People often ask me, who do you hire for developer relations? So I thought I’d put down a few thoughts on the kinds of roles that you see out there in developer relations.
DevRel Specific roles
These are roles that primarily do developer relations, whether or not they sit on the DevRel team.
Evangelism is the oldest title I know of that Developer Relations went by. According to Wikipedia, Mike Murray of Apple Computer originiated the term. It’s on Wikipedia so it must be true. Tech evangelism is essentially spreading the news about a set of tools. If you look at my older Four Types of Developer Content post, evangelists focus on Inform, letting people know what you have and how great it is. Evangelists tend to be great communicators who understand things, as Steven Citron-Pousty says, “a mile wide and half an inch deep” with typically a deeper understanding in a particular area.
As a broad generalization, Evangelists in my experience tend to be less technical. They aren’t inclined to be coders themselves, but do understand all the bits they are talking about and the field that they are discussing. Some evangelists are more into coding or IT than others of course, it varies alot.
As far as I know, my team at Google originated this term in 2008, but it’s been widely used since then. Developer Advocates took the place of evangelists on our team as someone who did two-way communication. DAs tend to have a deeper understanding, maybe even be industry leaders in their fields. In addition to being good communicators, they are also good at advocating for what developers need from a product. From filing bugs to helping with product design, DAs work with the engineering teams to make sure the shape of their developer tools are what developers want and need. DAs have even blocked the release of tools that would be detrimental to the brand of their company.
There’s actually a second path for DAs at Google. Google has DAs who instead of working 1 to many, work 1 to few. They provide guidance for enterprises using their tools, and advocate on their behalf with the engineering teams. This is distinct from sales engineers in that there is usually no money in it for Google. These are logo partners. Primarily you see this on the Android team, where they want to make sure the best apps are in the Play Store and are done in the best way.
Developer Relations Engineer
There are various titles people use for this position. I’ve seen Support Engineer, Developer Programs Engineers, or just Software Engineer. These engineers are focused primarily on creating code samples and tutorials. They often work hand in hand with tech writers. They may do some external speaking and blogging but are focused on the engineering.
Other common job titles
Other than those, there are a number of positions that are not just for Developer Relations, but are often vital to make it function. Some of those you might see are:
- Program Manager
- Technical Program Manager
- Project Manager
- Tech Writer
- Community Manager
- Technical Support Engineer