A love letter to the community

Developer Relations at an agency? Why not?!

In 2016 I started working at SinnerSchrader as a Free Radical, which was the perfect opportunity for me. As Free Radical you are independent with lots of freedom. You jump into projects whenever people need you. But you also make decisions about technology that are used. You have to communicate a lot with the project teams and sometimes even give them a small impulse in a needed direction. This is pretty much how I work and this is why I like this role so much.

But four months ago I jumped into really cold water. My focus now is Developer Relations which is not only new for me, but also new for SinnerSchrader.

What is this Developer Relations about?

Every company has their own definition of Developer Relations, which mostly depends on the goal of the company. Likewise SinnerSchrader has it’s own definition.

First let’s have a look at the term “Developer Relations”.

Developer (in this case software developer):

“a person or company that creates new products, especially computer products such as software” — cambridge dictionary

Relations:

“the relationships that exist between two people, organizations, or countries, and whether these are good or bad” — cambridge dictionary

For us it’s the relationship between the company and developer or the relation between developers.

We might know the meaning of the words now, but what does this means in context? I like the explanation from Mike Stowe, which really make sense to me.

“At its core, Developer Relations is best defined as building relationships with the developer community. It is acting as the liaison between your company and existing developer communities.” — Mike Stowe

Google for example has Developer Relation teams, that are focusing on being a 2-way interface between developers and products. It’s a developer to developer relation or better a relation between people and the product.

“Developer Relations’ role is to create a vibrant ecosystem of 3rd party developers, by being the interface between those developers and your platform’s product, engineering, and design teams.”

Okay, but what about SinnerSchrader — what’s their definition?

Developer Relations at SinnerSchrader

As written above, to define Developer Relation you first need to know your company goals.

Obviously we as a company want developers to get to know SinnerSchrader, get to know what we do and maybe even them to join us. But we also want to show, what we stand for. We also want to find out what motivates developers and understand why they want to work at a company, especially why they want to stay.

We are in involved in community work

Co-organizing conferences like JSConf EU/CSSconf EU, organizing Meetups as well as Hackathons, hosting and sponsoring them, this is what we do. Creating or contributing open source projects like patternplate. Sharing out knowledge and tools to make lives easier for developers. Enabling colleagues to do the same as well. This is what actually drives us. We want the community to flourish, give something back.

Helping the community to grow and nurture it, is the most important thing. The community helps developers to learn and grow. Beginners as well as experienced ones. If you share your soft and hard skills, share what drives you, those things make you a better developer. For them, for you.

“Helping community = helping your company.”

Building a network.

Having a network is useful in many ways and it’s a long term goal.

Your network knows who you are, as person of course, but also your values as well as the ones your company stands for. More people getting to know the company and maybe at sometime they want a new job and possibly they will ask you if you have something that will fit, or they tell their friends, colleagues or other persons at their network that you could have the right position for them. It could be also good if you need any help. Maybe you have a problem with a technology and don’t know how to handle or fix it. I mean, everyone knows these bugs or other problems where the hell you don’t know how to fix them or what to do. A network, the community can help you over the companies border.

Help to find the right people

Finding developers in Germany — no matter which level they are — it gets more and more difficult. There are many headhunters and recruiters out there and many developers can basically just pick out of a big pool of opportunities. If developers are looking for a new opportunity, they just have to send a tweet, ask around or ping a recruiter and let them do the work. Connecting our Talent Acquisition team with developers, educate this team in how the community is working and what’s important for developers will also be a part of my work.

Most importantly… my personal goals as DevRel!

I’m glad to have the opportunity to do this job. The community is very dear to my heart. They help(ed) me growing and to believe in myself, to trust in myself. I’ve met so many lovely humans out there. Many became close friends, which I am truly thankful for. Since I have enough self-confidence I try to give something back. I’m not at the point where I have enough courage to share my knowledge doing a talk on a stage, but I found other ways to give something back. Organising Meetups or Hackathons, co-organising JSConf EU & CSSconf EU is one part, being a coach for others a second part. I also try to get more people to Meetups, to let them hopefully enjoy the same experience that I had or share their knowledge.

Before I started to work as DevRel, I did this in my free time. Now I have the possibility to do this as a part of my job. This is amazing for me because now I can concentrate more on this topics. There are so many ideas I have in mind and there was never enough time to do them all. I’m very thankful to work at a company which knows how important the developer community is giving me the opportunity to lay my passion in it and a huge part of my work time.

I love the community, I love that we are talking about diversity, mental illness, our experience and that we are helping each other no matter where you are coming from.

One task startet at my beginning at SinnerSchrader. I created a Google Calendar to gather all Meetups and events in Hamburg around our work topics to share it internally. I wanted to get more people to Meetups. It turned out, doing it manually is pretty boring as well as exhausting. You have to copy the description, dates the link to the event and then write a mail with all the important details and send it out to everyone. My Java teacher always said:

“…developer are lazy so they constantly develop tools that take over their tasks…”

So, to save time and help my colleagues at other locations to do the same I created a tool, to automate things. I wouldn’t be me, if I would have kept it internally, so I open sourced it as a project. I mean, if it helps us… why not share it? Feel free to check out meetsy!

Open Source projects

We have a few open source projects and we will make them more public soon. I believe in those tools. They were created to make our daily business easier. So why shouldn’t they also help you? But just releasing a tool is not enough. A good open source project needs a documentation, a maintainer, an advocate. This is what I want to do. I want to help my colleagues who created those tools.

Enable my colleagues to do the same

Even if I wanted to, I can’t do it all on my own.

SinnerSchrader has 500+ employees, 7 studios (and is still growing), different technologies and mindsets. Thankfully I’m not alone, we have a lot of people who are already involved in the community, organising Meetups, contribute to open source projects and share their knowledge with every one else.

We don’t know if these will work and we don’t know if the topics we’ve choosen are the right ones, but we’re really excited to find out. We will make mistakes and there will be things what won’t work, but that’s ok. New things always take time.

“We go for it” — No alpha leaders no beta teams, SinnerSchrader cultur book

I am so happy, I got this opportunity and absolutely do what I believe in. I am also very thankful I’ve found a company that has the same vision, believes in the same values, same things and in me.

Thank you.