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Jayson DeLancey
Jayson DeLancey

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Personas and Job Titles: Are You a Developer?

What is the persona of a developer? If you are in a role related to developer relations, product management or developer marketing this may be a question you've thought about and captured in a document to describe a technical audience. Even if you are in an engineering role, understanding who is going to use what you build is an important consideration.

Developer Persona

As a way to better understand why we do what we do, the creation of either a user persona or a buyer persona is a common technique. The user definition is common for user experience design and UX disciplines. The buyer variation is a bit more common for a sales or marketing team to use.

Here's a question though:

  • Have you ever reviewed a persona for whatever product you are working on?
  • Do you have defined personas in your current company or role?
  • If so, do you know where to find them?
  • Have you used them in the last 3 months?

I've sat through countless multi-day workshops at multiple companies, either running internal exercises or bringing in expensive consulting companies with 30-page reports to define the persona of a developer. What these all seem to have in common is that they fall-back to some perceived truisms and stereotypes when it comes to developers that provide very little value in understanding how a developer makes decisions.

Are you my developer?

These types of observations are sometimes true, but often don't reflect reality and say more about the biases of the person creating personas. A "developer" is not one homogenous group that all think and behave in the same ways.

Job Title

The role of a developer can be difficult to identify by job title alone, and I don't just mean the distinction between a programmer or a software engineer or front-end, back-end, and full-stack.

What about titles such as:

  • Animator
  • Production Engineer
  • Aviation Ops Specialist
  • Audio Engineer

In roles with DreamWorks Animation, General Electric, and Dolby I've worked with folks in these roles who absolutely write code and sometimes have Computer Science degrees.

Former GE CEO & Chairman Jeff Immelt was quoted in a Vanity Fair interview as saying:

"We hire 4,000 to 5,000 college grads every year, and whether they join in finance or IT or marketing, they're going to code".

With advances from WYSIWYG to No-Code to Generative AI there is a progression of tools that enable problem-solvers to build prototypes, proofs-of-concept, and sometimes full production solutions in non-traditional developer roles. This challenges the notion of who is able to create and modify code.

Creating Better Developer Personas

A job title can be useful for market segmentation but isn't as valuable when included in a persona for a technical audience. Agree or disagree?

I have more to say about the problems with persona development for building software and corresponding the go-to-market strategy when releasing it. Stay tuned for the next article in the series about doing research for creating a Minimum Viable Persona (MVP).

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