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What is DevRel?
3 min read

What is DevRel?

I answer common questions when people not in DevRel ask about DevRel.
What is DevRel?

DevRel, or Developer Relations is the intersection between Engineering, Developer Experience, and Communication. It's a new-er field than most. This aims to help clarify what DevRel is.

Below are some of the questions I'm often asked about DevRel.

Do people in DevRel write code?

Yes. A lot of the times we build demos, implementation examples, and real products to solve problems and help communicate effectively.

Heroku is a great example of continuously improving the developer experience.

So it's like an engineer?

Yup!

So why aren't they just called Engineers?

Often, people in DevRel are engineers, but with more focus than just Engineering. There's a lot of communication, presentations, and community. DevRels wear multiple hats. The ultimate goal is to improve the Developer Experience and they get to do so through multiple avenues.

Think of DevRel as the intersection of People and Code.

So like Engineering Marketers?

In my experience, developers don't like being marketed to. They're often more skeptical and resistant to traditional marketing, or well.. all marketing.

They're resilient to "buy my book" pitches and snake oil. Improving developer experience and showing them how what you've got gives them power ups is the key. It's no secret, developers want better experiences and they want things that make them better. Everyone wants to have gadgets like James Bond or Batman's tool belt.

Why do you need DevRel?

Code is everywhere.

If you make a developer's life better, they'll advocate for you. If you make it difficult, they'll move on to the next. Paypal has been around for way longer than Stripe, and they both accept payments. So why did Stripe become so successful so many years after Paypal established themselves as  online payments standard? It's simple: Stripe made a conscious decision to improve the developer experience. It was at least 100x better than Paypal's.

If your product is ever used by a developer, then you need to think about your audience. How do you get an unbiased view of your product? How do you know what to improve? How do you improve their experience?

DevRel is important to all companies. In the United States alone there are over 4.5 Million people in the computer engineering fields according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This doesn't account for students, hobbyists, and those who's primary job title is different. Everyone uses a computer.

What is Developer Experience?

If you can improve what a developer has to go through to use your product, you're doing a great job. If you can create a feedback loop with those developers, you're doing an amazing job.

Developer Experience is key to building products that developers want to use. If you don't know and solve their problems, your product becomes irrelevant.

What's hard about DevRel?

  1. You have to be technical.
  2. You have to communicate clearly and effectively.
  3. You have to have an understanding of the domain.
  4. It's incredibly hard to hire for DevRel. When I hire for DevRel I look for people who've got a startup or entrepreneurial mentality that are also able and comfortable working autonomously.
  5. It's hard to measure value, especially in the wrong culture.

What's awesome about being a DevRel?

  1. You get to work with awesome people.
  2. You have a unique and valuable perspective about the state of affairs with developers, product, marketing, engineering, and business decisions.
  3. Often acts as an intrapreneur with flexibility and autonomy.
  4. You get to use your creativity.
  5. There's variety in your work.
  6. Community – build it and they won't come, help them and they will.

Examples of where DevRel can help:

  1. Spreading the word.
  2. Improving Developer Experience.
  3. Dealing with acquisitions (being acquired or acquiring).
  4. Education: Internal is just as important as external.
  5. Feedback Loops.
  6. Helping with Product decisions.
  7. Working cross functionally to help other teams and orgs understand the developer.
  8. Community Outreach.
  9. Developer Culture.

Developer Relations is the intersection of People and Code. It's value to companies is in building better relationships with developers through education, tooling, and most importantly: developer experience.  

If you represent a company that interacts with developers, has apis, or writes code and you don't have DevRel, you're missing out.

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