Why I became a Developer Advocate
A look back at the windy paths leading towards Developer Relations
Question prompt: "What made you want to be a Developer Advocate?"
“How is this a job!?” ~ @Chris_Trag (2012)
I found myself asking this while sprinting through downtown São Paulo for an API workshop in the Spring of 2012. While preparing my talking points 6,500 miles from home, I couldn’t stop thinking about how different (and how far away!) this experience was from growing up in snowy Boston.
A few years prior, I had joined Silicon Valley startup to work on their website as a front-end developer. One pivotal moment in particular was a team meeting where Luis Samra (GM of LATAM) asked if I’d be willing to fly down to Brazil and help train developers on our SDK and developer tools. That meeting changed the course of my career path as I fell in love building in public along with the energy that comes with roles across Developer Relations, Evangelism, and Advocacy.
How it started
From as early as I can remember, I love building apps. It started with learning how to create keyframes in Macromedia to launching my band’s website on Geocities. In addition, I know many of us kids from the 90s that fell in love with web development by hacking the UI of Myspace through CSS injection 😆 Each of these memories was an early lesson in hands-on projects as a path towards tactile learning and teaching developers.
During the early 2000s, I had the opportunity to start working as a web designer / developer New England. One intern manager in particular, Ming Chow, took a leap of faith in hiring me (full story here). It was during these roles where I began attending developer meetups on Web Standards, JQuery, and how Flash was most definitely not the future. Websites like A List Apart and builders such as John Resig, Margot Bloomstein, Ethan Marcotte, Dan Cederholm, and Lea Verou inspired me to keep digging to make sense of how things works on the web.
The excitement of sharing knowledge led me towards giving talks, hosting meetups, and teaching developers starting in the mid 2000s. These events were mostly passion projects and community volunteering, with the occasional assignment at work to get multiple teams working together. Little did I know at the time all of this would build towards a future career in Developer Relations.
I love working in this career field as a way to contribute towards the success of those around me. Watching interns and students transform into leaders over time gives me such a sense of pride to have been part of their journey. When colleagues up-level their technical skills in order to open new doors, I'm motivated to focus and keep moving forward. Tech jobs and the individual desire to learn is one of the best paths towards economic upward mobility. The unrelenting desire to design, build, collaborate, and learn is the spirit that all the best developer communities share. As a Developer Advocate, you get to witness this firsthand and also improve your skills over time.
Additional reasons I love working as a Developer Advocate
- The inspiration of watching others learn & grow technical abilities
- Creative problem solving
- Learning through hackathons, workshops, livestreaming, and meetups
- Building and improving products through developer feedback loops, office hours, and champions programs
- Developer empathy - both internally and externally for a platform
- A “Fixer” spirit - discovering news ways to problems through integrating yourself
There’s been moments in my career when I’ve questioned the value of what I’m doing along with the potential impact being an Advocate may (or may not) have. It’s a role surrounded by a barrage of opinions, assumptions, bad actors, and lastly first impressions. These internal and external voices of doubt are worth contemplating on with intention, thinking deeply about “Why do I do what I do?”.
Launching developer relations programs across two decades along with watching multiple waves of builders rise up has been an experience worth the journey.