It's developer relations...wait no, it's developer advocacy...wait no, it's developer evangelism...wait no, it's developer experience...wait no, it's developer relations...
In this episode we talk about the giant umbrella that is developer relations with Nader Dabit, developer relations engineer at Edge & Node, and Pachi Carlson, developer relations engineer at New Relic.
Ben Halpern is co-founder and webmaster of DEV/Forem.
Christina Gorton is a Developer Advocate at Forem. She is a LinkedIn Instructor and technical writer.
Nader Dabit is an author and developer relations engineer at Edge & Node.
Pachi Carlson is a developer relations engineer at New Relic.
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[00:01:37] ND: You have to know how to code, you have to know how to communicate, you have to know how to write, and you have to put them together. And I think it’s very hard to even find someone that is good at coding, much less someone that is good at all these things put together.
[00:02:00] BH: Welcome to DevDiscuss, the show where we cover the burning topics that impact all of our lives as developers. I’m Ben Halpern, a Co-Founder of Forem.
[00:02:07] CG: And I'm Christina Gorton, Developer Advocate at Forem. Today, we’re talking about developer relations with Nader Dabit, Developer Relations Engineer at Edge & Node, and Pachi Carlson, Developer Relations Engineer at New Relic. Thank you both for joining us.
[00:02:22] ND: Thank you for having us.
[00:02:22] PC: Thank you for having us.
[00:02:24] BH: So DevRel is one of those fields that seems to be constantly in reinvention, probably for the better. I think the social lives and careers of developers are constantly in flux and DevRel sort of keeps things together. There’s a lot of different titles and words for the same thing. And we might get into some of that, dev advocacy, evangelism, developer experience work, all of those things. But first, let’s get to know you two. Nader, can you tell us a bit about your background?
[00:02:51] ND: Yeah. So I’ve been at Edge & Node, which is a company that’s in the crypto/decentralized web infrastructure space for a couple of months. And before that, I was managing the Developer Advocacy Team at Amazon Web Services Front-end Web & Mobile. I was at that role for a little over three years. I was the manager for the last year and then I was a senior developer advocate for one year and then a developer advocate for my first year. And then before that, I ran my own consulting company for React and React Native for about a year. And then before that, I was an engineer working at various startups.
[00:03:25] BH: Your DevRel work at Edge & Node I feel like is already having an effect on me. I really loved your post not too long ago, about a full-stack guide to Ethereum development. And I feel like that was sort of quintessential good DevRel work. I felt like it introduced me to something I got to know for the first time in a deeper sense.
[00:03:44] ND: That’s cool. Yeah, that’s a very interesting space. I mean, this space that the blog post was addressing is something that is really interesting, I think, for developers that haven’t really been exposed to it. I think a lot of people think of the crypto space in terms of speculative nature to it almost like investment or whatever, when in reality, there’s actually a lot of interesting applications in software and a lot of interesting kind of things happen that may affect the future of the internet.
[00:04:14] CG: And Pachi, can you get into your developer background a little bit?
[00:04:17] PC: I’m a poster kid for CodeNewbie with a different background. I’m a Brazilian immigrant. I had been in the US for eight years. I just started teaching myself to code less than three years ago while I was working full-time as a nanny. And I just kind of taught myself. And while I was doing that like since almost the beginning, I happened to go to the Codeland 2019 while I listened to all they’re talking about blogging and I found out about DEV and had writing and what I was learning. And as I was streaming, I was kind of creating content and just trained myself on Twitter and the community without knowing what it was doing. I actually don’t know what I’m doing most of the time, but then I found out about DevRel. I had no hope to start working on that right away, because when you look about DevRel, they ask for you to have years of experience as a developer. And I had one job, full-time developer, for like nine months, but I was just so active on Twitter, on DEV, like in the community really, and creating content that Joanna, my manager, had reached out and, “Hey, I want to talk about this job.” And we talked about the job and I got a job and that’s in that account.
[00:05:29] BH: So when we were thinking about who to have on the show, we thought of both of you two as really awesome positive forces in the space, but also representative of two ends of the spectrum in terms of overall career experience. So it seems like there’s a lot of room in DevRel for folks who came in through a long career in other areas of development and then there’s also opportunities for newer developers who bring a lot of other skills to the table and are great with the community to have an impact. Nader, what would you say you see in that paradigm? What do you look for in a very experienced developer relations professional versus someone who’s newer to the field, but brings a lot of other skills?
[00:06:12] ND: Yeah. I think that the teams that are hiring for these types of roles are going to have different opportunities for different kinds of levels of expertise. And I tend to see like the larger teams, of course, being able to bring in more junior people, just because there’s so much breadth to cover that if you have room for like eight people, then there’s room for one or two junior people probably. But if you just have a single person that needs to cover everything, then it’s often harder to bring in someone that’s junior and have them be successful. And you don’t want to bring someone in and have them be unsuccessful because it’s going to be stressful to them, and to everyone that’s going to be like not a good experience. But I think like the really great things that someone that has not a ton of experience brings to the table is a fresh perspective on the problem domain. And I think they can come into situations and identify issues that experienced engineers will not notice just because they have a lot of assumptions that are kind of baked into their experience and that they’ll kind of overlook. So like I always see when someone kind of new comes into our documentation or building something, they’re often able to identify a lot of really great things that we can do to improve our developer experience and our documentation. So I think the people that are kind of a little more junior have a lot of value that they can bring to the table, but they need to be on a team or in an environment that is nurturing to them, I think.
[00:07:45] PC: A big part of DevRel's job is educating. And often [INAUDIBLE 00:07:50] but when I’m going to read something or watching a talk or something and the speaker or educator, they have been seniors for too long and they kind of lost the connection with the basics. So sometimes I don’t really understand what they were saying because it’s something that they had been doing so many times that they didn’t even know how to explain with simple words. That is why I think it is awesome if you can have space for people that are new because we know how to explain things in a simple way that other people that are starting can connect with us.
[00:08:21] CG: Yeah, I think those are both great points. I think you can definitely get the advantage of, like Nader said, that when you have more experience, it’s very helpful in this space, especially if you are bringing on new people, but having that newer perspective is awesome as well. And I’ve definitely seen you doing that on Twitter and Twitch and all over the place, Pachi.
[00:08:39] PC: Thank you.
[00:08:40] BH: Can we take a step back and try to define what the field of developer relations is and what some of the job titles are and what any meaningful differentiation is between some of the titles?
[00:08:51] PC: I always like to go back to the code community content thing to like have a start point what DevRel is because it’s very summarizable, but it’s a good basic, where you work with code, not as much as a developer because we have to create content and we had to connect with the community. And I feel like what differentiates most about all those roles is how much of each you’re working. Like right now, I’m working heavily with community contents. So I'm not having as much time to code. I feel like evangelists, it’s usually they spend more time with coding, but the titles I feel like each company takes the titles that they like and adapt to them. They have like their main things, but depending on the goal of the team, the company kind of adapts to what they need to get done.
[00:09:39] ND: Yeah. And I think also, for me, it seems to kind of depend on the company itself and what the product or the software or the thing that they’re trying to accomplish like is. And it seems like more and more companies are opening up roles for like developer advocates and developer relations and developer evangelism and all of these different names, like you mentioned, are kind of doing similar stuff. But I think it makes a lot of sense in some companies to have this role and then in other companies it doesn’t make a lot of sense. And I think now with how often people are starting to create this role, I’m starting to see more companies that maybe don’t really need this or just doesn’t make as much sense as it might for other companies. But this is just me outside looking in. I’m not like, of course, so familiar with their businesses to understand the role. They obviously are putting it together for some reason. But I think that like the people that are doing DevRel or the most successful are often truly interested in the tech that they’re talking about and they’re working and building cool and interesting stuff with it. So when you start getting these really, really external type of corporate-y type of companies trying to hire developer relations. So just for instance, like Kroger or a company like that, hiring a developer relations team, like I’m not saying Kroger has that, but I’ve seen companies like that doing that. And I’m like, “I don’t get it. Unless they’re doing open source and trying to like recruit or something, that might make a little sense, but I can’t see someone like doing DevRel for Kroger versus New Relic where they’re actually creating cool software.”
[00:11:18] CG: Yeah, definitely. I think that could be kind of the mixture some people get with the community management and developer relations and kind of getting that a little bit confused where something like Kroger, they may want to build a community, but maybe they don’t need a developer advocate. With so many of these like titles that are similar, do you all feel like this is a good thing, like to have all of these different titles for people to kind of pick and choose what they have? Or do you think it’s complicating things in the space?
[00:11:44] PC: Well, I want to say that it’s good or bad. It definitely complicates things. And it’s not like if you are a front-end engineer, you know what to expect because you're front end and back end. With DevRel, it’s like no. Some people they have, they’re clear if you ask them what is a developer advocate versus an evangelist, they’re going to tell you, “What?” But I feel that is not like something that’s written in stone. So it can be confusing. Like I say, for my job, like my manager’s like creating the team, like, “Okay, I think DevRel engineer is a cool title.” And that one was like why he gave me the name. So I think that maybe if you had fewer titles and with better guidelines, that would be better. But again, DevRel is this big umbrella where lots of people doing different things and I don’t think we’re going to get there anytime soon.
[00:12:32] ND: Yeah. It’s definitely confusing, especially like people that are on the outside looking in when they’re like trying to figure out what the difference is and I’m like trying to explain it, but I can’t because I really don’t know the difference either. I don’t like the word evangelist though, personally. I think that it has too much negative correlation with religion and stuff to me. And it just sounds kind of weird. I wouldn’t probably personally want to work in a role that was like evangelist. I would even be like, “Hey, just give me a different title because it feels kind of weird.”
[00:13:02] PC: Yeah.
[00:13:04] ND: Yeah. So I mean, I don’t know, but yeah, everyone’s doing essentially similar stuff, it’s a combination of community, a content creation, education, documentation, developer experience, communication, like all this stuff, social media kind of rolled into one, and I think you don’t have to be good at all of it to be successful. You can just find one or two things that you’re good at and be successful. So it’s not like you have to do all this stuff, but find the areas that you’re good at and you can typically thrive if you’re just successful at like one or two of those things.
[00:13:37] PC: Yeah. I think if we could do all those things and what difference the title is like what their focus maybe, but again, that was not really a set of rules. If I want to say I’m a developer advocate, nobody’s going to say, “Hey, you’re not.”
[00:13:55] ND: Yeah. I think like the developer advocate, developer relations, people like overlap in the community, but I wouldn’t say they are a community manager. I think what I have seen for sure is that community managers or people that are focused on community are on the developer relations team and they work with developer advocates, but the day-to-day is a lot different. You see the community managers hanging out in Discord a lot more, creating events, and nurturing the community a little more in doing less content creation, whereas you see the DAs and stuff like doing more actual technical work.
[00:14:31] BH: Do we have a sense of who pioneered developer relations in any way that we recognize it today? And when did it become such a mainstream part of our industry?
[00:14:46] ND: I think I’d looked into this at one point and I’ve found some of the earlier references to the terminology that we’re kind of using today. And it just seems like it’s become an organic evolution of traditional marketing almost because people that are looking to kind of get the word out about their products in the past might have done some traditional advertising and stuff. But with the connected world, real people and real relationships matter a lot more than anything else. And I think that with a community/DevRel arm, you’re able to build those relationships and also do the marketing type of stuff at the same time. You’re kind of like getting the word out. You’re having a direct feedback loop between the developers and the company and you’re also able to kind of just provide help and assistance. But yeah, I don’t know the answer to that.
[00:15:44] PC: Apple had a DevRel team in the ‘90s or something that was similar to that. I think that was the latest history of DevRel team. It’s something that’s been in the background for a while. Tech is not huge like the other fields. We have a strong sense of community. You feel like you are different. You are special. So we have these events. So I feel like DevRel has always been in the back and right now maybe because the pandemic gave us a bigger need of belonging of community. So I feel like that maybe that’s why, like this last year this word, like DevRel, had just been popping up everywhere.
[00:16:20] BH: Yeah. And it certainly makes sense to point to Apple as one of the pioneers. The Worldwide Developer Conference started in 1987 and certainly has a lot of leadership in how organizations relate to their developer community, and that’s always been such a big thing for that organization. And to Nader’s point, I graduated with a degree in marketing and then I got into software development and the stuff that DevRel is was pretty intuitive to me, but it wasn’t until later that I started seeing it be defined so often as a thing with an area and a specialization. All of a sudden, it seemed like this area I’d been paying attention to for my whole career and never explicitly doing was all of a sudden seemed to be a title that every organizational life that I was paying attention to.
[00:17:14] ND: Yeah. And I don’t even like the word marketing at all. And I think if you talk to almost every developer relations person, they also agree. They might even deny vehemently that they have anything to do with marketing. But really if you want to be completely transparent, part of it kind of is even if you don’t want to admit that, I think at the end of the day, you are doing awareness type of work as part of it a lot of times, and that’s almost like a direct correlation between what marketing is doing at the same time. So it’s kind of a small part of it, but it is a part of it.
[00:17:46] PC: Yeah. I think as a market, we have a very specific voice. You’re very mindful of what it would be and how we say it because if you market anything to them, they’re going to run away.
[00:17:58] ND: Yes, exactly. Yeah.
[00:17:59] PC: But I feel like using marketing is easier to explain to somebody from outside tech, like when somebody asks me what I’m doing, I don’t have that word to explain. And, “Hey, I kind of do this dev advocacy.” It ends up as a marketing act kind of but not really.
[00:18:17] CG: Yeah, I’ve seen it kind of as a good balance. When you think of developers working with designers, they’re not necessarily designers, but they work closely with them and developer advocates, developer relations, we often work closely with marketing. We may not be coming up with all of the marketing, but we’re often doing stuff with marketing and working closely with them.
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[00:20:05] CG: So how do you all feel about the role? And we obviously probably have biases here, but do you feel like it is a good addition to the developer ecosystem and why?
[00:20:14] ND: I mean, to me, it’s almost like a no-brainer at this point. I mean, you could point to a few companies that have literally grown the total value of their company exponentially in short periods of time by bringing on like the right people. And I think the sweet spot of running a software business that is kind of like aimed at developer tooling and stuff at this point is having like a solid combination of usefulness developer experience and then good developer relations team to get the word out about the stuff that you’re building and then bring the feedback back to the engineering teams to iterate, and then also to help the engineering team prioritize the things that the developers actually want. And I don’t think there is another way to get that feedback loop the way that a good developer relations team would do today. I mean, Netlify is kind of like a really, really great example of a developer relations team that’s kicked ass over the last couple of years. Gatsby had a really great one for some time. They still are doing some interesting stuff. Microsoft hired a lot of people in the community that were essentially doing developer relations. They weren’t the reason that they turned Microsoft around, but they did help change the perception in my opinion of what Microsoft is. And yeah, I think to me, it’s no doubt at this point, it’s very clear that the value proposition is there.
[00:21:38] PC: The company has a use for it. But if it does, there’s no other way to get authentic feedback like where that really makes sense. And for the dev community, you have these people that really care about your opinion and about your experience. So it’s not like filling a form for a feedback that you didn’t know if anybody going to read. There are those people that really care about your experience, about what you’re doing, about educating you and sometimes not even all in the product, just to know as a developer in general. So I really love the quotes that I read on [INAUDIBLE 00:22:12] community is a bridge between the community and the company. So the company will bridge the community, the community will bridge the company because that’s really what it is and now is very authentic relationship. We have to care about both, and that means that both sides get a really good opinion and really authentic feedback. So I think DevRel is very beneficial. If you know you're doing right and in the right place with the right people because it’s not easy to find the right people to what are you looking for.
[00:22:46] ND: Yeah. I mean, I was managing that team, like I mentioned for a little over a year, and I was doing hiring for like a year and there is a lot of demand for this role right now and there’s a lot of developers that want to have the job of this role, but the overlap of the people that were kind of coming through and interviewing versus the people that were kind of meeting the requirements for the role was actually slim. There is a lot of opportunity for people that kind of want to become successful in this space versus the amount of work that’s out there that if you focus on just maybe making yourself ready for this role, you could probably end it in almost any company. If you spent like six months doing some writing and maybe speaking at a couple of meetups and kind of getting all the material that you could kind of show to show that you are someone that can accomplish this, it’s such a fun job. You get to travel the world. You get paid to learn. You get to meet people, increase your network. You can almost get paid to increase your own brand and stuff, like on Twitter and stuff. It’s just a fun role for anyone that’s not completely introverted. A lot of people want to do it, but you also have to be having combination of skills that are very valuable. You have to know how to code. You have to know how to communicate. You have to know how to write and you have to put them together. And I think it’s very hard to even find someone that is good at coding, much less someone that is good at all these things put together.
[00:24:15] BH: You talked a lot about how awesome it can be to travel the world and get to meet a lot of people and things like that. What are the hardest parts about just doing the job?
[00:24:27] PC: I think for me is that I have a loss of autonomy and flexibility with my time. And sometimes I don’t realize that I’m working too much. Like I said before, I got this job. I used to write every week. I was streaming every day. I was doing half of what I’m doing now. And that was on my free time for fun. That is my job. Sometimes I see they’re writing a blog and I think I missed four hours and I streamed for three hours. I’m like, “Am I working today?” And for my brain, I may not because I’m enjoying, but my body is totally not catching up. And if we don’t watch out, it’s really easy to burn out because when you’re having fun, you don’t really realize that. Right? But eventually, your body’s like, “Hey, you need to rest or you're going to crash.” So the burn out, you can catch it really fast if you don’t watch out. So it’s really important to have boundaries with your time.
[00:25:18] BH: Yeah, definitely. I agree with all of that. And yeah, it’s a lot of fun, but it is a very tough role to do. Yes, what are some of the tough parts? And I think it is different for everyone. And for me, one of the things that you have to always keep into consideration is that you are looked at as one of the people in the community that is on the forefront or that is kind of on the cutting edge often of technology. So you often feel the need to be up to date and understand how to do a lot of stuff. So therefore, you’re kind of always cramming and learning stuff because when something new comes out for your company, you are often going to be the first one to ever write about it or to ever talk about it. And then there’s also this content creation cycle and pipeline that is out there. And often people are almost like competing, it seems like, to kind of create the first good blog post or video about this new technology or be one of the first people to kind of like become familiar with it and talk about it. I think just as a developer already, you’re already struggling to keep up with everything happening in the industry, and I think even more so as a developer advocate, you feel that pressure. So that alone is a lot. Preparing for conferences and talks is often very stressful. I think that there are things around that though to kind of strategically make that easier. And I think when you first doing this work, you don’t understand how to maybe manage your time and manage your life even really because let’s say you get invited to speak at like 10 conferences one year and last year you didn’t speak at any conferences because now as a developer advocate, you’re having a little bit more opportunities to speak, the mistake that a lot of people make is they might prepare ten different talks or six, eight different talks. In reality, you can get away with just preparing two or three talks and just giving those over and over and over. And then therefore, if you have something prepared, you can modify it a little bit, improve it one event at a time, but you’re not starting from scratch and your presentation gets a lot better, your delivery is better, the people actually get more out of it and you go to the conference being able to just chill out and enjoy meeting people and you’re giving a talk that you’ve already given. The first time you give it might be a little stressful, but the second, third or fourth time, and I’ve seen people give talks over the course of years, the exact same talk, just changing it a little bit. To me, that seems like a good strategy to kind of get around. So there’s different things like that, I think, that you can understand that will help you become less burnt out. Another big one is repurposing content or material. So if you come up with a really great idea of something and you want to make this a blog post, you can take that exact blog post and turn it into a video. You can turn it into a workshop. You can turn it into something that you speak out at a conference, like this one thing you’re kind of getting a lot of mileage out of and you’re also able to not only like not having as much work to do, but you’re also able to polish that content to make it extremely, extremely good. So therefore, you’re kind of, again, finding ways to do less with more impact.
[00:28:29] PC: One thing that I want to add is not something that is hard, but you have to really be mindful because if you like it or not, if you are a community DevRel, you're exposing yourself, right? It’s DevRel exposure. So you really have to be mindful of the things you write. We often have those discussions on Twitter. Things don’t go so well, but you have a lot of influence in what you say to people. So if you go outside there, you say, “Hey, HTML is easy,” and somebody’s trying to learn and really struggling, you might have just stolen that person’s future career. So I’m a very strong believer that nothing’s easy. So you’ll never going to hear me say that things are easy because that’s the point that they’re starting and they’re going to follow you and they’re going to listen to what you’re saying. So you really have impact on people’s lives, even if you don’t realize that. So it had to be Spider-Man thing, with great powers, you had great responsibilities. So I always have that in mind.
[00:29:22] CG: Yeah. I think those are really great points with kind of all of this learning in public that you tend to do with developer relations and it being a very visible role, just like you were saying, being careful about what you say. I’m wondering, have you all dealt with a lot of trolls while you’ve been putting yourself out there? And how do you manage those interactions when you do?
[00:29:40] PC: I’m a woman in tech.
[00:29:42] CG: Yup.
[00:29:43] PC: Yes. My main media is Twitch. So I’m just very blessed that since I started streaming, I just found a really great health community. So I have 12 moderators that they are there for fun. So I don’t have to do it. They know me. So if somebody chose me on the chat, I don’t really have time to read that because somebody already deleted that and just banned the person. But it’s something that we just have to deal with because it’s going to happen, right? People are not going to be happy. What do you say? Some people will just drive them in hatred for no reason. It’s not fun. But I think having people around you to support you and just understanding that that is just sadly how it is and it’s not about you, it’s about them, they don’t know what they are doing, they don’t have the confidence, you have that mindset. It could be better, but this is the place we are right now.
[00:30:36] ND: I think that everyone’s going to have their own experience and I’ve definitely had much different lived experience than people that are different than me, of course. So I’ve dealt with it probably less than most people, but I would say the thing that often I see is people that come into my YouTube and leave weird comments and stuff or maybe all my blog posts or on Twitter. And it just happens. I think the larger the audience that you have, the more people are going to see your stuff and the more likely that you’re going to have trolls to come in. If it’s not someone that you know or that knows someone you know that you can say, “Okay, this is the person’s perspective that I respect,” and I want to listen to them, then you just ignore everyone else because at least for me where I have already dealt in my past with depression and anxiety, those sorts of interactions will trigger that really badly. So you have to just be really careful with your mental health.
[00:31:34] PC: And you really have to know the fights you want to buy. Like somebody to say, “Hey, I don’t like you,” as a thing, but if somebody comments something that’s very special to you, so it’ll be harder for you to ignore. Sometimes you're going to want to yell at people. You just had to know what is the fights that are worth it because sometimes I might have to comment and complain. But if you can avoid that and whatever possible, it’s just lots of stress for yourself.
[00:32:00] BH: How do you remain creative in your role as a developer advocate, especially in the last year, when it is not so much about face-to-face interactions where it’s more about content creation and audience building and things like that? So where does the creativity come from in the process?
[00:32:22] ND: You hear about things like the writer’s block of a writer. Well, if you’re in content creation or developer advocacy, you often are wanting to create things that are original and with a creator economy that we’re kind of seeing happen at the moment, everyone is creating stuff. So the more people that are creating, that is awesome because more people are kind of getting their ideas out there, but it is also harder to kind of stand out. So I think that being original and coming up with new ideas is very important. So based on everything that I’ve possibly read is basically your mind is going to be a function of what is put into it is what comes out of it. So for me, I really, really like to read a lot of different, interesting books, like science fiction books, non-fiction books, fiction books, reading as much as possible, listening to podcasts, reading about things that are outside my current day-to-day work, trying to follow people on Twitter that have completely different perspectives and loves than me. If you put all that together, you start seeing patterns of things that are interesting in other parts of life and you can often kind of use that as inspiration to kind of do something in this part of the world, the tech part. For me, the key for creativity for me is just ingesting as much content from outside of the tech world as possible. And that ultimately will kind of spring out new ideas in the tech world.
[00:33:55] PC: When I started creating content, I would create content about the things I was doing or I was learning, but eventually you get dry on that. So I just listened to the people on Twitter, what they’re talking about and what I could add to that or people on Twitch that come to my chat and like, “Hey, [INAUDIBLE 00:34:13] talk about that.” My most popular blog post on DEV was about [INAUDIBLE 00:34:19] and that was something that I knew and I never considered to write about that. And I was doing a streaming with a friend and I told her, I was like, “Hey, do you know about that? I can teach you about that.” So I wrote that because a friend of mine thought I was super cool and that ended up being my most viewed blog posts ever. So sometimes I think that something is too simple or because I know that I have done that a lot of times. You don’t consider that, but I’m interested because sometimes the things that you know, that you use in your daily life are the most interesting thing to write about, but my biggest thing is just listen to people around me, what they’re talking about, what’s hard right now, like sometimes when you’re discussing about things, and just keeping in mind that often people worry if they know enough to create content. And most of my posts, they are not too technical. Tech is a lot about people, developer relationships. So you don’t have to only think about writing tutorials and writing a new framework. Sometimes you can just write about what are you doing in life, like where you are right now, how you got started in tech, that was a good thing, like the soft skills and the human side of tech.
[00:35:32] CG: That’s a great point, especially the point of just listening around to what other people are asking about and that you maybe don’t think, “Oh, this is a big deal,” but putting that content out there, because like you, one of my more popular things on DEV is just called All the Clouds in AWS. It’s just listing all the names, like AWS has so many products with cloud in it and people just didn’t know all of the different ones. So I just wrote, “Okay,” because I had been learning about it at the time. So I think that’s great.
[00:35:59] BH: Fascinatingly, my most ever viewed piece of content online was something I wrote in somewhat of the early days of DEV and it was called “Why I Switched from Atom to Visual Studio Code”. And it was in the early days of VS Code. So it's easy to say now that VS Code is super popular, but I actually feel like this post of mine helped make that part of history happen because I got about 200,000 reads and I kind of feel like it’s the kind of post is not trying to convince you as something that’s hard to do. It’s sort of like anybody who’s sort of on the fence of like Atom, which was the popular, similar type of text editor to VS Code, it’s not like the most profound post I’ve ever written or anything like that. And in fact, it was pretty short and to the point. But when I think about the popularity VS Code, where it was when I wrote the post versus where it is now and just how extremely popular that post was, I kind of get the sense that I had an impact in that entire thing, even though it’s Microsoft’s thing. It was going to be big, no matter what. I kind of feel like I had a bit of that history.
[00:37:10] ND: That’s cool. That’s awesome.
[00:37:13] CG: That goes back to the point of what Pachi was saying earlier, especially as developer advocates, DevRel, the things you say out there, people really take to heart. And so thinking about the stuff you put out there, yeah, that’s really cool.
[00:37:26] ND: Yeah. It’s hard to actually come to grips with that even today. When you just off the top of your head have a thought and you share it and then two years later, someone’s telling you they made a career decision based on something that you said. So I think the larger your platform, the more being very, I wouldn’t say careful, but being very straightforward about what you say and try to not leave anything to anyone’s imagination. So a lot of times, instead of giving advice, I will say in my experience like so-and-so and so because my experience is going to be different than everyone else’s experience. And I think that’s an important thing to keep into consideration. So when other people decide on their own, they can kind of think about that.
[00:38:10] BH: Yeah. And there are a lot of tastemakers on the internet who badly miss on that one point, in my experience, precursor to a lot of different types of advice.
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[00:40:03] CG: I wanted to follow up real quick on something we were talking about before where we were talking about some of the things DevRel does. We were talking about conferences and things. And in the last year, especially year and a half, a lot of that changed from face-to-face to online. And how much of that online aspect do you think DevRel was going to continue on with versus face-to-face stuff?
[00:40:25] PC: I personally think that people are going to [INAUDIBLE 00:40:28] at least because the person-to-person is a good feeling like that, like going out, but I feel like the online events opened like a huge audience. If you know the language and you have internet access, it doesn’t matter where you are, you can watch the conference. So I guess that smart conference is going to kind of keep that at some point. I joined DevRel in the middle of the pandemic. So I didn’t have much of the traveling experience. But yes, I don’t think that people are going to totally drop the online events. I think that’s something that’s going to keep getting stronger because we’re devs, we’re in the internet. It’s good to have that moment and you go to conferences and you meet people, but I really feel like the reach that online events gave to us is something that [INAUDIBLE 00:41:14].
[00:41:15] ND: Yeah, totally agree with all of that. I mean, the accessibility for an online event like the ones that have been happening is just so much better than a lot of the conferences that were happening just two years ago. You had to have money. You had to have time. You had to have the ability to just get on a plane and leave for two or three or four days to attend one of these events and you had to of course take in all the considerations for travel and stuff. But now, yeah, you can just tune in for two days and it’s free a lot of times. You don’t get the same exact experience, but if you’re in it for just learning, then you do get that. And then a lot of these platforms are offering ways to have community interaction and stuff. I’m actually talking to a lot of conferences that are happening in the next six months or so. And yeah, they’re all moving to hybrid. They kind of give the best of both worlds. If you want to attend virtually, you can. If you want to go there and interact and hang out with people, you can, then you can have that option as well. And to me, that makes the most sense because people do want to have that in-person experience sometimes and then people don’t. So it’s not going to cost a whole lot extra to make it virtual and it’s going to scale a lot better. Yeah.
[00:42:28] PC: I have ADHD. So even when I want watching online conferences, it’s not a thing that my brain should do. So I had tried out last year. I just cannot focus online conferences. So that was a good one to have.
[00:42:43] BH: We’re doing our Codeland Conference online again this year. And when I think about what’s important there is that we really try to create a helpful experience and lead people with a lot of impact that they can take away and not so much try to just replicate the conference experience. So we’re trying to put together some content, make it curated in a way that makes it special, and we want to do some extra stuff to ensure that people can find meaningful connections in a way that’s hard to foster in an online environment without a lot of special attention paid to that. But when we think about the peer digital experience of an event, the last thing we want to do is try to continue to replicate parts of in-person conferences that just aren’t worth replicating. And I think during the pandemic, some of that maybe made sense, like people are literally just missing that pure conference experience. So let’s try to kind of replicate it because we’re all in our homes. But going forward, it’s about how can we make the most of anything, any online component of anything, whether it’s a pure online thing or not.
[00:43:54] CG: I want to also add that I think because we talked about the accessibility of those viewing and coming in and watching it and how we can bring so many people, I’ve also seen this and even in my own career, the ability to be a dev advocate now seems more something that people who can’t travel all the time or go to all these events can do. I have four kids. I like to go to some conferences. I’m not going to go to a ton of them. I think that’s really opened that up for people too.
[00:44:22] PC: Yes. I’m from Brazil, but I live in the US, but I try to create as much authentic Portuguese as I can. So I spoke at two conferences in Brazil that I wouldn’t have in [INAUDIBLE 00:44:31] because of the timeline. It’s like a 12-hour’s flight. So you're not going to go to Brazil for a conference two times a year. So that was really great because virtually it’s helping me to connect more to the Brazilian community. Maybe after I want to go there once or twice a year, but right now I can literally talk in one Brazilian conference a month if I want. That would not be possible [INAUDIBLE 00:44:54].
[00:44:55] BH: So I hear that phrase learning in public a lot these days. It’s a new phrase in my life I feel like I pay attention to, but the idea isn’t new. It’s just a coining of something that people are paying attention to and maybe doing a little bit more of. What would we say are trends that we see on the horizon, like new ideas, things people are paying attention to perhaps because we’re in this moment of pandemic going back to normal? Any thoughts about where things are subtly going in the space of influence within the developer world?
[00:45:30] ND: I mean I think you see a couple of things happening right now. You’re seeing a fundamental change in how education happens and how the value is derived from that education. So in the past, if you wanted to make a hundred thousand dollars in the US, you had to probably go to college and you had to spend four to eight years, and in the US, you had to actually pay money for that. So you would go in debt. You would do all this stuff. And at the end of the four to eight years, you may or may not get a job to start paying back that debt. And the old way of learning was also teaching you a lot of things that were not applicable. And I think to spend that much time and money and a lot of the stuff you're learning doesn’t apply to your day to day. It’s just not efficient. So I think really what’s happening right now is a fundamental change in how people are going to start being educated in the future. Unless you kind of need an official certification for people’s life-and-death situations like a doctor or something like that. You’re starting to see that these educators are organically coming out of the community and they’re building their own platforms and they’re able to deliver the value at a much more efficient manner. And it’s not just like boot camps and stuff, but you’re seeing so many people that are just creating their own learning platforms, both in the developer community, as well as outside the developer community. I think one of the big things that’s happening is you’re going to, in my opinion, see the traditional going to college thing become even less popular maybe 10 years from now than it is now. And people can instead spend one year paying, I don’t know, like a thousand dollars a year or something at scale. If someone has a platform and they have 10,000 students, a thousand dollars apiece, it becomes a very profitable platform. And if they’re able to transfer some knowledge in that way, you’re saving a lot of money, you’re saving a lot of time for that person. And everyone’s starting to become a creator. So you’re starting to see this creator economy of educational things happening. Yeah. And to me, that seems to be something that’s going to happen and that’s already happening.
[00:49:30] CG: So with this learning in public that’s a bit more popular and that we just talked about, do you feel like this is something that companies should be looking for when hiring a DevRel candidate or do you feel like that’s not necessarily something DevRel has to have?
[00:49:44] ND: I wouldn’t say that would be a particular thing. Now I think it’s more about the ability to communicate effectively. That seems to be the number one thing that is transferable and everything else is kind of like something that, even communication I guess could be learned. But if you interview someone and you talk to someone and they’re able to demonstrate the ability to communicate ideas effectively, then you probably have a good candidate on your hands. And I think that that would be the most important thing. I think the idea of learning in public is interesting in the sense of maybe how you might approach content creation because some of the most impactful stuff that I’ve ever done as far as like the number of views are concerned have been me just documenting things that I’m learning in public, just like it sounds, where I kind of run into an issue. I’ll look on Google and I’ll look around and I’m unable to find the answer. So I’ve documented the answer and then I just put it in a blog post and then that’s my way of learning in public. And a lot of times you’ll be surprised at how many people are also looking for that exact answer.
[00:50:44] PC: Yes. I think it depends like your overall goal. I don’t think it’s needed, but if you [INAUDIBLE 00:50:51] DevRel, we have a particular education mission and it’s something that you’re really passionate about, I think that’s really something that helps if you put yourself out there, if you’re ready to learn in public. But like I said, DevRel has lots of different roles. So some of them, it might not even get in public. It’s not the most common, but writing documentation in DevRel and you don’t expose yourself as much. But I think it’s a nice thing to have if you know something that you’re comfortable with.
[00:51:20] BH: We’re talking a lot about things that you all can make your own decisions about. It’s up to you to kind of lead your own career in some of these ways. You’ve got to work with the team. We’re talking about creativity. There’s a lot of flexibility here. Nader, I want to ask you how it’s been working at a startup right now versus you were at AWS and you’ve had a long career. What are the different environments that foster different ways of doing dev advocacy? If you’re in an environment where you have a boss who has a boss who has a boss, what’s the difference in terms of having to describe your work, meet, OKRs or anything like that in these different spaces?
[00:52:05] ND: So I think I’ve had three experiences that would be “developer advocacy”. The first experience was before I joined AWS, I was running React Native training and the number one way I was getting consulting work was my React Native training YouTube and blog that all funneled links back to my landing page, which had a form that you could fill out and ask for consulting or training. So for that company, I was writing blog posts and videos, just explaining how to do basic things that anyone building a React or React Native app would want to know. And that was, of course, me running my own company and I was able to do whatever I wanted. So yeah, that was cool. And I was able to 100% focus on the things that I thought were interesting. Now going into AWS was a little different because now I’m working at a company with a team that has strategy and they have ideas and stuff that they’re doing. And I was lucky to be on a team that had a boss that was completely, completely hands-off in the sense of like he wasn’t micromanaging me. He was just basically telling me to just do what I felt was right almost. And with some guidance, when I needed it, it wouldn’t be like hands-off to the point where I wouldn’t have like support, but sometimes I would need to ask questions around where we think some of the more interesting stuff is going to happen with the actual products that we’re building around, like maybe what I can talk about. But it was actually pretty hands-off at AWS. And also the fact that Amplify was in the Front-end Web & Mobile Team was actually comprised of like 10 or 12 different AWS services, actually had a lot of flexibility on writing about a bunch of different sorts of things, like putting them all together. So we did have metrics and stuff that we were kind of aiming towards, but it was not anything that I would say was too stressful to deal with or anything like that. But the experience working at a startup now is a lot different than AWS because I would say now I even have more freedom to really kind of explore and try out interesting and new stuff. I mean, the team that I’m with now is just so different than AWS. It’s literally like the complete opposite. It’s kind of like a startup. We’ve only been around for a few months. We’re in a completely different space and there is so much low-hanging fruit that there’s just so much opportunity to kind of do stuff because a lot of things just haven’t yet been done. I’m having a lot more fun and I’m a lot more happy on my day-to-day than I would say I was at AWS the last year or so. But the first year or two was a little more exciting for me because I was learning a lot more. And maybe the thing that I’m getting at is that when I’m at my happiest, it’s when I’m able to really learn and investigate and try out new things. I think when I started getting anxious and depressed and burn out is when I’m not learning anything. And I felt that way at the end of my consulting career, when I was doing the React Native stuff over and over and over. I started feeling that way a little bit at the end of my AWS career, doing sort of the same things for the last year. And now I’m in a completely new space, learning new stuff, and I’ve never been happier.
[00:55:20] CG: If people want to get into DevRel, what are your biggest pieces of advice for them?
[00:55:25] PC: I think the first piece of advice is what worked for me, just start putting a little bit of content out there while you connect to the community. If you go see my very first post in DEV, you're going to see that that wasn’t a very interesting post. It was very different from what I write now. But just start creating. It doesn’t matter what. Just start writing them myself and connecting with a community. For me, in the beginning, that was sweeter, for you it might be something else. I think that the most important thing is for you to really care about the people that are going to read that and how they’re going to affect people, because lots of people are creating content right now. That’s fine. But I think that’s the differentiator between just create content, just write a blog post and doing DevRel is really caring about that relationship based on DevRel.
[00:56:16] ND: A hundred percent. Just start doing what you can to go ahead and create some stuff. Because when you interview, you’re often going to be talking about the things that you’ve already done. So having just done a few things is really important, I think, and they don’t have to be like monumental things. If you do like one thing a month over the course of four or five months, you’re going to have four or five things to talk about. So the easiest way to get hired for something is to have already done that thing. Unfortunately, that kind of sucks if you're busy, in a full-time job, and a parent and all these other things. But if you can find a little bit of time every month to just maybe do one thing, and then over the course of a few months, you’ll have a resume of things to kind of show. I would say focus on writing one or two really interesting things. Try to get accepted to a meetup to talk that is going to be recorded. If you have like a couple of blog posts and a talk, then you already have a lot to show for yourself and then maybe consider networking on social media, like Twitter, with people that are already successful in that field. So five or ten people on Twitter, follow them, interact with them, ask them questions. You’d be surprised that you might be able to set up 15-minute meetings with them to ask their advice. Also, you’d be surprised at where those types of relationships will ultimately get you over the course of time.
[00:57:36] CG: Yep. That’s great advice. Thank you both so much. So Nader, Pachi, thank you for joining us today.
[00:57:40] PC: Thank you so much for inviting me.
[00:57:42] ND: Yeah. Thank you for having us.
[00:57:53] CG: Thank you for listening to DevDiscuss. This show is produced and mixed by Levi Sharpe. Editorial oversight by Peter Frank and Saron Yitbarek. Our theme song is by Slow Biz. If you have any questions or comments, email [email protected] and make sure to join our DevDiscuss Twitter chats on Tuesdays at 9:00 PM Eastern. Or if you want to start your own discussion, write a post on DEV using the #discuss. Please rate and subscribe to this show on Apple Podcasts.