Building Developer Relations Teams

Having an advocate focused solely on outreach and community building is an attractive prospect for founders — but are you ready to make the first hire?

On Oct. 24th Heavybit hosted a developer advocacy panel featuring Bear Douglas, Tim Falls, Jade Wang and Justin Johnson. The panel shared insights from their time at companies like Slack, Twitter, SendGrid, Keen, Meteor, and Cloudflare.

Learn when to hire your first advocates, where to find the right advocates for your stage of company, and how to cultivate the success of everyone on your DevRel team.

Continuing the Conversation

We wanted to dive deeper into a few topics we didn’t get to fully cover in the panel, and we’d love to hear from you what other questions you have after watching this panel. The following is a collection of additional thoughts, tools, and resources from the panelists.

Justin Johnson had more to share around Generalists vs Specialists:

In order to assemble a balanced dev rel team, you need to have a combination of people who can get out and talk about technical stuff as well as people with technical knowledge who are interested in code reviews and building SDKs.

Being active, open, and accessible online is important for a Developer Relations team, but it’s also critical to stay on top of mission critical things like good developer documentation, managing SDKs, and maintaining any active open source projects. If you’re just getting going you may not have the bandwidth to invest in all of these things at once. So it’s really important to figure out where you’re going to focus your efforts.

A great way to do this is to hire a generalist with an entrepreneurial spirit who can run lots of ‘experiments’ to see what get’s results and feels right for the business.

As your developer relations efforts mature and the team starts to take on a broader range of responsibilities or hones in on the most important thing to focus on for the long term, it might be a good time to start bringing in specialists. These are people like professional speakers, experienced open source developers, and event planners/managers. They probably won’t replace your generalists but they will help you focus and improve on the things that are already working for the business. They are also usually able to bring in more structure that helps manage developer relations teams at scale.

JJ also wanted to share a link to this speaker deck by Josh Dzielak, Developer Relations Lead at Algolia, that catalogues the tech stack used in Algolia’s community forum. If you’re considering building a new digital home for your community, start with this deck.

The Developer Relations Stack

I asked the other panelists what their DevRel stacks looked like, and Tim Falls had a wealth of valuable information to share. I’ve created this Trello board to collect all the helpful tools he shared, and to hopefully gather even more ideas from you.

OKRs and KPIs: How Do You Measure Effective DevRel?

One of the most common conversations I heard in the room was around metrics, and measuring success in your DevRel efforts. This is a very difficult question to answer, and each panelist reminded me that the answer to this question depends a great deal on the nature of your business, product, and existing community. With that said, I’ve assembled a list of helpful metrics that these experts currently use to measure their teams, or have previously been measured against in their own roles.

  • Number of new Developer Signups / API keys generated
  • API Usage (I.e. number of calls, number of valuable calls, etc.)
  • Documentation, Guides, Technical Blog Content, and Tutorial Web Traffic
  • Unique IP Addresses Pinging Update Servers
  • Event RSVPs
  • Open Source Project Activity — PRs and Forks are the highest value activity
  • API Presence and Use at hackathons
  • Conversation Activity — Discourse, Facebook, Twitter
  • Number of Inbound Invitations To Speak
  • Percent of Speaking Applications that are Accepted
  • (For DevRel Managers) Team Happiness

What OKRs or KPIs are you measured on in your DevRel role? We want to hear about them!

Thanks for watching and reading, if you’d like to come to future DevRel events at Heavybit, sign up for updates here.

Interested in joining Heavybit? Our program is the only one of its kind to focus solely on taking developer products to market. Need help with developer traction, product market fit, and customer development? Apply today and start learning from world-class experts.

Originally published at on December 20, 2017.




A 9-month accelerator & fund for seed and Series A developer and enterprise companies. Alumni include PagerDuty, Treasure Data, Citus Data, CircleCI, and others

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A 9-month accelerator & fund for seed and Series A developer and enterprise companies. Alumni include PagerDuty, Treasure Data, Citus Data, CircleCI, and others

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