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Sloan the DEV Moderator for The DEV Team

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Sloan's Inbox: Considering a role as a Dev Advocate, but worried about less coding & more marketing...

Howdy y'all! Sloan, DEV Moderator and resident mascot, back with another question submitted by a DEV community member. 🦥

For those unfamiliar with the series, this is another installment of Sloan's Inbox. You all send in your questions, I ask them on your behalf anonymously, and the community chimes in to offer advice. Whether it's career development, office politics, industry trends, or improving technical skills, we cover all sorts of topics here. If you want to send in a question or talking point to be shared anonymously via Sloan, that'd be great; just scroll down to the bottom of the post for details on how.

So, let's get down to business...

Today's question is:

I'm considering looking for a role in DevRel as a Dev Advocate, but I'm a bit worried about the change toward more marketing and less coding. I'm curious if this is just my perception of the job or if it's reality. I think I can handle some marketing and a little less coding, but I'm worried that the change may be too drastic of an adjustment. Note: one of the reasons I'm looking for a position like this is because I really do love interacting with and teaching other people; I'm hopeful that I'll be able to do a bit more of both in this type of role.

Share your thoughts and lets help a fellow DEV member out! Remember to keep kind and stay classy. 💚

Want to submit a question for discussion or ask for advice? Visit Sloan's Inbox! You can choose to remain anonymous.

Top comments (13)

theaccordance profile image
Joe Mainwaring • Edited

I can't speak to Dev Advocate, but I can speak to shifting away from coding as the primary focus of your role.

Coding is just one tool in the toolbox that is our skillset, and it doesn't hurt to explore other hard/soft skills as you continue through your career. You can always shift back into a role that is more engineering focused at a later date. What's important is that you find meaning/purpose/satisfaction as a Dev Advocate.

giovannimazzuoccolo profile image
Giovanni Mazzuoccolo

Yes and no, if you shift back after a long period you have a lot of catch up.

theaccordance profile image
Joe Mainwaring

Not necessarily. Yes, your skills will diminish if you don’t practice but they don’t disappear overnight.

Im shifting back to a player-coach role after 3 years in Sr Management and I didn’t have a lot of catch up to do.

ranggakd profile image
Retiago Drago

This what I have in my mind as well. Please I need guidance as well here since yesterday I stumbled upon this post and need to secure a job by the end of the month. What I like about this kind of job position is the chance to write tech writing is massive which I like it a lot.

michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington

I think there are many flavors of DevRel and Dev Advocacy!

For instance, check out this helpful post by @tessak22 called Navigating the DevRel Job Market that lists some of the different DevRel roles. Some positions, like being a Community Manager (my role here at DEV), don't require any real software development experience... and while there may be opportunities to code, it's not really a part of the regular work. On the other hand, other roles (e.g. DevRel Engineers, DX Engineers, or Technical Writers/Editors) may allow you more of an opportunity to flex your coding skills, potentially through things like writing content that explains how to use a companies' tools, doing livestreams of yourself coding while talking through your decisions, or interacting & assisting open source contributors in your org's repo.

So, when looking for a career in DevRel, if coding is important to you, make sure you read the job description and talk to the hiring manager about what your day-to-day is going to be like. Don't be afraid to let them know that having opportunities to code built into your role is important to you... be clear, and ask how frequently you get to do it! If you can, reach out to other DevRel folks at the organization you're considering joining... and reach out to DevRel folks in general, to see if you can pick their brains and compare their experiences to your own.

From what I've seen, when a DevRel role is more technical, it most often involves teaching and interacting with folks (through blog posts on communities like DEV, via livestreams & virtual meetups, on Discord/Slack channels, and at conferences or other events). While you might not be straight coding the whole time, you'll get opportunities to craft materials that explain to others how to code... that can still be quite challenging & rewarding and goes beyond just marketing or promotion. If the org you're doing DevRel for is building tools or workflows that aid developers, they need advocates who can show how those tools works and why they're helpful... this might involve you coding alongside others or developing content, which is kind of a mix of content marketing, relationship-building, and coding.

Anyway, I definitely recommend looking into how different orgs handle DevRel and being up front with them about what's important to you. I do think there are good opportunities out there that allow you to both code and work in DevRel. Like others have said here, it's probably going to be a bit of a compromise and adjustment, but the cool thing is that it can also help you to grow, giving you lots of opportunities to hone your communication and teaching skills.

Last thing, I just wanna point you to @blackgirlbytes's excellent series My DevRel Journey where she documents her time as a dev advocate at GitHub. She is just now leaving GitHub, so you can read through the whole journey start to finish to get an idea of what her experience was like.

blackgirlbytes profile image
Rizèl Scarlett

Thanks for sharing!

jonrandy profile image
Jon Randy 🎖️ • Edited

In my experience, I've noticed that most people I've met in "DevRel" roles seem to be wannabe/failed developers whose dev skills weren't really up to par. I'm not saying that that is 100% true across the board, but it's just what I've noticed.

If you're a strong dev who really enjoys it, I would recommend not moving in that direction - unless you can stomach dealing with what seems like a lot of people not really knowing what they're talking about.

blackgirlbytes profile image
Rizèl Scarlett

I wouldn't call them failed devs lol. For me, I moved into DevRel because I like coding but I have a ton of other strengths that weren't being used, so it was unfulfilling to me. Everyone has their own strengths, and I think that's the case for many DevRels. They like coding, but they have so many other skillsets that they wanna use on the job. I feel happier going to work knowing I can code or I can write a blog post or I can watch a course and build something new or I can figure out how to help a developer.

dumebii profile image
Dumebi Okolo

Hmmm. This is definitely something to think about.
I want to transition to DevRel. I am a dev, though, not a very strong one. And this is primarily because I plan on transitioning to DevRel, so learning development was a means to an end for me.

dumebii profile image
Dumebi Okolo

I actually wrote an article to the contrary of this.
In my experience, it seemed as though there was "More Dev, less advocate", which is why I wrote this article Less Dev, more Advocate, to remind that DevRel is in its core, marketing and not just the developer part.
I hope this helps.

blackgirlbytes profile image
Rizèl Scarlett • Edited

When you're interviewing, pay attention to what the company wants you to do. Some companies wanted me to focus on things I wasn't interested in, so I rejected the job offers. I want to focus on writing code, writing blog posts, occasionally public speaking, and building out strategy.

Some people want to focus on community management or marketing. It really depends. And you just have to ask the right questions to see if your goals align with the company's goals. Some technical chops are needed because you're going to be communicating with developers.

nprimak profile image
Nadya Primak

I've also been thinking about switching to a developer advocate role, because I like to blog and I care about having good documentation which a lot of developers sadly just don't have the time to work on that. I'm currently in a role (integration engineer) where I get to dip my toes into some more devrel stuff without jumping in headfirst. I'm on a rotation where I spend 1 sprint on support helping other developers integrate with our systems and then 2 sprints on engineering. This has helped me figure out where I want to go next.

overflow profile image

Yo!!! @jonrandy I do not think there is anything wrong with being a "wannabe/failed developers whose dev skills weren't really up to par."

Dev Advocate job sounds like a sales job. You do not really need to know the technicalities. At the end of the day you are most probably not even selling a product you are selling an experience. A way of life to somebody. you spenf recommending something to a someone; perhaps a thing of pride an emblem. Your job is to help someone choose their home team. Android or Iphone ? Something to serve their needs. Your job is to create a fanbase not a database and increase the fanbase.
"wannabe/failed dev" you fit the role awesomely well. because you understand. --cue music--
You my friend you understand the struggle of the rabbit holes. The key clunking struggle. The unending nights and days of tempting your good mental state and dicing with burnout. In a hoody in the middle of summer because it helps your focus. the long days with no healthy eating and the life with no showers and lacking of social exposure and even more lacking in sunlight exposure as well.
You my DevAdv guardian friend . You really do not know javaScript but you know its residential address. You will be able to point the crowd there.

You my DevAdv friend you dont speak nor click clack or know all the languages but you understand !!!
you play a gang role. You represent!!