10 Things I Learned as a Developer Advocate

What people think dev advocates do versus what they actually do

1. There’s lots of freedom

This could vary a bit in different companies, but I found there’s lots of freedom in the role. I was able to explore things that I thought would be useful for web developers, coming up with my own ideas for blog posts, demos, and events to speak at. I was given encouragement and opportunities to get involved with open source and web standards.

2. You need self-motivation and discipline

On the flip-side, this freedom means you’ll need to continually motivate yourself and be self-disciplined to keep good habits and stay productive. For example, it can be difficult coming back from a big event to pick yourself up again straight away and start on something new.

3. You have to be careful not to overstretch yourself

It can be easy to take on too much — for example, speaking at too many events. Some developer advocates I know seem to be forever on the road — I can’t even fathom their schedules! It’s important to take care of yourself though, because I’ve seen hectic schedules lead people to burnout.

Is developer advocacy your doughnut, or your main meal? (CC0 Creative Commons)

4. Mental health issues are scarily common

I also learned that mental health issues affect many more people than I would have expected. From getting to know other developer advocates well, I found that a high number of them suffer from issues like anxiety and depression.

5. You’ll get trolled

At some point you will surely get trolled too! I had it pretty easy — I’m sure it’s a lot worse for people who are high profile and people from minority groups in tech. I still experienced it on the odd occasion though, both on social media and in real life.

6. You’ll get judged by your follower count

Some people will judge you on your social media follower counts, using it as a proxy to assess your level of influence and your worth as a developer advocate. For example, some conference organisers may use it to select their keynote speakers. I’ve also heard of some developer advocacy teams setting a high follower count as a prerequisite for hiring.

7. It’s great for meeting cool people

Back to good things though! It’s a fantastic role for meeting cool people. At all those conferences and meetups you’ll meet tonnes of brilliant and enthusiastic people. And you’ll get to work with amazing, creative colleagues (I miss my Samsung Internet colleagues already!). It’s also good for meeting the tech celebrities, who are real people and usually very nice too!

8. It’s great for collaboration opportunities

It’s great for opportunities to collaborate with people too. For example, working together on a demo or showcase. I also really recommend co-speaking with colleagues, or even people working at different companies. I much preferred travelling to events with someone else than on my own. It’s good to learn from each other and fun to share a stage too.

9. A career is a long time. Trying a different role is good!

A career is a long time and a change is as good as a rest. Building up different kinds of experience can be both useful and refreshing. In the end I started to crave going back into a development team again, but I’m very glad I was a developer advocate for a couple of years and I don’t have any regrets trying something different.

10. The Web needs new voices (maybe yours?)

And finally… This one’s specific to the web (I was a web developer advocate), but I learned that the web needs new voices — both within the web standards communities, and communicating out from those groups, to web developers publicly.

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