What Is DevRel?
What Developer Relations really is and how it impacts tech today
Over the last two years that I spent in tech communities among students and beyond, including the previous five months as a DevRel professional, one question I often receive is what is DevRel? It is an important question that I have frequently asked to better understand this space before professionally entering it. Therefore, I have decided to share my perception and understanding of this space from my experience in this blog.
Developer Relations, or DevRel, is a domain that focuses on maintaining relationships with the folks building on an organization's technologies or products.
Essentially DevRel is the bridge between the code and the community. DevRel folks are often responsible for maintaining communication between organizations and developers to ensure a better information flow and feedback loop. Thus, both entities have a better experience and growth path.
Why DevRel Has Become Necessary
As we move towards a more technologically-enabled world, we are not only seeing more people developing solutions to problems using programming and computer science, but we also have more companies catering to such folks. These companies can often be classified as the following:
- Developer First: These companies cater products primarily to developers (B2D). Examples include Twilio, Auth0, MongoDB, Appwrite (where I work), etc.
- Developer Plus: These companies cater products primarily to businesses (B2B) or consumers (B2C) and secondarily to developers to leverage their platforms to build. Examples include Microsoft, Twitter, Amazon, Salesforce, etc.
With more and more organizations catering their services to developers, it became apparent that these organizations need people who can build with their platforms and communicate with developers, educate newcomers, grow their audience, etc. This is precisely the gap that DevRel aims to fill.
Areas DevRel Impacts
Facets Of DevRel
DevRel is not a single role but a grander umbrella comprising various facets that are essential to the growth of both the developer and the product:
- Developer Advocacy and Evangelism
Developer Advocates propagate the developers' voice with a particular product to the concerned organization. They are responsible for ensuring product understanding and assisting with education initiatives while maintaining regular feedback flows for the organization.
Developer Evangelists propagate an organization's voice to its developer audience and community. They are often responsible for creating new content and assisting outreach initiatives with formally acting as ambassadors for the organization.
Developer Advocacy and Evangelism can often have substantial overlaps, which is why I have categorized them together.
- Community Management
Community Managers ensure that the developer community of an organization maintains active engagement and remains a safe space for all while planning and executing initiatives that facilitate the growth of the organization's audience and community.
- Developer Education
Developer Educators enable developers to understand a product better and learn how it functions to start building with the organization's product as quickly as possible.
- Developer Marketing
Developer Marketers aim to catch the attention of developers to drive awareness and adoption around a product, ensuring that the audience of an organization does not stop growing.
Responsibilities Of DevRel
There are various areas that DevRel folks often work on and impact:
- Technical Content
One of the essential responsibilities of DevRel folks is to create new content, both written and video, to ensure that developers have the necessary resources to build with the concerned product. Different content forums may include documentation, blogs, articles, newsletters, livestreams, video channels (e.g., YouTube, Vimeo, etc.), podcasts, etc.
- Developer Experience
DevRel folks are often responsible for helping understand and improve the user (or, in this case, developer) experience of a product to ensure that more developers want to use the product. This can range from engaging with active developers and surveying the community to being beta testers themselves. However, it is a crucial responsibility of DevRel folks. Some may even say that Developer Relations is a facet of Developer Experience rather than vice versa.
- Application Development
DevRel teams may not be dedicated software engineers, but that does not mean that they don't code. They (often) actively build newer sample applications to improve the ecosystem around a product. They may also help develop and upgrade tooling within the organization to improve workflows and enhance productivity.
- Community Development
If a DevRel person is an actor, the community is their stage. In the developer ecosystem today, communities have become a prime forum for developers to learn, collaborate, and showcase their work. This is why most DevRel folks (if not all) will be found actively engaging in, supporting, and even growing their communities.
Starting In DevRel Through Communities
DevRel is genuinely a fantastic space to work in. Still, the high diversification of skills necessary can make it confusing to find an entryway, especially as a student or a young professional. Based on my experiences, I have compiled a little roadmap demonstrating one way you can take your first steps in DevRel:
- Join A Community And Begin Learning
Join a tech community, learn about your preferred tech (and beyond), interact with the mentors, and network with your peers. Learning is a significant first step, and maintaining this habit will keep you versatile even in the future.
- Build On What You Learn
Once you're actively learning, start applying your knowledge by building something. Whether you develop an entirely new project or port an older one to newer tech stacks, this experience will reinforce your learning and provide you with a tangible outcome and milestone in your growth journey. Please remember that building should not just be a one-time activity, but a regular part of your personal journey.
- Share About What You Learn And Build
Showcasing your projects, creating written/video content, and speaking at meetups and other community forums are all great ways of sharing your knowledge. These will improve your communication skills, demonstrate your tech command, and build your brand.
- Apply To And Join A Ambassador Or Leadership Program
Once you're set in the learn-build-share cycle, you can start picking up leadership opportunities. Different student programs help you access the necessary mentorship and resources to lead your community.
- Lead A Larger-Scale Initiative For Your Community
After gaining the previously mentioned experiences, you can begin leveraging those to uplift your community. Architecting and running an initiative will let you learn how to extend your knowledge and create opportunities for your community members.
This experience will also allow you to perceive another side of communities by getting a taste of people and team management, strategy, marketing, logistics, and operations, essentially all the behind-the-scenes work needed to run a community.
- Keep Learning, Building, Sharing, and Leading
After you've done it all once, it's time to do it again and again and again. You don't grow by doing that one great thing once, but lots of great stuff for a long time. Consistent hard work will take you much farther than mere talent.
I want to add that these were all learnings from my journey. This process worked well for me, but it's "a" process, not "the" process. There are more ways to enter DevRel, so please don't feel afraid to reject this path and choose another one if that works better for you. As long as you understand your route and keep working hard at it, no one can stop you from making it in DevRel.
From my experience, I can say that DevRel is not just a job but a philosophy. You don't just wake up one day and decide that you want to start doing DevRel. You start helping other developers, creating content, supporting communities, mentoring your peers, and, one day, realize that you're already doing DevRel. DevRel is one of the fulfilling roles in tech that I am aware of, and I hope to see more of you take your first steps in the near future.
Extra: DevRel Resources For Students And Newcomers
Over the last year, I have spoken at various forums to discuss how people can begin their journey into the DevRel space. You can find them below: