Switching to DevRel from Engineering

3 min read - posted on 31 Aug 2021

I'm finishing up my 4th week at Cloudflare and my 4th week as a Developer Advocate.

Cloudflare has been amazing! I'm working with one of the friendliest and most excited groups of people ever. We have excellent products, an ambitious roadmap, a healthy culture, and I couldn't be more excited for the next year!

Developer advocacy has also been amazing. It's quite a bit different than I expected it to be. Mostly in positive ways! I've been struggling to process my thoughts on the subject so writing them down seemed like an easy way to go.

Here are some of the main points I've noticed switching from Engineering to Developer Relations.

Working on multiple projects

As an engineer, you typically get assigned to a team. That team typically owns one product or part of a product, and that's where you spend your time. Companies will often have all hands or demo hours where you can see what the other teams are working on, but most of the time, you are heads down.

As a Developer Advocate, you get to work with a lot of teams. I work with my team (other DevRel folks), product engineering teams (Workers, Pages, Wrangler), content writers, product managers, social media folks and event organizers! It's really fun, and I feel way more connected to the company than I usually do. It also can be super overwhelming.

Consumption vs. Production

As an engineer, your job is to "produce." A team typically has some amount of work that needs doing, and that work gets divided by the number of engineers. Sometimes you'll get to learn something (consumption) like ramping up on a new technology stack or integrating with another team. But for the most part, your job is to write code (produce).

DevRel feels different. There is value in you learning the roadmaps. For all of the teams, you are working with. You still do a good amount of producing (writing docs, blog posts, making videos, giving talks, etc.). But, I spend a lot of my day consuming (attending meetings, reading docs, listening to customers, reading PRs, chatting with folks in the community).

I miss coding

Sitting in on a lot of these product engineering meetings, I get super excited for what they are building. My instinct is to jump in and help. Need a PR reviewed? I'm on it! Want to whiteboard your approach? Let's do a video call! It isn't easy knowing that I need to add my value in a different way and miss out on the coding party.

I never want to code again

Five minutes later, I get a ping from someone wanting me to check out a new feature someone shipped, make a fun demo app with it and write a blog post about it! Like, on work time? Am I gonna get paid to do that? No way!

A dog chasing cars

My first week here, I had a meeting with my teammate Luke. He talked to me about how overwhelming the job can be and the importance of picking some areas to focus on and do well and letting others go. It's impossible to keep up with all of the stuff the org is building. He said to do otherwise would be like a dog chasing cars, and that stuck with me.

Creative work is exhausting

I started this job thinking that I'd be able to sit down and pump out blog posts and videos 8 hours a day. I don't know why I ever thought that. It's amazing how tired I feel after a few meetings learning about all sorts of cool new stuff. Some days I sit down with my editor open in focus mode to work on a blog post, and my eyes just blur. I need to pick and protect some focus time, set a reasonable expectation for hours per week spent creating content and add some mentally refreshing activities to my day like walking.

Engaging with the community

We have a really cool Discord community. I always enjoyed engaging with customers/users at my other jobs but just couldn't find the time. I love being able to spend part of my day reading all the neat things folks are building. I like seeing how they use the products, where we could improve and where we are excelling. I did my first community call last week, and it was awesome.

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