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Dark Side of DevRel: Moving beyond the sterotypes

Dark Side of DevRel: Moving beyond the sterotypes

๐Ÿ“ Presented at: DevRelCon Yokohama 2023

Kaiwalya Koparkar's photo
Kaiwalya Koparkar
ยทMar 17, 2023ยท

8 min read

Table of contents

  • Wrong Keywords โš ๏ธ

Hey everyone, wonder why I chose this title? This was my talk title for DevRelCon Yokohama 2023 and this blog will serve as a recap of my session (and a summary for those who couldn't attend). I hope this blog serves as a good reference point for all those students who have uncertainties about the DevRel as a job role and for working professionals. Interesting right? so let's get into it.

So this talk was targetted for:

  1. Students: To help them understand and self-reflect on whether its the thing they want to do in the long run

  2. DevRel Professionals: To understand how students and beginners pursue them as DevRel which might help them understand what can they do better/differently to better contribute to the community

  3. Organisations/ Companies: To understand what you can do better while building ambassadorship and other programs around students and communities.

Wrong Keywords โš ๏ธ

What do you see in this picture? Haha, it's me and friends during the KubeCon NA 2022 after-parties. We all love to take photos and post them on social media to share our joy and experience with everyone and there is nothing wrong with it. But have you wondered what keywords get reflected from these images if a beginner looks at them and knows that you are working as a DevRel? Following are some of the keywords that I could find

  • Enjoyment

  • Fun parties

  • Travel

  • Cool events

  • Amazing lifestyle

  • Less work

So sharing images has some negative effects too. Does that mean we shouldn't share the fun images of our memories? Absolutely you should but moving ahead we will see what other things would benefit and could stop creating misconceptions

It's important for me to tell my journey into DevRel which can help students understand the dimensions DevRel can be described into. I will keep it short, I joined communities that advocated open source and started learning it. While learning I used to help out other learners if I knew certain things or with the resources that could help them. Eventually, I started participating in the community events like monthly calls and other events and live streams the community used to host. After attending the many times I tried to take responsibility and tried hosting them myself. In a similar manner, I tried applying all these learning and experience in other parts (eg: CFPs, workshops, talks, etc). All I wanted to do it learn -> build -> share -> teach -> help -> explore and in the end I realized that what I was doing is also called Developer Relations or Developer Advocacy. By the way, this can be also applied for eg: You can learn, teach and talk about XYZ tech/ tool you like a lot (like I talk a lot about open source and GitHub :P). Now that you know my journey it would be easier for you as a student to navigate your journey until now.

I went around communities and social media and tried to collect some statistics around the common questions that students had for Developer Relations. Let's take a look at them.

Forms response chart. Question title: Do you know what DevRels do at their job?. Number of responses: 34 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: Do you think DevRel is kind of Marketing for the product?. Number of responses: 34 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: Do you think DevRels can be from non-tech background?. Number of responses: 34 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: Does social presence matter for being DevRel?. Number of responses: 34 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: Do you feel any difference between DevRel/ DevAdvocate/ Community Manager/ Community Builder. Number of responses: 34 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: Do you know programs that support students in becoming better at communities and eventually DevRel?. Number of responses: 34 responses.

The statistics are quite shocking, right? the uncertainties and misconceptions can be clearly reflected in these statistics. These are the stats, let's look at some real conversations I had.

Following are screenshots from the students I have been interacting with within discord communities

These chats really show how the social media and the posts the DevRel share have a great impact on the beginner and student communities.

This is my personal opinion but this is the way I see DevRel, you can totally be an amazing Developer Advocate without being under the organization title. Also, you can be on totally different job titles for most of the crowd, the goal is to become a software engineer, so you can be a software engineer by job title and can still teach and advocate about the technology and tool you like and that's how this role works. You can create your own job description in DevRel (This is where many organizations and companies fail to recognize if there is really a need for DevRel in the team and what should be the job description confusing the students in the community)

I know as a student you would want to be there and do what everyone besides you is doing but that might not be a good option every time. Why? because oftentimes we need to ask ourselves if that is really the thing we want to do. Also following the crowd reduces your freedom to explore around and experiment with different things. A while back Aditya Oberai wrote an amazing article on Dev.to about "Everyone can do DevRel (But Should they)". You should definitely take a look at it. It is a great resource for self-reflection [Following image has a clickable link]

I think the title is self-explanatory. If we look at the current tech industry, there are multiple trends that come up regularly to keep developers and engineers hooked for a while but running behind the trends continuously won't give you chance to understand it to the root additionally it will further confuse one on what's going on in tech world and especially the rise of questions like "Is their future in XYZ?" or "Can we get a job with XYZ". These questions are totally valid but getting these questions continuously can deviate you from your goal. There is an amazing article about the same written by Divya Mohan which you should definitely check out. Divya writes about the "DevRel influencer trend" which is really great perspective to think about in social media trends and tech influencers. [The following image has a clickable link]

Now, what is this? This is a simple test I came up with to enable students and beginners to evaluate things before taking up roles or responsibilities. This is an acronym for Goal -> Learning -> Growth always check if the opportunity matches your career goal and is joining the program or role enabling you to escalate towards that goal. Next is learning, see what new things are you learning with that opportunity. If you are not going to learn anything then I would highly recommend waiting for a little for another better opportunity. And the last one is growth, considering the factors that will change after the completion of the opportunity. Can you see the growth during the time period? Now measuring growth is highly subjective and I can't really tell about how you should measure your growth but the important factor can be aligning your goal with it.

There was a very good question tweeted some time ago which led me to think about this question. After the economic crises in the tech industry, many questions arose as many DevRels (known and well-known) at all seniority levels were let go by multiple companies. Let's take a look at the tweet and the gem replies by wonderful people in the community

Now that we have talked so much about DevRel and misconceptions let's talk a bit about programs students can take part in. This section is interesting dependent so the programs I mention might not actually be helpful for your goals but are worth giving a shot or exploring more about. These programs and communities can be seen as a benchmark for student programs and organisations can study their structures to improve their own programs and add value to the applicant.

And yeah, that was pretty much it. I really hope you'll find this blog helpful and will be able to decide for yourself if you should really pursue DevRel or at least know the truth about it. Again, the definition and job description change from organization to organization so you should definitely consider the above-discussed points to better make decisions and find guidance regarding the same. I will add some of the resources and the tweets mentioned which might help you as you go through other comments and impressions on the post.

Resources:

Thank you so much for reading ๐Ÿ’–

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