Developer Relations *is* about Marketing
Culturally, I’m an engineer and a scientist. I grew up taking things apart to understand them, coding things to make me more productive, and building computers, networks, and websites. I went to university for computer science.
My career has been largely focused on engineering — I worked developing software and systems for most years of my university experience, and then took a full-time job architecting web hosting environments and building web applications.
After eight years coding 30–60 hours per week, I started doing “API Support” for Google’s authNZ APIs and the Google Calendar Data API. This was in a small team of about 10 people which would grow into a team of 200+ Developer Relations (DevRel) professionals during my career at Google.
While at Google, I interviewed 100+ different candidates and served on hiring committees evaluating hundreds more. Unlike some other DevRel orgs, we prided ourselves on hiring elite engineers. These engineers needed to be highly respected externally to build communities, but also internally in order to represent those communities and have appropriate influence on engineering and product decisions.
We have to be Engineers *and* Marketers
Some of the elite engineers we hired at Google for the Developer Relations groups did not have much interest in the marketing side of the role. Unfortunately, some even had resentment towards the marketing teams due to their lack of engineering background and their focus on $s.
Just being amazing engineers and having great influence due to your mad engineering skillz isn’t enough to make you successful at Developer Relations — you need to understand how to get your message out and support the business, while also reducing barriers for developers to be successful. This allows you to have a multiplicative effect on how much every new feature of your product or line of code you write will be adopted.
Do we really need to *all* be Marketers?
No, not really — but we all have to be willing and interested in working with the marketing professionals in our organization to ensure that we achieve maximum value from our work. We have to build strong relationships with and respect for marketers and other business professionals.
Even though I’ve often been employed in developer relations for open source/free products, I always try to remember that I’m lucky to receive a salary not only because the products are great, but because marketing and sales groups are able to pull in money to fund that salary!