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Jan Schenk (he/him) for Postman

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Junior Dev Advocates 🥑? How much experience does one need for Developer Relations?

When I began my career back in 2000, I literally started with empty hands. I had no professional experience in programming, I didn't have a degree, not in Computer Science nor any other field of studies. Gatekeeping wasn't as omnipresent as it is today. I ended up doing Developer Relations for global multi-billion-dollar companies.

Gatekeeping is the concept of intentionally making it hard for beginners to start their learning journey. It's aiming at protecting one's status and preventing competition. Not only in times of shortage of professionals, this is harmful behaviour.

To get into Developer Relations today, you usually need 3+ years of experience. Ideally you have a proven track record on contributing to a global community or even better - fame. A name that people in a global technical community recognise will not only impact your paycheck, it often is a requirement for the largest Tech companies. Juniors are rare, programs to help develop skills in the field are even rarer.

Is this gatekeeping? Or is it justified, because you can't be a Developer Advocate without the name and the experience?

Discussion (5)

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softchris profile image
Chris Noring

Depends on what you are asked to do. For instance, on our academic team, we work with students. Hiring junior folks works, cause they remember what it was like being a student, you could even say they are subject matter experts on how students learn, where they are at in their journey. Also DevRel work is a lot about listening, taking notes.. I think ppl have the wrong impression about standing on stage a lot, and yes doing that takes experience to be credible.. but so many other things are involved in DevRel - so the answer is, it depends :)

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jansche profile image
Jan Schenk (he/him) Author

Is "a Dev Advocate has to be at least at the technical level of whoever they talk and listen to" a valid tldr of your comment then, @softchris?

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softchris profile image
Chris Noring

not at least, but maybe one level under. Can't be too big of a distance... But yea skill can be taught. Empathy can't. Empathy, curiousness, willingness to learn, that goes far.

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sylwiavargas profile image
Sylwia Vargas

I wouldn’t agree that to get into Developer Relations you need to be an accomplished developer (or technologist). Many smaller startups hire folks with a very specific skillset (streaming, blogging) and help them grow in DevRel. Maybe it’s a matter of aspirations - if you want your first DevRel job to be at a global corporation or even a company with a great DevRel team then, sure, the qualifications required are often very demanding. However, I feel that the problem is not with DevRel but any role in those companies in general.

DevRel as a field is still undefined. Some teams require their advocates to build SDKs and some require almost no coding at all. Some expect you to be a tech influencer and some don’t mind if you’re behind-the-scenes.

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codenameone profile image
Shai Almog

I have some "history". I wouldn't call it "fame" but I can get into most conferences just by name. So it sure helped me do this portion of the job. Also writing is super easy to me because I don't need to research most things. I just write from experience.

Having said that, I don't think you need any experience to do this job. I can do it differently, but it isn't the only way to do it.

Also, being older I have less energy and don't want to travel as much. The other day I was talking to a young woman who just got into the job. She has the excitement of traveling and a ton of tenacity. If you're excited about technology it can be a very powerful tool that young people wield better. They're also better at communicating with their generation which is another huge advantage.