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Software Engineer to Developer Advocate

httpjunkie profile image Eric Bishard Updated on ・5 min read

Summer 2018 - The Transition

I wanted to write a short article on my transition from a full-time Software engineer at Tesla, to becoming a Developer Advocate for Progress Software eventually landing at Couchbase, a document database company.

This summer I went through a career change that started with a mass layoff at [Tesla]. Previously I had also worked at SolarCity. I and about 4000 other employees give or take, were let go and because of California's WARN act, we were given a few months to retrain (mandated by the State of California). This helps to ensure that when massive amounts of people are displaced at one time, they have the time to find new jobs and retrain.

I was bummed at first, I loved working at Tesla, I started with the companies pretty junior as a Software Engineer and grew quickly as forced to do at any company like this. So when the layoff came I was super shocked, but I had been doing one thing that was really great and put me into a position to make a change to my career for the better. I had been running a meetup at Tesla and had been expanding my network. To keep a long story short, I spent the entire three months after getting laid off, searching for new jobs as a Software Engineer focusing on JavaScript and hopefully being able to work with React JS.

I took several courses on React over the summer from Pluralsight and as well I was forced to learn and build many demo applications through interviewing for companies. I interviewed with LinkedIn, PayPal, Amazon, Facebook, Airbnb, and Cruise Automation. The skills and knowledge I picked up from forcing myself on many interviews were incredible and even though I took a job as a developer advocate I don't regret pushing really hard on engineering interviews, in fact, I had only one interview for a developer advocate position. I chose the developer advocate position because I not only had a friend working in the same position and I had a really good idea of how this move could give me more freedom, creativity, and exposure to React.

Hitting the Ground Writing

I started in September of 2018 and now, in late October I have published a few articles. One of them on Create React App 2, which is an article that has nothing to do with our product, the topic is the release of React JS' latest CLI tool, and it does speak to the audience of developers we have reading our blog. I point this out because I feel that sometimes we don't have reasons to talk about the product we work for, and simply writing on topics that are interesting will bring you, new visitors, to your blog and maybe even a really good turnout all around.

The next article I published on their blog was a tutorial on how to build a sales dashboard in React with our KendoReact components.

I'm working now on other projects for the blog as well as demos for future content, I'm very happy with both articles and have definitely kicked things off with some good forward momentum which feels good heading when starting a new job. Of course, now that I have that momentum, I need to keep it moving forward. I think I could keep up at this pace writing articles and having a decent amount of work to show by the new year.

Shaking Hands and Trading SWAG

Aside from writing, I have also been attending meetups like the Reactivate Meetup in San Jose and conferences like the GDG Fest in San Francisco. Meeting new people, hearing interesting topics, taking lots of notes on ideas for content and new projects as well as handing out some swag and KendoUI socks.

The Travel

The job requires a bit of travel, and if you're the type of person that doesn't mind this, a developer advocate position might suit you. In a few weeks I will fly to Sophia Bulgaria in order to attend a conference put on by Progress and this is where I will meet most of my team for the first time as I have been working remotely which is another reason I really enjoy the job. In 2019 I traveled about 15% of the year mostly to Europe and since then in 2020 have continued to speak to conferences at my new job helping with developer experience at Couchbase.

Conference Speaking

A big part of the job that could take some getting used to was learning how to plan, promote and ultimately speak with authority on the various products and tools for whatever company I have worked with.

From getting over the anxiety of speaking in front of hundreds of people in person or in some cases thousands of people virtually, this can be one of the hardest parts of the job if you come from a traditional software engineering background. As well as managing the travel arrangements as previously mentioned and showing up with a good presentation will be something I continue to learn more about with every talk that give.

Remote Control

Being in control of your content and working from home is a great feeling, get a job with the right company that lets their advocates do their job and you will be able to do this. Also, the working from home part can be tricky but is also very rewarding. I worked for three years driving back and forth to the Tesla Factory and admin buildings and that's not easy on your vehicle, stress levels, and pocketbook. I really would encourage other developers to seek out all opportunities available before subjecting themselves to a job that requires commuting in a place such as the Bay Area. There are a lot of opportunities when seeking employment to strike a deal to work from home for some or full time. Take that if you can.

Hope you liked this look into my experience so far with becoming a Developer Advocate, I still get to do a lot of coding, and in most cases around things that interest me. I get to learn, teach, write and travel, still trying to come up with some negatives of the job, maybe I will run into some but at some point, but for now it's smooth sailing. I hope to do an update once I start doing more public speaking and conference talks. Thanks for reading!

Discussion (4)

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rhymes profile image

Bummer for you losing your job at SolarCity / Tesla. Didn't know about the layoffs :-(

The thing I appreciate the most in your post is the subtext of acceptance that led the way to an entirely new opportunity and path. You could have fought tooth and nails until you found a place that looked like a preconceived idea you had, instead when the opportunity presented itself you took it and now you see a new path to flourish on.

Good luck for your new adventure Eric!

httpjunkie profile image
Eric Bishard Author

Thanks @rhymes , yeah your absolutely right, I will tell you that my journey to SolarCity that led to Tesla was another opportunity where I had already taken another job in Florida and was set to start in two weeks. I still had a door open with SolarCity and I told them, please double check if there are any teams that need help, and they found a match, flew me out for an interview and asked me if I would be willing to turn down the other position and move my family 3000 miles to the Bay Area.

That decision set forth the rest and when the pieces fell into place they felt right so I went with it. Same here with the developer advocate position when things fell into place they made sense, again was a total 180 in terms of change.

In a lot of my writing I don't realize what others are going to appreciate, instead I just try to be real honest and tell it like it is. Glad you liked the article! I may either update it with additional info on the the whole story or make a prequel to this one. lol

rhymes profile image

In a lot of my writing I don't realize what others are going to appreciate, instead I just try to be real honest and tell it like it is. Glad you liked the article! I may either update it with additional info on the the whole story or make a prequel to this one. lol

Go with the prequel. Sometimes in Hollywood they work 😉

httpjunkie profile image
Eric Bishard Author

I really appreciate this comment! Thank you!