07/24/2016
NodeSummit 2016







06/15/2014
Node REPL

Developer Relations, Developer Advocacy, and More

05/01/2018
Tweet about this blog entry:

Preface

Sometimes, while still on a journey toward what we think is the goal, our true destination presents itself. This happened to me recently. Buzzword alert! Developer Relations (devrel) and Developer Advocacy (devadv), I expect, are becoming loaded terms. Regardless, they are part of a recent realization for me. What realization, you ask? For decades now, I have been filling devrel and dev advocacy roles, without recognizing it and well before the terms were coined, I’m sure! Now having consciously focused on this part of my professional life, I realized that my personality style and passion for helping others succeed, resulted in my delving into disciplines that, although not necessarily part of the current definition of these new realizations, really complemented my devrel/dev advocacy efforts. I will cover these in this essay, where I give some broad strokes on the following.

In this blog:

  • Current, collective definition of devrel and devadv out in the wild
  • The natural intersection between my career and devrel/devadv, for the last 20+ years
  • A new and innovative role, which I am currently (Spring 2018) looking for in my career
  • Next steps, not only for me, but potentially for others of you out there too!

Definition of DevRel & Dev Advocacy

So, what is the definition of devrel and dev advocacy? To begin with, here is a list of common concepts out in the ether about what they are:

  • Training
    • Organizing
    • Executing
  • Evangelism
  • Running, attending, and talking at:
    • Conferences
    • Meetups
    • Workshops (e.g. hackathons)
  • Research and Development (R&D)
  • Coding and Contributing to:
    • Open Source Software
    • Inner Source Software
  • Documentation (in many forms)

For my purposes, I will be adding to that list, but right now, I also want to give credit to those that helped me solidify my thinking about all of this.

Ashley McNamara's, "What is Developer Advocacy"

Most recently, Ashley McNamara, in her “What is Developer Advocacy” blog, provides good insight into the subject matter. Not only does she cover the typical attributes, she also delves into implicit concepts like dev advocates’ being “...perpetual learners…”. Furthermore, she explicitly makes a call-out for the community by expressing that, “We care deeply about community.”

Mark Mandel's, "One Year as a Developer Advocate"

Additionally, Mark Mandel, in his "One Year as a Developer Advocate" article, goes over the research and development side of it, where he tries things in support of potential technologies, techniques, and tools that developers can use. He also makes a good point of going over actual writing of code. This is crucial if dev advocates are to stay sharp in their craft. The code can, of course, serve as proofs of concept or actually graduate to open source projects.

Mikeal Rogers's Interview with Microsoft

Last but not least, if you know Node.js (my current focus), then you know Mikeal Rogers, and in this 2011 interview with Microsoft, Mikeal makes a good point when he alludes to the passion of helping others, including those outside your company‐when he mentions that “A good developer advocate needs to first and foremost be able to think of people outside their organization”. Mikeal did a lot for the global, Node.js community before stepping down to take a very well-deserved break last year.

DevRel and DevAdv During My Career

Early 90s

Like I mentioned above, I have unknowingly been filling devrel and devadv roles in my development career these past 25 years! For instance, rewinding back to the start of my professional career, at the turn of the 90s decade, I was actively helping interview candidates for development roles at Texas A&M. I really appreciated the fact that these tenured PhDs, in the Ag Econ department, had some faith in a scrawny undergrad, C/C++ developer to ensure we interviewed the right candidates and only hired those that could really do the job. Those were good times!

Mid 90s

Moving a little ahead to the mid 90s, I informally set up some training sessions for tech admins in San Antonio, TX, that were trying to use Borland Paradox as a poor man’s customer relationship management (CRM) system. Yikes! I was actually hired to fill a role as a C/C++ developer at that small startup, but I took it upon myself to help these struggling employees get the ball rolling with their pseudo CRM.

Late 90s

Moving to the late 90s, in Austin, TX at that point, I built a team of Delphi/ObjectPascal developers that were basically making a slight career change, coming from a mainframe background to the up and coming Windows development. I initiated my own internal, Delphi training to level up new team members so they could better jump into their new roles and responsibilities. It was also during this time that I developed an industry-format, file reader for use, not only, by analysts and customer support employees, but also by developers trying to get a handle on their test and development data files. Geek alert! I even went as far as abstracting out the reader’s code into Delphi visual components. Et Voila! I was unknowingly serving as a devrel manager and devadv between product and framework developers!

Present Day

For time’s sake, I will fast forward to my most recent role in 2018, as Node Evangelist and Engineering Manager at HomeAway. For the past year and half, I have been evangelizing Node and formalizing Javascript/Node training campaigns. Not to mention, I had the benefit of continuing my conference attendance as well as continuing to run and co-run my Node/Javascript and NodeSchool meetups in town. These campaigns have made it pleasantly obvious, to me and to others, that I have indeed been serving as a devrel manager as well as dev advocate for our internal teams and the greater community, outside of HomeAway.

Also, the Engineering Manager portion of my role at HomeAway has afforded me the opportunity to exercise my recruiting, hiring, and mentoring skills‐including career growth for my direct reports, as well as employees in other teams, not officially reporting to me. One holistic instance of this was when I built a team of five contract, developers for a Node/WebDev project back in 2016. It gave me the opportunity to coach, coordinate, manage, lead, and grow the team. Four of the five eventually converted to permanent employee status at HomeAway and are still here!

Innovation: A New Kind of DevRel/DevAdv Role

All of that being said, I must define a role for which I am currently on the prowl. To reiterate, this is a role that adds to the garden-variety devrel/devadv definitions out in the industry. Sifting through my career intersections above, I would venture to say that this role has to be at or above traditional managerial or supervisory roles. I would say so for two reasons. One, my adventures have surpassed what we know today as developer relations and developer advocacy‐e.g. they included recruiting, interviewing, hiring, team building and growing. Two, these activities are typical managerial responsibilities, not usually performed by devrel/devadv roles. I defy‐and have conquered‐those implicit restrictions and therefore meld these activities together into one single role‐perhaps something more, like Developer Relations Manager or such.

Again, the definition out in the ether includes the following attributes:

  • Training
    • Organizing
    • Executing
  • Evangelism
  • Running, attending, and talking at:
    • Conferences
    • Meetups
    • Workshops (e.g. hackathons)
  • Research and Development (R&D)
  • Coding and Contributing to:
    • Open Source Software
    • Inner Source Software
  • Documentation (in many forms)

Additionally, for my situation, I would add:

  • Building dev teams
    • Recruiting
    • Interviewing
    • Hiring
  • Mentoring, leading, coaching
  • Building and fostering good dev cultures

Why combine the two lists? Because, among other good reasons, it empowers us to build or forge the teams that can really make this happen!

Next Steps

What is Monico doing?

As I allude to it in the above section, I am currently (Spring 2018) seeking out a new role that fits the above, collective description. I would venture to say that a role like this could be spun up when a company fledgling in this space acknowledges the green elephant in the room. Green is my favorite color ;-). As such, I am already doing two things. I am reaching out to my professional network about these types of possibilities, and two, I am doing some research and engaging others interested in something like this at my current workplace; I would love to stay at HomeAway. The reality of it, however, is that I might have to fly the coop to foster this innovation. My boss is aware.

Fire in your belly? Let's collaborate!

If you too are passionate about helping others succeed, are a developer, and can see the gap I imply in this blog, then either let's talk or maybe you too can start a new adventure in this direction. Oh, and why limit ourselves to individuals candidates, I am also on the lookout for any startups or enterprise companies that would like to collaborate on something like this. I envision a fresh, new, collaborative effort with individuals and/or companies with whom and where we iterate on this philosophy, to execute on a new and exciting approach to providing value to our customers!

Current Tech Stack, Node.js

Furthermore, as everyone in my professional network is well aware, my current tech focus is Node.js and full-stack Javascript, preferably in a web development context. Understandably, my direction as described in this essay, does indeed include, and would stay focused on, these two technologies. Of course, the nature of the devrel/devadv/recruiting/hiring I describe here naturally spans beyond that. We never what the future holds.

Let's Think Outside the Box

Word of warning to the not-so-daring, this kind of venture requires going beyond current recruiting thought‐which is all fairness serves us well. Regardless, the painful phrase I invariably hear when we need to hire someone is, “Let’s create a req and job description for it, so we can start recruiting.” On the contrary, in this case there is no carrot to dangle, only seeds, water, soil, and sunshine!

Let’s do this!

Notes on the Pipes Pic

I collect briarwood pipes; I even smoke them at times. I simply enjoy the history, tradition, and ritual that goes with fathering the flame! Having a palate for the various tobacco blends helps!

So, what does this have to do with the above blog post? New beginnings! Making the realization about my past and current passion and natural fit for developer relations, developer advocacy, and team forging has catapulted me in a slightly new direction. This direction is bold and exhilarating!

Similarly with briar gems, every pipe has its unique characteristics‐aesthetically and functionally. As such, committing to a bowl of new or well-established blend gives us a sense of boldness and exhileration in that we are about to venture into a few moments of reflection, contemplation, and pure joy. Barely one or two at my account, but more from my collection coming soon!


Tweet about this blog entry:

Comments/Discussion