The Road to Advocacy - End of The Line

The Road to Advocacy - End of The Line

Hello Reader! This is my final article. Well, at least the final article I am publishing on this website. The website will still be public for the foreseeable future. I’m just retiring the name ‘Jaminologist’, for reasons you will see in like two seconds.

On July 25th 2022, I wrote The Road To Advocacy - Or How To Effectively Manage Your Quarter Life Crisis, where I'd chosen to make a move from Software Engineering into Developer Advocacy.

Well, I’ve now made the choice to move on from my position as the Go Developer Advocate for JetBrains and by the time I’ve published this article, I will once again be a free agent on the hunt for the next new thing. See? Two seconds. 

Before continuing on, I would like to clarify that I thoroughly enjoyed my time at JetBrains and I am grateful for the opportunities and experiences I could explore as their Go Developer Advocate. I feel I experienced and grew more in this one year than I have across my entire four years as a software developer across three different companies. I placed a bet on myself back in July 2022, and I am quite satisfied with the results.

So, you don't wanna be a Developer Advocate Type Person?

For now, no. I’m not one to completely rule out something for the future, but I think I’m brave enough to recognise and admit when a role may no longer be the best fit. I tried it and had some incredible wins this year that I will list further into this article, but the thought that was on my mind was “what of next year?”

Every so often I like to check-in with myself, to see how I’m doing and if I feel if I’m heading down the right path. In my most recent check-in I asked myself about the future and unfortunately my heart felt that advocacy would not be in it. I’ll save the more in-depth explanation for my next interview, but that’s essentially the long and short of it. Advocacy is something I no longer wish to do.

In my first article I quoted, "The main task of developer relations is to build relationships with users and potential users, mediate between them and the company, and advocate for their best interest." - Sam Julien

The small curse of advocacy is that it is incredibly difficult to do if your heart is no longer in it. I hadn’t reached that point yet, but I had a strong inkling it was on the way and I didn’t want to be the type of person who gets asked to leave the party at 4am. I want to leave just after the peak.

With the wins I had this year, I honestly believe now was the best time to head on out and chase something new. Though before we get there, I desire to brag a little. 

So, what were your Big Wins then Hot-Shot?

I Made a Freakin Trailer! (And Discovered a Taste For Analysis)

If you’re wondering what this is, this is a picture of me, jumping over a bench near Southbank. Why? Well, I needed someone doing parkour within the first 30 seconds of my 3 minute mock trailer for JetBrains and the only one available was me.

Ok, but why parkour? BECAUSE IT WAS CRUCIAL TO THE VISION. Look, at one of the business trips I went on, I became inspired to write my thoughts on ways to improve different parts of JetBrains.

For example, I noticed some view their IDEs/Code Editors as something that they use at a later point in their career. They’re for ‘professionals’ and too complicated and advanced to even try until you’re much more experienced. This is false. They’re actually quite simple to use. However, was there a reason behind why some may think this? Could the reasons be coming from inside the house?

I won’t go into details here, but I wrote about 4000 words discussing different aspects of the company’s image, culture and vibes (the most professional of terms) and threw in a couple of tidbits and comparisons to the competition and companies in different industries, but with similar products or goals.

Was everything I said obvious? Had JetBrains tried these ideas before? I didn’t know, but I wanted my thoughts known and wanted to discuss what I had come up with, to see if they could inspire and if I could turn them into actions. 

However, one question I had was how could I convince people from varying different disciplines and departments to read these 4000 words, when they all have lives and, mostly, do not know who I am? Entice them. I thought. Make it something they’d want to do.

The whole point of the mock trailer wasn’t to get a trailer made, it was simply to convince my colleagues that my words were worth reading. Instead of just planting a wall of text onto their desks I wanted to convince them of my passion and that behind each sentence was a gallon of thought. I wanted them to believe that reading these words would be worth their time.

The final tagline of the mock trailer was ‘IDEAs For Everyone’, which would then morph into ‘IDEs for Everyone’ in the final few seconds. A pun, as JetBrains’ flagship product is IntelliJ IDEA; but also the truth.

The feelings I wanted to evoke from those who had watched the full trailer is that JetBrains could be for everybody. They could be there from when you’re muddling through your first “Hello World” program, all the way to when you’re leading the project/company that will revolutionize the world. JetBrains is for you.

Think Code? Think JetBrains. Those were the heights of the aspirations I had as I listened to my chosen trailer music - Future (feat. James Deacon) by Parov Stelar, over and over and over again, while working through the video editing and the document (at really really stupid hours of the night). 

Anyway, long story short. A lot of people read the document. It even went so far that I ended up having a meeting with one of the heads of marketing, which is something that has never happened to me before. 

I remember being so joyful, when a change I suggested within the document, for the front page of the official JetBrains website, actually happened. At time of writing, the change is still there and I’ve screenshot it for prosperity. It was crazy to me. I'd been able to craft a story compelling enough that people I hadn’t even spoken to, but who had interacted with my content enacted a change based on it. 

Compared to a year prior, where I sat at the desk counting down the minutes to the end of the day where I was proud of absolutely nothing and felt that I had no energy to do anything. This glow up was wild man. It was beyond any vision board I could’ve conjured. 

This sort of kicked off my Detective Conan arc and I looked into a bunch of things. I ended up writing a mini-novella, which was around 20,000 words of analysis split into 5 separate chapters that deep-dove into vastly different parts of the company. I called it ‘The Frontlines’, because I’m dramatic.  

I then tried to see just how far I could go to enact a change from these deep-dives. Some of these avenues led to successes, and some led to complete dead-ends, but I pushed as far as I could go as an advocate with each branch. As an example, we changed the GoLand tagline because of Chapter 5 and in testing it helped to improve downloads (for those who visited the webpage) by around 10%.

Fun fact: My song choice for the trailer ended up being used in an official trailer, for electric BMWs. My mum saw this on TV, called me and was like “Oh my gosh they stole your idea!” and I was like “That’s… that’s literally impossible Mum, but I appreciate the unwavering support.” Though I’m glad out there somewhere is my kindred spirit who knew that this beat slaps.

I Now Have Three International Talks Under My Belt. 

Although I've done a few talks before, I’d never done one at an international conference in front of a vast audience. I’ve now completed three. They were all quite different, and they each featured topics that involved a lot of hands-on research. At time of writing, two out of three of the talks do not have their recordings available, but I’ll update with links when they are.

DevRelCon Prague 2022: Diversity and Inclusion In Tech: Who Bares Responsibility (Link)

“Through interviews and real life accounts of groups of people abstracted into entities known as The Company, The Majority and The Marginalized I aim to go over how people both shirk and assume responsibility for Diversity and Inclusion in Tech and how those responsibilities can change based on what position you’re in.”

GopherCon US 2023: The Blueprints to Building a Badass Community (Link on the way)

“Want to build a Go Community, but unsure where to begin? "It's Too Scary!", "What if no-one shows?”, "Way Too Much Work!"

True, True and True. But, Don’t be Deterred! There are strategies Gophers use world-wide to create hack-nights, meetups and parties. In this talk, I’ll show you how!”

GoLab 2023 (in Florence): Understanding the Successes and Pain Points of Different Testing Strategies (Link on the way)

“Do you enjoy testing? Some say yes, some say no, but for most I believe the most ‘senior’ answer is ‘it depends’.

So, what are the variables that determine this? Culture? Code? Something else beginning with C? This is what I’ve spent the past few months investigating, so come join me and find out!”

For each, I took my time interviewing and researching a fair number of people, as well as using my own experiences, to both tell a story and push forward some ideas and concepts that I found interesting and wanted to talk about.

They were all received well, and the differences in topic helped me to learn how to present in a way that is engaging to listen to regardless of the subject. Plus, if you compare my first Q&A in Prague 🙈 with my final Q&A in GoLab, you’ll see that I vastly improved there as well. (Learning the all-powerful “I don’t know, but maybe we can talk about it afterwards” is a key stratagem.)

On a random note, that didn’t really fit in with the rest of the section, I’d never really done traveling, well, ever. This year I’ve visited more countries and places than in my entire life. I’d never even booked a taxi before, and now I’ve climbed a mountain, both emotionally and physically.

I Met Hundreds of Gophers. 

I bloody adore the Go community. I often wish I had a bit more to contribute to it (outside of my winning smile) just so I could have more of an opportunity to chat to really inspiring people. There were so many people I met this year whose vibes I wanted to radiate myself. I even played D&D with one of them in my flat over Christmas. 

As I look to the future, it pains me that Go may not be as strong a part of it as it was (we’ll get there), but this was a superb year and the Go community was a huge part of it.

Although I joke about it, I didn’t just take random photos of people and force them to hold plush gophers. Behind each photograph was a conversation or an experience where I became convinced that I needed to take a picture of that person holding a plush gopher so I could write about them when I got home.

That set of five articles was an absolute joy to put together. They forced me out of my shell and gave me a reason to maximize my enjoyment at the conferences I was involved in. The reactions some people had to reading the words of my experiences will always be precious to me.

I Restarted and Led one of the Largest Go Meetups in The World

Now, obviously, I didn’t create London Gophers, but I restarted the meetup in the summer of 2022 and helped build a team that I genuinely enjoy hanging out with. I know it’s not a Fortune 500 company, but I learnt a lot about the basics of event and team management. During my tenure, we have:

  • Hosted 15+ events, including a summer party, each having well over 100 sign ups.
  • Collectively, around 2000+ people have physically visited our events. (There would be more, but most venues have a cap of 100 people).
  • Over 30 wondrous speakers have graced our doors, some traveling internationally to make an appearance and I’ve edited and put together the videos for all of them which you can see on the London Gophers channel. 
  • Many brilliant companies have hosted us, such as Monzo, Microsoft, Incident.IO, Paddle, Perkbox, Checkout and Pusher. 
  • We’ve teamed up with multiple London communities such as Women Who Go London, GopherCon UK and the Rust London User Group
  • I redesigned the gophers.london website and set up the new communication pipeline and application process. 

There is much more than just that, but on top of it all we strove to build a welcoming and inclusive space where anyone can feel that they can have a good time and learn a bit about Go. It’s been a fantastic learning experience for me overall.

However, this year I will step down. I believe that to keep the community healthy, it’s good to create a space where other members of the community feel that they can step up and contribute. There are new ideas that are waiting to flourish and I know some of the best additions to London Gophers during my tenure came from other members on the team, not me, and that’s a beautiful thing.

GoLand is Now Helping More Developers to Contribute to the Go Developer Survey

If you’re unaware of the Go Developer Survey, it’s an initiative from the Go Team to understand how Go developers are using Go. As anyone who has built something that others have used knows, it can be incredibly hard to predict and know all the use cases your users will come up with for the product you have developed. 

As quoted from the linked post, “Since 2016, the insights from our Go Developer Surveys have helped us identify key usage patterns, understand developer challenges, discover tooling preferences, and track emerging trends within the community.” If you haven’t already, I’d highly recommend taking part in the survey if you get the chance! 

So, what does this have to do with GoLand? Well, as it says in the linked post, “The more developers who participate, the better we’ll be able to understand the needs of the Go community.” In the VSCode plugin for Go, which is managed by the Go Team, for some percentage of users there is sometimes a prompt that asks if they may be interested in taking the survey. 

This prompt didn’t exist in GoLand. Until recently. I won’t go into the nitty gritty of the work me, the GoLand team and the Go Team did (as well as all the legal stuff), but if you use GoLand, you may have been one of the lucky people who got a small prompt to see if you’d be interested in taking part in the official Go Survey.

This, to me, is a huge win for the Go community as it means more Go Developers will have an awareness of the survey, which means the results will be richer as they come from a wider source. There was quite a lot of work on both sides to achieve this, but I hope it's the start for a future where GoLand can continue to contribute and give back to the Go community. 

So, What’s Next?

The world! Though a more serious answer lies between the lines of this article. This year was the first time since my career started that I stepped away from programming. A skill that I’d clung to since learning it during my first year of university.

Yes, to be a developer advocate having the ability to code is important, but it forces you to pick up and juggle with a lot of other parts you may not have had to finagle with before. Plus, I did things that technically weren’t in my job description which forced me to use even more skills that I had left at the wayside. 

The point is, I think by nurturing and discovering skills such as storytelling, analysis, presentation, community building, video creation and directing, I unlocked a level of passion and drive that I don’t think I’ve encountered since I spent 3 months learning Go to deliver a talk at Monzo to initially break into the tech industry.

All I’ve ever done professionally is code. I’ve never had to train these other parts of myself before and they felt damn good to use. I refuse to lose what I’ve gained and want to nurture this side of myself which I’ve long been neglecting, and ultimately convert these skills into a life that I want to live.

So, I’m going to take some time to understand if there is some kind of halfway house of a job that exists between programming and all these skills that I now have to really make something cool, minus the parts of advocacy that made my heart lose interest. 

In the meantime, I will not be sitting on my ass. I’m still going to continue writing and creating and making sure the skills I have do not dull in this interim period before the next thing.

I may have reached the end of the road to advocacy, but until the end, there will always be more roads. I will continue to forge the path that I started in 2022. And I for one am excited to see where it’ll end up. 

Thank you so much for the support during this leg of my journey. I will treasure the experiences I had for the rest of my life, unless I get amnesia or something. 

This is Jaminologist. Signing off.