Developer advocacy as a career path

Tessa Kriesel
Tessa Kriesel
Developer advocacy as a career path
Photo by Brett Jordan / Unsplash

Developer advocacy can be a very fulfilling career path for those who are passionate about mentoring & educating their peers.

I fell into my first developer advocacy role. I had been an instructor and volunteer chapter leader for an organization called Girl Develop It. I taught over 300 women how to code in HTML, CSS & Javascript—helping many of them leave unfulfilling careers. While searching for roles, I stumbled upon an opening titled "Agency & Community Engineer" and the company was focused on WordPress & Drupal. With open-source PHP as the center of my engineering career, I was intrigued.

The job description was a little something like this:

Produce material/lead efforts that will attract, educate, and inspire developers by advocating for better development practices with company. That work includes blog posts, sample code, videos, webinars, conference presentations, documentation, real-time trainings, and more.

  • Engage the open source web development community online and in-person.
  • Demonstrate cutting edge development techniques.
  • Tell stories that inspire development teams to reach beyond what they thought possible.
  • Pave the path for new developers to use professional practices such as version control.
  • Train teams to use company's tools.
  • Document the practices and techniques that large website projects need in order to be successful with company.
  • Cultivate enthusiasm for company and the ecosystems in which it operates.
  • Represent the voice of customers to company's product team.

As someone who had a passion for mentoring developers, this role seemed like a dream. I noticed a connection of mine knew the hiring manager, so I reached out and asked about the role. He sent kind words about me over the hiring manager, and the rest was history.

Wait, I can get paid to mentor developers?

I had no idea that developer advocacy and leading communities was even a career path. I had spent most of my career in agency & enterprise e-commerce focused on open-source PHP platforms. The idea of getting paid to mentor developers blew my mind and made my heart incredibly happy (still does today).

Developer advocacy & building community came so naturally to me that it wasn't long before I landed my first promotion and had the chance to build a thriving developer community, a growth-driven external advocacy program & even built a community team. I was living on cloud 9.

Finding your passion in developer advocacy

Most folks I speak to about developer advocacy think they're not qualified, either professionally or personally, to be a developer advocate. They say things like "I don't have a big Twitter following" or "I have a fear of public speaking."

My first developer advocate hire at Lacework doesn't even have Twitter

I understand all the fears and apprehensions—they're valid. However, a great developer relations team has a diverse pool of advocates, each with their own passions and dreams. I am currently in the midst of building an advocacy & community team—my first advocate hire is a backend software engineer with a strong desire to code most of her day. My next advocate hire will likely be more like I was in my advocacy role.

I had a stronger passion for thought leadership than my peers. Don't get me wrong, I still wrote code and built demos and SDK's, but when there was a chance to speak at an event, write a blog post, capture developer feedback, or have a call with a developer 1:1, I was eager to volunteer. While some of my peers preferred to spend more time on writing code and providing technical advice internally.

The thing about developer advocacy is that it can take many forms and depend on the company you're at. I spent 50% of my time facilitating technical training with customers 1:1 in one role. Each developer advocacy role is different—figure out what motivates you and find a role that compliments your motivations & passions.

Ready to take the next leap?

If you're ready to start pursuing a career in developer advocacy, you can check out our job board to get a feel for what different roles might look like. There are a number of places to look for roles as well in this post, Where to look for DevRel jobs.

Join our community of aspiring developer advocates to learn more about developer advocacy, ask questions, or engage with your favorite product companies.

Join the conversation.

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