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Janelle Phalon
Janelle Phalon

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The Unseen Parallels of Teaching and Developer Advocacy

There's a common question I get asked as a Developer Advocate: "How did you go from being a middle school teacher to tech?" My answer, although surprising to some, is simple: "It’s not as different as you might think."

It's All About Relationships

My teaching days revolved around my students—understanding their needs, learning styles, and finding the keys to unlock their potential. In the world of tech, I found myself doing the same but with developers. Instead of parent-teacher meetings, there are now community discussions. It was a shift in context, but the underlying principles of relationship building, empathy, and understanding remained the same.

The Art of Engaging Content

A lesson on grammar rules or vocabulary might not always be the most enticing subject for a middle schooler. The challenge was to make it engaging, relatable, and fun. Similarly, in my current role, whether I'm crafting a blog post or designing a product demo, the content must resonate with developers. It must provide them with value while simultaneously engaging their interest—no small task, but one that's remarkably familiar.

The Power of Data

As a teacher, the evidence of my effectiveness came through test scores and feedback. Now, data comes in the form of user statistics, engagement rates, and community feedback. In both professions, data is an invaluable ally, guiding my decisions, validating my efforts, and illuminating the path forward.

Lifelong Learning

Teaching taught me that to inspire learning, one must be a learner themselves. This couldn't be more true in the tech industry. The landscape evolves so rapidly that being a perpetual student is part of the job description. From learning about new programming languages to keeping up with the latest in AI, every day is a school day.

Catering to Varied Learning Styles

One of the most exciting challenges in both roles is meeting the needs of diverse learning styles. In the classroom, lessons had to be dynamic to cater to the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners. In tech, I strive to make complex technical content accessible and engaging to all developers, whether that means creating a video tutorial, a hands-on coding challenge, or a detailed blog post.

Presentation Skills: A Key Ingredient

The front of a classroom and a conference stage might look different, but the feeling is remarkably similar. The skills I honed while teaching—public speaking, confidence, and the ability to deliver information in an understandable manner—have served me incredibly well in developer advocacy.

While on the surface teaching and developer advocacy seem worlds apart, they share the same heart. They both revolve around building relationships, creating engaging content, leveraging data, continuous learning, adapting to different learning styles, and public speaking. So if you're thinking of making a similar leap, take it from me: the chalkboard might be replaced by a keyboard, but the principles that drive success are universal.

Top comments (1)

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Rachel Fazio

Love this! I was also a teacher and completely agree, though I am a Content Creator now, the roles I play and my approaches in adaptability have largely stayed the same (though also grown immensely!). Thank you for sharing!