This week, I published Cassidy Williams's #DevJourney story on my eponym Podcast: Software developer's Journey. Among many other things, here are my main personal takeaways:
- Cassidy has always been a builder. And when she realized that she could build websites, that virtually anyone could see, out of nothing... she was hooked.
- She approached the creation process as a whole, and didn't make any difference between coding, designing, crafting, publishing... it was all "creating a website". That's how she learned a bit from everything, from coding to media editing and from design to SEO (search engine optimization).
- Cassidy didn't realize there was a career opportunity in it, until someone told her so at a college fair. This embodies so well the "opportunity imbalance". On paper everyone has the same chances... but when some of us don't even know those opportunities are available to them, the system is rigged against them.
- While studdying for her college degree, Cassidy had the feeling of losing her creative edge for a while. It was less about building and caring about the end-product than about the way to get there, the algorithms and the tech for its own sake.
- While interviewing for her first job, Cassidy put the accent on the people side. She explicitely searched for a job where she would make use of her tech skills and her people skills. This is how, after more than 100 job interviews, she ended up in developer relations.
- Cassidy managed to go to conferences while she was still studdying. This is so important. In the conferences I help organize, we have to hunt for students to invite (as in for free). Why is that?
- For Cassidy, developer relations, evangelism etc. all fall under the "Developer Experience" (DX) umbrella. You are trying to make the experience of the developers awesome. Period.
- At some point in her DX career, Cassidy felt burned out. In order to recover from it, she took some time off and watched out what she was saying "yes" to for a while. This self-care is very important and doing this regularly helps her avoid it nowadays.
- Again, Cassidy provides a great example of the engineer-manager-pendulum. She tried technical lead and engineering management roles. She learned a lot from it and gained a lot of empathy for managers. She was happy to go back to individual contributor roles. But she is looking forward to step into this direction someday again.
- In order to be successful as a DX-engineer, you need to leave your ego at the door. You need to be humble and flexible, a strong communicator, you need to be able to bring together different domains, be a good teacher and bytheway, also someone who can code!
- How do we measure that we (as DevRels) are doing a good job? This is still a very hard question to answer without relying on external metrics like engagement, signups, amount of blog posts / videos, etc. That said, Cassidy gave one example of one person currently working with the development teams, to help produce a feature so that it is very easy to explain once it comes out. This is an awesome example of "outward-in expertise", and probably the best DX example I've heard sofar.
- At Netlify, Cassidy discovered that Developer Experience is its own department. It is neither part of engineering, nor part of marketing. This is where she sees DX going in the next few years.
- We only touched on mechanical keyboards at the very end... but the joy in Cassidy's voice, simply talking about it, was so thrilling that I spent a few hours researching about it afterwards.
Her advice to aspiring DX-engineers:
- Learn in public, you don't need to be famous to be a DevRel, but you need to be willing to learn in public.
- "I didn't realize it was burnout until I was burned out"
- "When you start to burn out, you start to not care about your job or the things you loved anymore."
Thanks Cassidy for sharing your story with us!
Did you listen to her story?
- What did you learn?
- What are your personal takeaways?
- What did you find particularly interesting?