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Cover image for Just hired to Build or Head a Developer Relations Team? Here’s what you should do in your first 90 days!
Tessa Mero
Tessa Mero

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Just hired to Build or Head a Developer Relations Team? Here’s what you should do in your first 90 days!

Introduction

Developer advocate friends often reach out and say, “Hey, I just got a job leading a DevRel team, and I need to build a strategy. Do you have any good resources, or can we jump on a call?” First off, if you are in your first week or two and are already working on a DevRel strategy, you are probably off to a bad start.

I started as a developer back in 2011, becoming a developer advocate in 2016. Many of the friends I’ve made throughout this network have grown in their careers during the same time. Most are landing senior, director, head of/VP roles in developer relations, and there aren’t many resources for high-level positions. My inspiration for writing this is to share knowledge from the extensive research and reading I’ve done to start my position as head of developer relations, sharing my successes and what worked. This will help you kickstart your new position leading a team or department.

Disclosure: Things don't have to be in exact order for time and objectives. Since every company and company size is different, your process for your first 90 days will need to adapt based on that information.

LEARN and BUILD CREDIBILITY
Week 1 - Week 2

You need to be in the learning phase during your first couple of weeks. If you are joining the company and there’s an existing developer relations team, meet with all of them first. Meet with everyone you can. If the company is very large, meet with the important individuals that you’ll be working with directly, especially senior leadership and executive team members.

Conversation structure for an introductory call, which shouldn’t be more than 30 minutes:

  • Learn about the individual. What is their background? What are their strengths? Learn about their personality type. How best to communicate with them.
  • Let them learn about you. This is your chance to build credibility and respect. Explain your background and the value you are excited to provide to the company.
  • Keep things personable yet professional and straightforward.
  • Learn about what their expectations are of you. Most may not have an answer, but some may have a lot to say off the top of their head!

While you are scheduling calls and learning about the key individuals (or all individuals) you’ll be working closely with, you should be learning other areas as well:

  • Your Boss - The person you report to (VP, CEO), learn about their communication style and the best way to communicate with them.
  • Boss Expectations - Make sure you are clear about your boss’s immediate expectations at the beginning. Prioritize that.
  • Culture - Learn about the company culture and what makes the company thrive.
  • Company Mission - What are the overall company objectives, mission, and long-term goals?
  • Productivity Tools and Developer Tools - Learn about all the tools that your team and company use. Get access. Get familiar with them.
  • Community Expectations - What are the expectations with involvement, for example, Discord, Slack, Forums, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  • Stakeholder Expectations - Understand what key stakeholders and investors expect. How are the stakeholder meetings? Is it monthly? Does the CEO present slides? What kind of information is presented on the slides? Does any of the data correlate with any of your team’s activities? Such as community growth metrics? This is vital information that will ensure the success of your role.

RESEARCH. LISTEN. UNDERSTAND
Week 3 - Week 4

Now that you’ve passed the learning stage, it’s time to research more.

  • Learn about what people love the most about the company. What made them want to join? What areas do people feel need to improve?
  • Existing DevRel team - What areas do they feel they are lacking and need to be improved? Where do they feel they were already doing best before you joined? What are their immediate expectations of you?
  • Existing DevRel team history - Who is responsible for events? Have we sponsored events before? Have we had booths before? Does anyone have experience running booths? The same set of questions should work for different areas, such as Developer Feedback. Is there a current process? What is done with the feedback? Is there a workflow between DevRel and Engineering/Product?
  • What is the current organizational flow? How are teams structured? Is there a marketing team? Is there a Developer Experience team? How are the engineering teams structured? With smaller startups/organizations, expect your DevRel team to wear multiple hats!
  • Company Growth - What is the expected company growth? Are there hiring expectations for DevRel, or is that open for you to create the strategic plan?

Get an early win.

During this timeframe, you should also work on very small initiatives/projects that are a priority to the company. Small as in, something you can accomplish quickly to demonstrate how you deal with decision-making and prove to the company you can execute and follow through.

GET FEEDBACK
Week 5 - Week 6

You’ve learned and researched as much as you can. By this time, you should have a good understanding of the expectations everyone you work with has. Next, you will need feedback.

Imagine working really hard for the next couple of months, putting your heart and soul into all of these initiatives, only to find out they’re not what anyone wanted or expected? The feedback process is what prevents mistakes from happening.

  • Hear from others what they think about your work/progress so far. You will need validation from others if you are meeting their expectations. By this time, you should also have several plans or ideas. None of the bigger initiatives should be launched, and you should only plan them via content/discussions.
  • You will need as much feedback as possible on your ideas. Your boss as a priority, the DevRel team, if it exists, and other key individuals at the company.

STRATEGY AND PLANNING
Week 7 - Week 8

You should have a plan for many different developer relations areas. Keep in mind that most of your strategic planning should tie in with overall company goals.

  • Awareness/Outreach Strategy (events, social media responses/views/traffic, company mentions on different platforms)
  • Relationship Strategy (integrations, working with influencers, educational partnerships for courses, developer feedback, solutions and resolutions from developers, interactions with developers)
  • Developer Experience Strategy, if applicable (developer feedback, product feedback/improvement, improved docs, faster developer onboarding process, etc.)
  • Content Strategy, depending on what DevRel is responsible for (new sign-ups/self-service developers), website traffic KPIs, documentation (and frequently asked questions) and How-Tos, internal blog posts, external blog posts, partner blog posts for integrations/partnerships, community-contributed content
  • Community Strategy - if there is a GitHub repo, how you work with different repos, issues, and GitHub discussions, contributors, contributors that become maintainers, engagements on StackOverflow/GitHub/social media/Reddit, your high value contributors, overall community growth
  • Support Strategy – planning a way to reduce repeated questions in your community
  • KPI Strategy – tracking what’s most important to prove DevRel success over-time

EXECUTION
Week 9 - Week 10

Once you’ve built your strategic plans in all your DevRel initiatives, you’ll need to go through a feedback process before executing them. Present your plan and make sure there is consensus from your boss, anyone that would be involved in that initiative, and your DevRel team. Give them a chance to give thorough feedback and make another iteration of your plan.

TEAM FLOW or HIRING STRATEGY
Week 11 - Week 12

Existing DevRel Teams: You’ll need to develop a good strategy for the most efficient team flow between all of your developer advocates. Hiring more people very quickly doesn’t always make your team more efficient. Once you have a smooth flow between all team members and work needing to be done, identify areas that are lacking and then determine if more hires or reprioritization of tasks is required. If you plan to hire more individuals, have a clear plan of how they would fit within the current team flow.
No DevRel Team: Develop a hiring strategy. What does the team look like? What region are they in? What skills do these individuals have?

AFTER/DURING 90 DAYS

  • Learn about your team’s long-term goals within the company
  • Deep dive into the product’s architecture and learn the technical side of the product to better connect with developers
  • Improve workflows between different teams
  • Expand your knowledge by reading books or resources in skills and areas that you need to improve on CONCLUSION

Some of the information in this post can also be helpful for non-leadership roles. Make sure that you’re open-minded when you start your first 90 days. What worked in your last few roles may not work for your current company. Don’t be too quick with decision-making and strategic planning early on. You need to spend time to learn, build credibility, research, and understand everything and everyone.

RESOURCES

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