during the conference season. I got the chance to hang out with those that I admire (Anjana, Tejas, Swyx, and Charlie) and meet many more (like my favourite Canadians).
— Tiger Oakes (@Not_Woods) September 1, 2022
I’m so excited for the initiatives we have in store for 2023. We have one last project for 2022 to go out with a bang.
Onwards for another 6 months!
Someone asked me this question at CascadiaJS.
I definitely didn’t stop coding. I feel like I code more as a developer advocate than I did as a front-end/software engineer. It’s not true in the absolute, because going to events lowers my total output. But, I spend more time thinking about code.
One of my responsibilities is to create tutorials and code samples that help developers use Contentful. Because of that, I have to be aware of how people code. That means keeping up with the latest developments in frameworks, runtimes and new features coming to programming languages. (Sveltekit had a major breaking change while I was building a starter, for example.)