Why are so many Developer Advocates photographers?

Shortly after I left Microsoft as a programming writer and joined Google as a Developer Advocate I was having a conversation with a colleague and she asked me what kind of camera I carry.

Slightly taken aback, I answered,

I don’t carry a camera.

She chuckled,

I bet that you eventually do.

I didn’t really think about it much at the time. Maybe I thought that it was a team culture thing. It was the peak fever for “social” efforts at Google and all of my colleagues seemed to carry cameras.

I’d figured it out! She was assuming I carry a camera because everybody on the team is doing competitive analysis. I suppose that makes sense, I should get a camera and be doing that too.

I bought my first interchangeable lens camera, a Sony NEX-6. It was Micro 4/3, what I figured was the new hotness. I proudly showed it off to my manager at the time who would go on art walks. He told me,

I used to spend so much time sitting and never time walking around. My camera was light. I was gaining weight and I didn’t like exercise. I switched to this heavy one and lugging it around is all I need to keep trim. I walk more, socialize over it, and it’s keeping me active.

Shortly after that discussion, I took my first partner tour outside of the bay area to New York City. I hadn’t seen the “Big Apple” since I was a teen. After wrapping up partner visits, I had some time to kill and was in this fantastic place that was new to me. I explored, carrying the camera around. I snapped photos, walked some more, and eventually returned to my hotel room and noodled around in Lightroom into the night.

That partner tour quickly turned into partner tours, bootcamps, and workshops. The locations became even more exotic to my less-traveled bones.

I taught mobile workshops to Europeans in Berlin in the Winter.

I traveled to Sao Paolo in the Spring to teach back-end Identity infrastructure.

I traveled back to New York City again to lead full-stack workshops after Brazil.

I visited London for the first time and met my English colleagues.

While I traveled, I shared the pictures with family and friends to stay connected. After the whirlwind of travel ceased and I was back home, I found myself looking over the photos and thought back to the question about carrying a camera. I was sure now. She was asking why I carry a camera because I would be traveling to places and would want to make the most of the adventure.

When I got back, the habit had stuck. I carried a camera.

I took pictures on my trip to New Mexico.

I took pictures of my friend’s dog.

I took pictures of everything.

That summer was the first time I ever presented at Google I/O. With the help of my more capable female colleague, I had to produce a presentation that would be live-streamed over the Internet and this meant that I’d need license-friendly and royalty-free eye candy to decorate my slides with.

Here is our deck.

All of the photos used for backdrops and slide layouts were from trips that year and I felt they were crucial to the emotional connection in the content. Aha! She was asking me why I carry a camera because having my own stock photos makes it easier to build slide decks.

Developer Advocates carry cameras for a number of reasons. I think what my colleague knew then, that I now know, is that so many Developer Advocates carry cameras because it makes the job even more enjoyable while making it easier. Okay, time to stop procrastinating and start working on slides for I/O.