The Road To Advocacy - Or How To Effectively Manage Your Quarter Life Crisis
This and other erroneous titles coming soon to the Jaminologist. But, in case you don’t wish to read all the way to the end…
- I’m working my way towards becoming an Developer Advocate.
- Making a horizontal jump like this can be scary and nerve-wracking.
- It’s more manageable with a plan and finding friends/people you can talk to.
- This website is a part of it, and I’ll be releasing more informative content every week on Monday. (Until further notice)
So, you wanna be a Developer Advocate Type Person?
It was at Gophercon 2021 where I first discovered the term ‘developer relations’.
My friend, who I hadn’t seen since the beforetimes, was new to tech evangelism and was doing a talk there.
It was great talk, but the idea of trying to enter the same space as her didn’t initially appeal to me. In my view, it looked like all I'd be doing is going to different places and talking about a company's technology.
If you’ve listened to either of my talks you’d notice that what I discuss is usually more personalized and the above seemed quite restrictive.
But, I would soon discover that wasn’t exactly the hottest take.
I wanted to know more about the role, so I approached another advocate, one who had been working in the space for a number of years.
Now, I’d love to regale you with a 1:1 recanting of the discussion, but it was a year ago and I didn’t foresee I’d be writing a blogpost about the same field I was originally inclined to call ‘Advanced Marketing’.
But, the one thing that stuck with me; was when they said, “Don’t underestimate what we do”.
So, what is a Developer Advocate Type Person and why’d you change your mind?
Well it’s a bit broad and changes from company to company, much like all jobs really. But stealing a direct quote from Sam Julien’s ‘Getting Starting in Developer Relations’
"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 above book is brilliant, and it opened my eyes to another core part of Developer Relations. Learning, Education and Community.
You see, my aforementioned friend doesn’t just do talks. They engage with the community, host podcasts and events, build tutorials, improve the lives of developers both inside and outside their company as well as a myriad of other things I probably don’t know about.
Developer relations is about building community, helping others, showcasing why you enjoy working with the tools you're presenting and having passion behind your words, because you genuinely have passion behind your words. Now that sounds like something to aspire towards.
I literally couldn’t be the developer I am today if it wasn’t for the Go community, which allowed me to experience the joys of shared knowledge and growth. Though sadly I was often too slow to enjoy the free pizza.
On top of that, I believe I got a small taste of what being an advocate could be like recently by restarting the London Gophers Meetup and by breaking down and analyzing the interview process at my company.
I wasn’t completely sure what I was doing with either, but they felt like good starting points and I felt a lot of pride in the work I did towards both.
So, what’s the problem?
My Twitter Game is weak. Hella weak.
Social media, unfortunately (or fortunately?), has never really appealed to me. I only started using Instagram last year, because I picked up stand-up comedy as a hobby. And that was just to keep track of the gigs.
Alas, when moving to a new domain the expectations are a bit different.
As a software engineer, I’d usually apply to a company either directly or via referral and go through an interview process that had a high chance of not really preparing me for the job.
As a Developer Advocate, the same will likely happen, but not only do I need to show technical prowess, I need to have proof that I can educate effectively, be consistent, be approachable, and be the type of person that people would want to learn from.
However, as I only recently decided on this path I don’t have a particularly extensive trail of evidence.
So, what are you going to do?
Simple. Advocacy starts at home! The best way to have evidence is to fabricate it!
I had a lovely chat last week with someone who currently works in developer relations, that helped me to define some initial action points. Which I’ll share here:
- Build a website to easily host and show off my content
Welcome to the Jaminologist. Over time I'll be building out my portfolio using this webpage. It's important to have everything you want people to see in one spot.
- Create a Twitter
You can follow me @jaminologist, I’m going to include more behind the scenes shots of setting up London Gophers, links to future blog posts/tutorials and the occasional thought.
- Find a niche and create content that is relevant to the area I want to work in.
What's the best way to showcase you can create educational and informative content about a company's technology? By creating educational and informative content about a company's technology.
- Be consistent, have a schedule and stick to it.
If anyone has given up running before, usually it’s because of a permanent injury or, to more fit the metaphor, you miss a day here or there and eventually it builds into a week and then a month and then you’re no longer doing running.
Having a schedule and being consistent is beneficial to both you and your audience and can itself be a motivator. My planned schedule is to add to the blog, once a week, on Monday.
- Have confidence in my work.
Putting yourself out there is scary. I've certainly told a few jokes that have ended in blank stares and polite coughs. However, I still always seem to get kudos for having the guts to walk onto the stage. Same can be said of this. Not every post, tutorial or etc will be received well, if at all.
However, each one of those experiences may have a lesson in them. Each one, could be practice for the next. Each one is something you've done, that someone else hasn’t. Something that could give you an edge.
- Be open about my goals and aspirations. Especially to friends.
During my time on the open mic scene I've bumped into two types of comedians. Ones who say, "I'm a comedian" and one's who don't. It takes a lot of confidence to say the first. It adds expectation and if you end up not going anywhere with it, it can seem like you failed. But trust me, you didn't. Comedy is hard. And you tried.
However, I found by not shying away from saying it, more opportunities were able to show up and people seemed more willing to help out when I told them about the areas I struggled with.
The same could be said for my foray into Developer Relations. By admitting that this is something I want to give a serious try, yes I've opened myself up to the possiblity of failing, but I've also been granted a lot of support and guidance because people, my friends especially, now know what I'm aiming for.
So, in addendum
Here I am, it’s Sunday night and I’m finishing off this first Jaminologist blog post, ignoring any and all typos, so that way I can claim they were intentional because I wrote about them here. And I’m having fun! See you on the next one.