Dev Chats is back for season two! This is a series where I speak to an awesome developer or techie every week or so. You can read more here. Let me know if you know someone awesome I should chat to next.
I’m Trisha Gee, I’m a Developer Advocate for JetBrains, I mostly work in the Java community talking about IntelliJ IDEA and the latest versions of Java. Before that, I was a Java developer for about 15 years.
My parents showed me a bit of BASIC programming on the BBC Micro back when I was about 9, and I was instantly addicted to the idea of getting the computer to do what I told it. During my teen years I forgot about programming, but got back into it when I was about 16, and then ended up studying computer science at university.
It has been AMAZING for my career! Back in 2011, I was a member of the London Java Community, and a number of people there, including Martijn Verburg and Ben Evans, encouraged me to do some presentations there. My boss, Martin Thompson, also invited me to co-present with him at JavaOne. Within a year of giving this presentation, I had presented at half a dozen conferences which enabled me to get into yet more conferences. Through this, and my blog, I found my first developer advocacy job, and incidentally my first remote job, and that changed the way I worked and lived from then on.
Much more active than people might believe! When I moved to Seville back in 2013, the developers I met would tell me there wasn’t much going on, there weren’t many developers and they weren’t working on good projects. My husbandand I started the Sevilla Java User Group, and my husband started running a cross-technology Sevilla Developers Group, and we discovered there were lots of developers doing lots of interesting things. Since then my husband (in particular) has worked hard to get developers together to share their stories and learn from each other and now there’s much more awareness of the real tech scene in Seville.
How do you think the developer advocate/relations industry will change over the coming years, and how might that affect your role?
I’m not really sure! This is an interesting and relatively new role, and it’s different for different individuals and for different organisations. Maybe that might formalise over the next few years (for example, I’m seeing some people draw a distinction between Technical Evangelists and Developer Advocates, although I still don’t think there’s a formal distinction). So far though I’m only seeing this role and the relations industry growing. In the past, it was big, technical developer-facing firms, like Google and Microsoft, who had Developer Advocates. Now I’m seeing enterprises like banks and small start ups hiring advocates, as both these types of companies often need to talk to developers, particularly if they have an API or technology that developers use.
There is no right answer. To anything. And no-one knows what we should really be working on. And that’s OK, that’s just a fundamental truth to software development.
Talking to computers is the easy bit. Learning a new technology is something that becomes routine. The really hard skills that will actually make your life easier are communications skills - finding out what the business needs, figuring out what a user wants to do, working well with your peers, persuading management of something, all of these things need you to talk to humans.
I run, and I go through phases of going to the gym. Both of these things are really important to keep me sane, and to keep my stress levels in check. I can also tell while I’m running how stressed I currently am, something that you don’t always notice sat at a computer. But my main activity outside of work now is being a mother, and I can assure you that parenting skills absolutely do translate to career skills! If you can persuade a three year old to clean her teeth and get dressed in time to leave the house, you can probably deal with a lot of the people-shaped stuff that comes your way at work
The best resources are the people around you. Join a user group, listen to those who encourage you to step up and present or write or upgrade your career in some way. Let people help you - the people I met at work and at user groups helped me to find the right conferences to get started and introduced me to the right people so a) I didn’t feel alone and b) I had a network of people to help me.
Go look at my blog! OK, so I don’t write there much any more, I write more on the IntelliJ IDEA and Upsource blogs. But I do keep it up to date with presentations I’ve given or am working on. Oh, also take a look at my Code Review book, it’s free!