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Creating a DevRel Culture

Alex Lakatos 🥑
Made http://puns.dev. Half of @DevRelAvocados. Reformed #JavaScript person, #DevRel 🥑Manager at @fidelhq by day, @mozillareps & @moztechspeakers by night.
Originally published at alexlakatos.com on ・5 min read

How big is your Developer Relations team? I’m betting it’s small, same as mine. Unless you work for Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Twillio or Vonage(The Artists Formerlly Known as Nexmo), it’s pretty hard to justify a double-digits DevRel team. And that’s OK; not everyone needs 70 people to do Developer Relations. It wouldn’t hurt though. Probably that’s why everyone is scrambling to justify their program right about now and to increase their budget for next year.

What happens if you work for a company that can’t afford 10 Developer Advocates? I happen to work for a startup with 60 people; it’s been tough to sell a big team to my CEO. And trust me, I’ve tried.

I talked last week about starting a Developer Relations Program, but it’s still a lot of work for a team of one. My challenge was scaling a DevRel program without increasing the headcount. I’ve achieved that by creating a DevRel Culture instead.

Yeah, you’ve read that right. And it’s not some HR hocus pocus. Creating a DevRel Culture turns out to be highly effective. While you probably can’t have anyone else inside your company that can do all the things you do, it doesn’t mean that you can’t find someone that is more suited to do a little slice of what you do. The trick is finding multiple people, each able to do one aspect of your job better than you. There are quite a few skills required of a Developer Advocate, but most of them are found in other roles within a company. So why not use those for help?

If you haven’t read about my journey to build a 1st-year DevRel Program, let give you some context. I’ve identified a few day-to-day activities that I should be doing, to make a difference. Let’s take a look at those activities, and then see where in the company you could find people to do a better job than you. Basically doing 20% DevRel for 80% of the impact.

  • Writing the Documentation and API Reference - The engineers writing the feature are good people to document it. Or the product manager that wrote the use case for it. Or the Quality Assurance Engineer that tested it. Depending on the size of your company, you might even have all three of those people to help.
  • Building SDKs - The engineers that wrote the code for the API can build the SDK wrapper for it as well. And since they write production code every week, they’ll most likely do a better job of it than you.
  • Create demo applications - You guessed it by now. If it has to do with coding, your Engineering department can probably do a better job than you.
  • Write blog posts - Anyone, and I mean literally, anyone in the company can write a blog post. Now, it might not come as easy or natural for everyone, but here is where you come in. You’re used to lowerering barriers to entry for developers using your product, why not apply the same principles for writing articles for your blog? No one can fake the authenticity of the people building your product, not even you. So why not have them tell their stories, instead of you? Sure, you’ll get enough pushback, everyone is afraid of writing. So make it easy for them. It’s your job to guide people in writing that first blog post. And try to make it as easier for them as possible. For example, I’ve used an interview format to get people to write their first blog post. I’ve had 30-minute calls with people where they presented their idea, and I’ve had those transcribed and edited into a blog post. I’ve also had people come up with their own ideas and writing them inside the week because they were passionate about it. But most importantly, I’ve bribed everyone involved with limited edition quality swag 😊
  • Sponsor online events - Your marketing team has probably sponsored a lot more events than you. They’ve been around longer. And their events cost a hell of a lot more than yours. They’ve got all that experience dealing with the event organizers. So ask them for help here!
  • live-stream on Twitch / Youtube - You’ve got another group of people in the company that are trained for speaking at online events, mainly webinars. And that’s your Sales team. So get them to stream some of their webinars live on Twitch, and see the magic happen.
  • Give talks at online events - Your CEO probably has a lot of experience pitching your investors. And they probably deliver a quarterly update to your Board of Directors. They’ve also probably dealt with the press before. So they’ve got all the training they need in order to go on stage and tell a compelling story, backed with data. If time is a constraint, you’ve got a backup here. Your Sales team is also used to speaking in front of small groups of people, with lots of slides. Get them to drop the sales pitch, and you’ve got a talk ready to be given, with a trained person ready to do it.
  • Answer support queries - Your engineers are the people you usually go to with the support queries. So why not eliminate the intermediary (yes, that’s you), and have the support queries go to the on-call engineers right away?
  • Have customer calls - Your Product Manager is the person you go to with feedback after each call. So why not save yourself the hassle, and have them join those calls to begin with? Sure, maybe they’re not trained to gather feedback, but you can help them out during the first calls, do a bit of handholding, and then take the whole thing off your plate. It’s going to help free you for other things.
  • Maintain the developer community forum - In here, most questions have to deal with using your product. Your Support people are probably your best bet. They are trained to answer questions coming from existing customers, they can do the same for people who aren’t exactly customers, but who have questions around your APIs.
  • Create a feedback mechanism between the product and developers using the product - This can be easily solved with technology. Changing the Developer Experience of your product to have a feedback mechanism will save yourself the hassle. The only trick is getting your Product Manager to actually read and action that feedback. I’m kidding, it’s not a trick at all, and they’ll probably thank you for making it easier for them to do their job.
  • Help with recruitment efforts - Your HR person is better equipped for recruitment purposes, so why not have them help?

I’ve spent the past 6 months at Fidel trying to help other people to do my job, basically trying to make myself redundant. And it’s worked brilliantly! It doesn’t mean I do absolutely nothing now, but it does mean that I provide guidance and review most things before we put them out, instead of trying to do everything, and badly!

I should also mention I come from a culture that relies heavily on… incentive. They’ve tried to legalize bribes a few years back. So I’m quite familiar with using incentives to motivate reluctant people.So if you can’t convince your coworkers that the satisfaction of a job well done is enough…. bribe them! I’m currently using swag as bribes, Rona is preventing me from using a more traditional approach: free lunches and a round at the pub.

If you need help figuring out how to convince people to help, or to introduce you to The Way of The Bribe™️, feel free to DM me on Twitter.

Discussion (1)

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ioana_cis profile image
ioana

Would be definitely something if you trademarked that :))