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Catherine Anokwuru
Catherine Anokwuru

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Understanding and Navigating Roles in Developer Relations

The term "DevRel" has been circulating within the tech ecosystem for some time, and you might have come across it, wondering about its meaning. Although DevRel is a relatively new career path in the tech industry, its roles have been present for a while. Organizations have been engaging in DevRel roles and these responsibilities have only just recently been defined under the umbrella of DevRel.
DevRel simply acts as a go-between for developers and the community, as well as the organization’s products and its customers. It entails having a good understanding of the product and technology, communicating effectively with users, gathering and interpreting their feedback, and transforming them into practical solutions that can be implemented.
DevRel also makes the work of developers easier by actively engaging with the challenges they encounter. It involves learning about these issues, understanding them and crafting effective solutions and best practices to address them.

What are the Roles Associated with DevRel

DevRel is a broad term that encompasses various roles. It includes responsibilities for managing communities, developers, and products. Some roles are interconnected, and individuals may end up handling more than one of these responsibilities in their positions.The roles include, but are not limited to:

  • Developer Evangelist: A developer evangelist is someone who promotes an organization’s technology or product. They are representatives of the organization’s technology. They work to raise awareness about a company’s product or technology, build support, and influence opinions or decisions in its favor.

  • Developer Advocate: A developer advocate, as the name implies, is someone who supports and promotes the interests of developers. They interact directly with developers and work to enhance the developer’s skills and productivity by assisting the developers in using tools effectively. The major aim of the developer advocate is to ensure ease for the developer as much as they possibly can and make sure that the product and tools they advocate for provide the best developer experience. They also gather feedback from developers and communicate it to the company, and vice versa. Their tasks include writing technical articles, writing documentation, developing code samples, speaking at events, creating content, contributing to developer forums, and so on

  • Developer Experience Engineer: DevEx Engineer can be used interchangeably with Developer advocate, due to their overlapping responsibilities. The DevRel engineer has a strong technical background and holds a technical position within a company. They work in close collaboration with the product and engineering teams to understand the technology and products the company builds.

  • Community Manager: A community manager is responsible for overseeing the operations of the developer community associated with a product, or technology. They handle the community and keep communication open, thereby bridging the gap between the community and developers. They organize events, handle community socials, collect community feedback, organize meetups and conferences, and so on. To the community, the community manager is the representative of the company and to the company, the community manager is the representative of the community.

Should DevRel be adopted in all organizations?

Developer relations not all relations
What DevRel means differs from one organization to another. Its definition and job description tend to vary based on the organization and its specific needs. So while a company might have a DevRel department to deal with issues faced by developers who use their product, another might have a DevRel team to provide developers with the best tools and products to enhance productivity. Some organizations utilize DevRel to create awareness regarding a product and market it to developers, while others employ it to manage their growing community of developers. What developer relations mean to an organization depends on what the company’s goals and objectives are.

It is essential to recognize that DevRel centers around developers as the primary audience. Be it marketing to developers, providing developers with tools to make their work easier, or creating educational content, the core focus remains on developers. While DevRel advocates might work with the product or marketing team from time to time, all of these efforts are still geared towards developers.

Not all organizations need a DevRel department. Companies that have people working in DevRel are companies with products targeted at developers or products that have to do with the development process. So if you need someone to market and promote your product, but your product has nothing to do with developers, you might just need a sales/marketing team. If you need someone to create content and write about your product but your product has nothing to do with developers, a content creator might be more appropriate. If you need someone to collect feedback about your product but your product has nothing to do with developers, a customer support officer may be more fitting.

Some companies are more interested in the developer's productivity and how best their products work for the developers, while some are more interested in marketing their products. Others are more interested in getting feedback from the community. Whatever the goal of the company may be, the question to ask is ‘Who are my customers?’, if your answer isn’t developers and your product has nothing to do with the development process, then you probably don’t need a DevRel department.

Skills Needed in DevRel

Technical skills
To work in DevRel, you need to have some technical skills. The depth of the technical skills needed varies from role to role. For example, DevEx Engineers usually need to have a strong technical background in their fields to be able to perform their roles well, but a community manager does not need as much technical knowledge to be able to perform well in the role. It is advisable to have at least a basic understanding of developer tools, especially the ones used in your company, as you will be relating to developers most of the time, and to relate well with them and build trust you need to speak their language.

Taking initiative and being proactive
Measuring success in DevRel is difficult as it is not quantifiable. Because of this, you need to ensure that your value is evident to the organization you work for. You need to be able to take initiative and be proactive in the company. Look out for challenges developers might encounter as they use the company’s product and take steps to address them.

Love learning, be curious
As a DevRel advocate, you need to be open to learning as the company’s product evolves. You need to be willing to learn, do your research, make comparisons, ask questions, and always think of ways you can make the product better and the job easier for developers.

Good verbal and written communication skills
DevRel involves a lot of writing, documentation, content creation, and speaking. You need to be able to communicate well with your audience and to do this, you need to first identify your audience and know the language that they speak. For example, it would be ineffective to write documentation in English without taking into account other non-English speaking audiences that might want to access that documentation. You need to be a strong communicator and be able to explain technical concepts to a variety of audiences. Some people assimilate things better when they watch videos, while some assimilate better when they read documentation, articles, etc. You need to be able to cater to your various audiences’ needs and communicate with them through the platform they’ll understand.

Problem Solving
This involves adopting an innovative mindset and thinking creatively to address challenges that may emerge. Instead of relying on conventional or routine approaches, you should be able to think outside the box to solve issues that may arise.

Organizational skills
This is a crucial skill needed to work in DevRel. Your responsibilities often include coordinating events, conferences, and talks, therefore time management is essential, as it enables you to allocate resources efficiently and meet deadlines. You need to set clear goals to help you prioritize tasks and stay focused on key objectives. Paying attention to detail is also important as it ensures the quality of your work and prevents oversights that could impact results.

DevRel requires the ability to resonate with the challenges, concerns, and experiences of your audience. You need to be able to feel the plight of your audience and relate with them. You need to be sensitive to the diverse perspectives and backgrounds of your audience, recognizing that individuals may approach technology and development with varying levels of experience and understanding. You should be open-minded and receptive to various ways of approaching problems or solutions in order to connect with a broad audience and cater to their diverse needs. Be always ready to teach your audience what they don’t know. Be willing to share your knowledge with others.

Do I Need to be a Developer to work in DevRel?

This topic sparks controversy in the DevRel community, with some staunchly advocating the necessity of being a developer for a DevRel role. However, in my opinion, no, you do not necessarily need to be a developer to work in DevRel. Yet, this varies based on the specific role, as not all DevRel jobs require you to have a strong knowledge or background in development.

DevRel has a lot of writing, content creation and speaking involved. Some roles are more technical than others. For example, a community manager might not need to have as much technical expertise as a DevEx Engineer. So before pursuing a career in DevRel, you need to identify your goals and preferences and decide what areas you’d like to work in.

DevRel encompasses a range of roles, thereby providing diverse job opportunities. Aside from the job roles earlier mentioned, roles like Social Media Manager, Technical Writer, and Content Creator are available, spanning product, marketing, and customer-facing aspects of DevRel. But if you know you have a knack for coding and enjoy teaching, then a DevEx engineer or Developer advocate may be more suitable.

In choosing DevRel as a career, building trust is fundamental and to do this you need to ensure that you’re honest, reliable, and consistent in your actions. Do not put misleading messages out there or promote questionable brands.
Have a passion for your work, approach issues with an open mind, and always be open to learning more about your product, community, audience, and all that the job entails.

Developer Relations is a rewarding field and depending on your position you have the opportunity to educate, share your knowledge, create content, write blog posts and articles, write documentation, organize events, speak at events and conferences, manage communities and the list goes on. So if you possess the aforementioned skills and have a genuine passion for development and the developer community, then you should consider a job in DevRel.

Do you have more questions about DevRel? Leave a comment in the comment section.

Top comments (1)

lirantal profile image
Liran Tal

Appreciate the write-up. I like the references for being proactive and taking initiative as well as "flowing" with a curious mind.

Very much disagree on this "interchangeably with Developer Advocate" statement. The overall goals and KPIs are vastly different for the two roles.