Finding The Right Developer Relations Gig

It’s not your imagination – there are a lot more gigs for developer evangelists out there than they used to be. If you’re hiring for the role, you know the competition is fierce. More companies are hiring more developer relations professionals than the software industry has seen before. The fine folks at Hoopy reported in one of the few regular quantitative views into the discipline that the number of devrel crews over 30 people grew 5x from 2018 to 2019.

With more companies hiring developer evangelists, it can become difficult to know which one has the gig you’ll absolutely love. Figuring that out comes down to one easy question you can answer before you even apply.

Measurement Step Zero

“How do you measure success?”

It’s the question you get from your hiring candidates, from your peers, from your boss, from the people you serve, from the finance department, and probably even your family. It may be the most frequent question of the many you field each week.

For a lot of professionals I know in the developer evangelism game, the question raises a lot of apprehension. For some, measurement feels tied to their value inside their company. For others, measurement is how they secure future resources to continue to serve developers well. And for everyone, it is a needed source of intelligence to improve the craft and deliver better work.

Budgeting for Developer Evangelism

I grabbed coffee last year with an unusually blunt founder working on his first startup. He cut to the chase faster than most of the folks I talk to exploring developer relations for the first time.

“I have no idea what makes sense for spending on this stuff, Rob,” he admitted. “I’ve talked to ten different people running devrel programs today. Eight were not on the hook for a real number, one had a number so high I think he was lying and the other had a number so low I don’t think the company is serious about it.”

“How much should I be spending on this?”

Your First Hire: The Evangelist

“I’ve dumped 100 hours into this search, Rob,” she’ll say, “I still can’t find anyone to fill this goddamn role.”

“This is insane,” she’ll continue, “Our product is rad as hell, we’re signing up customers like crazy, we got a dumptruck full of money in the bank and every other req on our job board is raining CVs like a monsoon.”

“Why the hell is it so hard to hire a leader for my devrel function?”

Starting With Service

“Rob, I need you to read this.”

Back what feels like a lifetime ago, I was getting my first promotion at my first startup. Spiky haired, snot nosed and more than a little self-important, I felt like I needed another pop business psych book like I needed a longer wallet chain and wider pant legs. My boss could read the reaction if I tried to hide it, which of course I did not.

“Really, Rob.” he paused with exasperated emphasis. “I need you to serve a lot more than you need to lead.”

“Alright, Dave. I get it.” …

First Post, Y’all

For the past eight years, there are one or two calls a week on my calendar I get unreasonably stoked for. Sometimes it is an entrepreneur, sometimes it is an engineer, sometimes it is a reporter or an analyst or some other constituent on the outside of the software game trying to get an inside look. All of them come with a core question:

“What is this developer evangelism thing?”