A letter to bootcamp grads, 6 months as a Developer Advocate

It’s been 6 months since I graduated Dev Bootcamp (DBC). Since then, I’ve spoken on panels for prospective students, mentored at coding workshops, and met with countless students and alumni. The combination of working at a startup and regularly interacting with bootcamp students has provided me a unique perspective on the tech industry. If you’re a prospective student considering a coding bootcamp, or a recent grad currently in the job search process, I hope you can learn from my experience.

From DBC to Developer Advocate

It’s no surprise that most people attending coding bootcamps have a penchant for trying new things and taking on some risk. Many of my classmates, all from different backgrounds, left behind their jobs and families with the sole purpose of becoming a programmer. I took the same leap. Although I studied statistics and databases in college, I wanted to learn how to code and work amongst the best and brightest in San Francisco.

Learning how to code has sharpened my ability to troubleshoot and solve problems, and taught me how to turn ideas into functioning programs. Upon graduation, however, I wasn’t 100% sure how this knowledge would translate to full-time employment. Like many of my peers, I thought Software Engineering was the only available career path.

After going through the job search process myself, I learned that knowing how to code does not necessarily mean you have to become a developer — there are a lot of great career choices out there. In the same way college provides an environment for learning, coding bootcamps provide opportunities for career paths that may have otherwise been just out of reach.

Instead of following the conventional path, I accepted a role as a Developer Advocate at mLab.

What is a Developer Advocate?

Quora: A Developer Advocate is a software-focused technical person who has good communication and community-building skills.

I believe that a Developer Advocate needs to be the champion for their customers and an ambassador for their company. For a company creating developer tools, like mLab, developers depend on highly technical content (e.g. tutorials, documentation) that often requires coding. The content and tools you create may then be used by the sales, marketing, product, or support teams.

A Developer Advocate can come in many different shapes and sizes. For example, your role may vary depending on factors like company size or product maturity.

Company size: The size of the company can determine how many products and/or teams you support. For example, a Developer Advocate at Google may specifically support Google Maps. In contrast, a Developer Advocate at a small startup may support multiple products and have additional responsibilities.

Product maturity: Product maturity can dictate your responsibilities as a Developer Advocate. If the product is still new or unreleased, you might spend the majority of your time gathering requirements and feedback. For a more mature product, you might spend your time listening to and working with existing users.

Why you might enjoy being a Developer Advocate

My favorite part of Dev Bootcamp was the variety and speed of topics taught in a given week. Apart from coding, I learned from Dev Bootcamp that I wanted a job that would continue the pace of learning by encompassing multiple roles. Becoming a Developer Advocate seemed like an obvious choice for me as I’d be able to wear multiple hats and dive into a wide array of technical problems. If you haven’t considered the Developer Advocate position, I’ve created a list of reasons why you might enjoy it.

  • Creating content and tools for other developers. As a Developer Advocate, your customers are other developers. You can help shape the developer experience for your peers.
  • Researching new technologies. Technology evolves rapidly, and each new announcement may change the market landscape. You should be curious about new technology and how it relates to your company and users.
  • Wearing multiple hats. Your role as a Developer Advocate can often times intersect with multiple teams. For example, while I primarily work with the marketing team, I also work on database performance tuning and customer support.
  • Attending conferences, meetups, and events. As a company ambassador dedicated to building developer relations and communities, you should contribute to and attend events relevant to your company’s industry.
  • Public speaking. Presenting code demos, explaining high level concepts, and fielding technical questions are all in a day’s work.

Why DBC mattered for me

Dev Bootcamp was important in preparing me technically for my role as a Developer Advocate. There was a lot of learning that needed to be done — understanding web development frameworks, learning frontend and backend languages, white boarding algorithms, and generally being able to talk about code.

Completing a coding bootcamp is just another step in the learning process. Armed with coding knowledge, there are many potential career paths to choose from. In my case, becoming a Developer Advocate has been an unexpected and gratifying continuation of my learning process since I graduated Dev Bootcamp. I hope this message has shed some light on a role that you may have not previously considered.