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Josefine Schfr for SinnerSchrader Engineers

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What does a Developer Relations Engineer do?

FAQ with our favorite Feli - Executive Principal Engineer at SinnerSchrader

Before I met Feli, I had no idea the position of Developer Relations Engineer even existed (which, I guess - embarrassingly shows my ignorance of the many different roles in the tech industry). Even now, I am not entirely sure what the role exactly entails - and whether there are common pillars among the many different variations of this position in different companies.

Assuming some of you might still have some blank spots regarding this topic just like me, I raised all my questions to shed some light. If any of your questions remain unanswered in the following FAQ, feel free to drop them in the comment section below.

So Feli, what does your role as DevRel entail?

Every company defines DevRel differently, and nearly every company who has people working in DevRel are product companies with products for developers. But at most companies they are building relationships and acting as the liaison between the company and existing developer communities. And if you bring it down to that, then also non product companies can do so, like SinnerSchrader. My Job was to be the liaison between SinnerSchrader and existing developer communities. SinnerSchrader strongly believes in the developer communities and wanted to give back. At the same time it’s a good opportunity to strengthen your employer branding for developers but also doing recruiting actions.
To break it down to real tasks, part of my job was to do community work, getting meetups into our offices, organise meetups and conferences, knowing what is going on in the community, contributing to open source, help our recruiting department to decide which conferences are we sponsoring and what are we doing at the conference booth, as well as connecting people of SinnerSchrader with the community and the other way around.

Have you always worked in this field or how did you end up there?
No, I think at the beginning of my career it didn't even exist. I started to work in this field 2017 at a time where I actually wanted to leave the company. Our Head of Recruitment at that time (Aileen Neu) asked me to help her to find someone like me for a new position. She hit a nerve and I asked her one day afterwards if we could talk about the possibility that I want to do. She was really visionary in thinking about implementing something like a “Tech Evangelist” to strengthen our recruitment of Engineers. The only thing we changed was the name of the role. I’m so thankful she had the idea and always believed in the position but also me! Without her I wouldn’t be where I am today.

What is your favorite part of your job?
Giving back to the community and using the task of the role to support inclusion and diversity. For example I implemented clear rules of which conferences we are going to sponsor . For example they need to have a code of conduct in place with real action commitment and not just a copy & paste of JSConf. The lineup needs to be diverse, a white male only line up is a clear no go. But also the internal task, coming up with new events and ways to connect our engineers, to help them grow and show them that a lot of struggles that early career joiners are facing are normal to everyone, you are just getting more used to it. E.g googling a lot of stuff, getting more comfortable with searching solutions or help on the internet or at colleagues.

What (if anything) changed throughout the last two years?
There are no in person events anymore. A few are starting again but I personally don’t feel safe enough yet for a conference. A lot of people jumped on remote events, but we decided to concentrate on content at dev.to. To ensure we still have something where we can show who we are. I had the idea, but since 1 year my lovely colleagues Annika & you Josi are rocking the content part. Making myself unnecessary and seeing others grow into that and even making a better job in creating content as I did, was one of the most enjoyable achievements.
On top of it I got promoted which also means I didn’t have enough time for all the community stuff anymore.

How should people go about it if they want to become Developer Relations Engineers?
First of all you should know why you are doing it, knowing your own personal motivation is very important. Then you should know if it is the right decision for you. If you are working in Developer Relations you will be part of the community, that also means a lot of people are watching what you are doing. This can create big pressure from the outside and / or people will have their opinion about what you are doing and they will share it, if you like it or not.
After that, reach out to Developer Relation people or to companies that are searching. Of course a lot of them would like to see that you worked in Open Source, that you already write articles and or have been a speaker. Personally, I think it is a job that you learn by simply doing it and that doesn't necessarily require a specific degree but rather empathy, organisational skills and motivation. If the industry (also the DevRel companies) doesn’t accept that, we will never get diverse and inclusive and only privileged people will get the chance to work in developer relations. It’s a job where you should learn it while you are doing it and should be able to start as a junior developer relations without a lot of experience. To be clear, you should have a talent in writing, speaking etc. and the motivation to learn, but you don’t need to have plenty of years of experience.
Nowadays more and more companies are searching for Junior Developer Relation Engineers which is a very good sign. A few years ago you rarely found a Junior level Job in Developer Relations.

Which skills or traits does a person need who aspires to work in DevRel, in your opinion?
They should be very good in human (aka soft) skills. I think empathy is something that will help you a lot to connect with people. But it’s not a must. You definitely should enjoy sharing your knowledge and experience. Don’t think you can’t do it if you are shy or introverted. A lot of people who are working in Developer Relations would say they are introverts or shy. There are a lot of methods to outsmart your own shyness or introvert being.
Something where I would also say is a must, is being open. Being open to other people, to other thoughts. Same goes for being an organized personality, you need to have a lot of things in mind, you will organise events, content or other things. And trust me there will be things that will go wrong - my most beloved topic with other DevRels “what was your funniest mistake”. But to avoid as much as possible you must be very organised.

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