90 days as a Developer Advocate

Studying development and security every day, being in this position of Developer Advocate, sharing what I’ve been learning with the community, has been something rewarding and enjoyable. Therefore, I decided to share some tips for those who are starting or even considering joining the area of Developer Relations.

You can also listen to this article:

This post references DavidSpinks‘ account of his 90 days as a Developer Advocate.

It is important to highlight my background in the Marketing and Communications area, and the fact that my position is currently within the Product & Product Marketing team – after all, Conviso is a product-focused SaaS company – which was essential to decide some points that made the difference during that time.

In this sense, below is the 10-step process that has been helping me and can help you too, who are starting your Developer Advocate career:

Days 1-30 as a Developer Advocate

  1.  Get to know your organization

Although it seems obvious, it is important to emphasize the need for onboarding and studies that involve all the processes that affect the functioning of the organization. As an Advocate, it is essential to deeply study the products and technologies involved, because this knowledge domain will be a requirement for the role’s activities.

Some task suggestions that can help you:

  • Read all public company documents, such as Guides, Guidelines, Help, etc;
  • Study product material, especially benchmarking material to get to know the market and players;
  • Get to know the organization’s Github to get closer to its developers, as well as the organization’s open source projects, if any;
  • Study the organization’s culture, as it will inspire you to work with external developers and your community;
  • Learn about how the company positions itself externally, read communication materials and marketing recommendations.
  1.  Meet your organization’s leaders and employees

Knowing processes is not enough to really understand how the organization works. Companies are complex environments, because they are formed by processes and people.

Thus, it was important to get to know the leaders and employees in order to align expectations and spread the word about the relevance of the Developer Advocate role. It is likely that some people do not fully understand the role of an Advocate or have a different view of it. It is necessary to align these perspectives.

Suggestions for this process:

  • Schedule meetings with all leaders in order to ask about their team’s goals;
  • Set up meetings with some employees in order to understand some processes in practice;
  • Engage in collective discussions and meetings, ask what may seem obvious;
  • Ask everyone what their vision of the role of Developer Advocate in the organization is and align expectations.
  1.  Get to know other Developer Advocates and better understand their role in their business

First of all, why not expand your network of relationships with other Advocates and, in addition, understand the performance of these people to add to yours? With this in mind, benchmarking Developer Advocates, that is, studying and evaluating actions of people in this role in competing players, was essential to broaden the vision of my role and adopt some dynamics not considered before.

Some suggestions for learning from those who have gone through the same challenges:

  • Search on Linkedin/Twitter for people in your area in the same role and expand your network of relationships;
  • Contact all the people who return to you and arrange meetings with everyone possible;
  • Turn your doubts into direct questions and write down all the answers;
  • Visit the communities of players in your market and get to know the work of your DevRel team;
  • Read materials and books about the role and discuss relevant results with your leaders.
  1.  Get to know the developer communities and stay tuned for events

As responsible for strategies that promote the developer community and help direct actions around the company’s developer relationships, an Advocate also needs to be on top of other communities and learn about their dynamics on different platforms.

With this in mind, mapping communities and events in the organization’s area of operation can be an interesting path in case the company is building a bridge with these environments. Mapping events is also essential to start organizing the schedule of future presentations and lectures.

This work helps to gain a deeper understanding of the forces shaping markets, and integrate the Advocate’s role with that of the Product team in eliciting product ideas and opportunities.

Some tips to start this part:

  • Coordinate marketing initiatives to build relationships with other developer communities;
  • Search on platforms such as Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Slack, Discord, Telegram, Stackover Flow, large communities in the area of your business, prioritizing communities of your interest;
  • Interacting with other developers and understanding their pain can be solved with your business product;
  • Update on major events, trends and discussions in these spaces;
  • Write down all possible observations to always be prepared to give feedback on your performance in this segment.

Days 30-60 as a Developer Advocate

  1.  Analyze data and reports about developers using your product: future members of your community

It’s important to have an understanding of where all the data is for your product community. That is, knowing where to find information such as: who are the developers, how many there are, types of contact, and other important information. If it’s your first time doing this, there won’t be anything configured yet.

Also, you will often need help from other team members in order to gain access and permissions to different sets of data.

In your research, seek to discover:

  • What community data exists today?
  • Where is this data located?
  • How are we reporting on community health and its impact on business?
  • What tools are we using to organize, analyze, and report on data from the developer community?
  1.  Analyze your product developers’ community spaces and plan community engagement

Now that you have access to the data and know who the developers are using your product, the next step is to get to know the future members of your community.

Even if there is no community program, there are likely many channels being used to interact and connect with customers. Familiarize yourself with all of this.

In this sense, it is important to understand:

  • Do these people interact with each other about your product? If yes, on which channel?
  • Do these people interact with your product through your business’ open source projects?
  • What channels are used to communicate with developers?
  • Who is responsible for managing this communication channel?
  • If there is still no such communication, try to start it, either via GitHub, email or social network.
  1.  Analyze possible business goals keeping in mind the data you have obtained about the community

After talking to company leaders and community members, you’ll be able to gather your initial ideas about your community’s goals.

Your goal ideas need to be as specific as possible so that other members of your team can give you clear feedback.

Get feedback, adjust your goals, then go back and ask for feedback again until everyone is comfortable with the proposed plan.

At this point, consider about the following criteria for your ideas:

  • How will the developer community impact the business?
  • What opportunities have you seen so far for building your community?
  • What are your community’s goals?
  • What metrics will you use to measure your community’s impact?

This step is very important.

If you don’t have clear goals or enough data, don’t move forward with the strategy, because you could end up putting together a plan that is detached from the reality of your business. Make drafts, talk to your team members, and plan.

Days 60-90 ahead

  1.  Talk to your developer audience: Engage in company publications, podcasts, and other social media

Nowadays, companies try in every way to interact with their audience via social networks and other communication channels.

Now that you know your business and your market better, in line with Communication and Marketing, you can communicate with developers through the development of technical content.

Remember that one of the roles of a Developer Advocate is to help the developer who uses your product by creating documentation, videos and other informative and educational materials.

To produce content like Advocate, be original, creative and put yourself in your audience’s shoes, as the internet is full of content on all subjects.

To help with this process:

  • Align with the Communication and Marketing team on the important issues to be addressed in the company’s media and technical gaps that you can fill;
  • Analyze the channels your audience consumes. Do they listen to podcasts more? Videos on youtube? Or prefer to read blogs? Twitter threads?
  • Review the events in your area and plan the construction of content for lectures and lives and;
  • Create the content and ask your team members and other collaborators for feedback.
  1.  Attend your organization’s meetings and give your feedback, appreciating the initial influence of the developer advocate.

Go back to all the leaders you spoke to initially and share your progress. Ask for feedback on whether your goals align with theirs and if they have any ideas for improvement or advancement.

Make sure your plan aligns with their needs and is something they are excited to be a part of.

Some tips for facilitation:

  • Highlight your findings during leadership meetings and/or general meetings;
  • Document all your progress and share with the organization;
  • Ask for individual feedback when you think it’s necessary, whether for the Sales, CS or Marketing team.

Keep in mind that this process is ongoing and can often take some time, especially with asynchronous communication. If you don’t tell people what you are doing and what the results are, they won’t know.

  1.  Start building your community

This point is for those who, like me, have just started on this journey and had to plan many steps to reach this stage.

This process can be very slow. It can take months, depending on the level of knowledge you have about the product, the stage of the product, and also how the developer audience interacts with your tool.

The secret is to start small and on time.

If you don’t already have a community program, start by testing David Spinks’ proposed “Minimum Viable Community” idea with a small event or group.

Knowing this, keep in mind information such as: 

  • Data from users of your product;
  • Main channel used by devs; 
  • Objectives and metrics raised to analyze your community; 
  • How building that community will impact your business.

An important point is to review your strategy every quarter and set new goals based on what you are learning.

If you already have a community program running, you can take this opportunity to implement the strategic changes you’ve raised all along.

Developing a new community

It’s worth remembering that this content is not a prescription of action for the role of Developer Advocate, mainly because it is a position that differentiates the performance depending on the company’s segment and its business strategy.

I hope this content helps those who are just starting out as a Developer Advocate and who are taking charge of the community of a new company.

If you’ve recently started or are interested in a Developer Advocate role, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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