Do you love building relationships and evangelizing about tech until the cows come home? DevRel could be your thing! We dig into what skills you need and how to get started.
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Skills you can bring to the DevRel table
1. Build relationships
Strong relationship-building skills are what this area is all about. We’re not just talking outward communication here – as well as tracking your output, you need to track its impact. Writing a certain number of blog posts or getting a number of hits is not necessarily better than time spent building ties in the community.
Being able to express yourself both in writing and in person is important. Depending on the team you’re in, you might have other people to help you edit your blog posts or videos, or you might be doing it all yourself. You might also be writing technical documentation with an entirely different tone and focus. You’re the content expert, so you’ll need to be able to convey information to the right audience with the right voice.
You’ll need to be able to get your message to resonate with a lot of different people in the company, across teams and at different levels.The exciting but sometimes frustrating thing about being in DevRel is that it’s still a new field. That means some of your time will be spent educating people in the company about your role (and to some extent, defining it too).
4. Ask questions!
To work in DevRel you need broad knowledge of the field, you’re not going to be across all of the details. You’re going to have to jump in where you don’t know about a product or service – so it’s important you can ask questions. At a certain point in your career, there’s a tendency to feel like you should avoid the perception that you don’t understand something. In DevRel, you’re going to come unstuck if you can’t ask for info when you need it.
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So, what can I do to get started in DevRel?
The most common way that people get started in DevRel is by taking your developer background and focusing on building up your reputation within the community; place the spotlight on “relations” in Developer Relations. Here are a few steps you can take to get started.
1. Reach out to people you admire
Start having conversations. Start building those relationships. This could be people you work with or someone you know through social media – whatever avenue you’re most comfortable with. Networking is a great step to take when wanting to move into any field, but is especially applicable to DevRel.
2. Share your passion
Many engineers who find themselves in DevRel got started simply by sharing their passion. They start talking about a piece of technology, a paradigm, or a method that they really love, and that passion just bursts out of them. They start writing about it. They make YouTube videos about it. They build communities around it. And that naturally flows into a career that pays them to continue talking about it.
Find that thing you love, throw yourself into learning about it, and find a way to share those learnings with your community.
3. Get hands on
In many careers, it can be tricky to land that first job without previous experience in the role. With DevRel though, it is pretty easy to point to a GitHub project that you maintain really well, a local community that you’ve nurtured through the years, or even a previous blog or video series you’ve created.
Get hands on, and you’ll have something to show the hiring manager that says, “I do have the right experience for this!”
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Can I move into DevRel if I’m not a developer?
It happens, but it’s definitely more rare. The trick is to find yourself a role that can provide you with the adequate time in your day-to-day to get that experience you’ll need, which can be incorporated into your work.
“I had somebody in my last team. Brand new, never worked as a developer, came to the team straight out of boot camp,” according to Aisha Blake, Pluralsight’s Director of Developer Relations. “As part of his role and responsibilities, he was streaming about getting on-boarded, and working on this open-source project that a much more senior member of the team maintained.
“They would pair weekly on this project together. And he’s still learning Ruby as they’re going along, but he’s also learning how to connect with an audience. What’s the best way to kind of build a series out? How to make sure that your content is accessible? The kinds of events that are going to connect them with even more people.”
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Find out more
There are a number of great resources out there to find out more about DevRel. Newsletters by Mary Thengvall and Sam Julien can give you insight into supporting and facilitating community, things about writing, and building networks. Aisha’s best piece of advice though, is to look at people you admire, and see what they are doing. See who they’re interacting with, and check out what they’re sharing. Keep learning, keep doing, keep sharing, and keep being awesome!