The DevRel Digest October 2023: The State of Developer Relations in 2023 and What’s in Store for 2024 (Hint: It Includes AI)

The DevRel Digest
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8 min readOct 31, 2023

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The State of the State of Developer Relations

The 10th(!) Annual State of Developer Relations Report was released earlier this month and I attended a live session with some of the report’s working group to get even more insight into how the survey was conducted and what the results might mean. As usual, it was a delight to be among other DevRel practitioners — Developer Relations really is where I fit into the tech landscape and where I feel most welcome and the least strange. And, as usual, one of the topics of conversation surrounded how we can advance and elevate the practice — especially in the face of an uncertain tech market where budget cuts usually mean cutting DevRel.

A decade of reports is definitely a milestone and it also demonstrates just how nascent Developer Relations is as a feature of tech and tech companies. While Silicon Valley and its most famous resident, Apple, are often cited as the origins of “developer evangelism” in the mid-1980’s, the “engineer with social skills” who tours conferences presenting demos like a rockstar has been a company function only since the unicorn boom starting around 2010.

Senior pug Gary in his “pugkin” costume.
This image has nothing to do with this section, I just think Gary looks really cute in his “pugkin” costume.

This year’s State of DevRel illustrates the evolution of the practice even in its execution: The report is the most “extensive” to date and presented with the support of WIX Studio, it features interactive, shareable graphs — a far cry from PDFs of prior years. For the first time ever, the report has sponsors: In addition to WIX Studio, Common Room, Slack, and Orbit provided contributions. The result is a sophisticated, accessible breakdown of responses to this year’s survey, revealing not only the state of Developer Relations, but its future as well.

Let’s get into it!

2023 Highlights at a Glance

Check out the report for the specific numbers, but here are some highlights:

As Developer Relations programs grow, so do their titles, seniority, and responsibilities. Advocates to VPs, technical writers and more all fell under Developer Relations, and job responsibilities included tasks such as content development, developer experience, community management, and more. In other words, Developer Relations is multifaceted and multifunctional. However, one thing that seems consistent throughout all DevRel functions is some kind of technical education or background. This makes sense and many would argue that, since DevRel requires empathy, it is critical to have some sort of technical experience.

The “large surface area” of Developer Relations may be why most practitioners of Developer Relations reported learning on the job. And because so many of us are making it up as we go, that might explain why so many of us are also craving some sort of standardized shared best practices and measurements. However, despite 15 percent of respondents reporting being laid off in 2023 (myself included), a significant percentage reported holding more senior DevRel titles (and higher salaries!). Hopefully, this means that DevRel will rebound and continue to mature as tech picks back up, bringing more career path definition along with it. Only about a third of respondents reported feeling like there was opportunity for professional growth.

Developer communities are maturing alongside DevRel — which begs the question of which came first: Do more mature DevRel programs mean more mature developer communities or do more mature developer communities mean more mature DevRel programs? Either way, community-focused tools remain central to Developer Relations programs. This might explain why the majority of people in Developer Relations identified Developer Experience as a key pillar of DevRel. On the flip side, despite the importance of the experience of the developer, 44 percent of respondents reported never auditing their developer journeys. This might be explained by the challenges DevRel people reported facing when it comes to creating both educational and technical content.

Image illustrating the highlights of the report.
Image via The State of Developer Relations

In summary, the state of Developer Relations continues to trend upward despite employment challenges, and in order to continue trending upward, both DevRel and the companies that utilize DevRel need to take a moment to re-evaluate strategies and support.

Diversity in DevRel

According to the report, Developer Relations includes more female-identifying people than the general developer population at 32.7 percent compared to just 5.1 percent per the Stack Overflow ’22 Developers Survey. This year there was an increase of female representation of “27.9 percent to 32.1 percent, with a corresponding drop in male-identifying respondents from 65.6 percent to 62.5 percent.” Moreover, underrepresented communities make up 43.2 percent of DevRel, with neurodivergent individuals being the most represented among them at 23.2 percent. And as far as salaries go, non-binary people and women lead the way, respectively — probably one of the few technical roles in which this is the case!

Graph showing the breakdown of gender in DevRel.
Image via The State of Developer Relations

As a neurodivergent woman of color in Developer Relations, I am not at all surprised that this is a role folks like me are especially suited for! Developer Relations is the perfect opportunity to satisfy my natural curiosity and compulsion to share knowledge, and empathize with and switch contexts between different perspectives, needs, and wants.

In addition to the ever-present challenge of measurement (67.3 percent), the top five obstacles for Developer Relations respondents cited are: Awareness of the impact the role of DevRel brings to an organization (59.2 percent), burnout and mental health issues (40.1 percent), lack of common definitions (38.1 percent), respect and credibility for the role (36.1 percent), and lack of career paths (29.3 percent). When someone’s work doesn’t feel respected or valued or secure, burnout is inevitable even in the most resilient among us.

Content and Community

Content and community continue to rank first among respondents’ responsibilities, and this year the report broke down content into more specific categories. 55 percent reported educational content such as videos, workshops, and tutorials as their main activity, with technical content like documentation and getting started guides coming in at 50 percent, and marketing content including blog posts, websites, and other materials coming in at 40.6 percent.

In addition to the usual DevRel activities such as advocacy, attending events, and giving talks, Developer Experience made it to the top ten activities for the first time, which is an industry-wide development I’ve mentioned before. I would even argue that educational and technical content can be rolled into Developer Experience, as these are elements that can profoundly help or hurt the developer on their journey of discovery, evaluation, and enablement.

Bar graph showing the breakdown of acitvities in DevRel.
Image via The State of Developer Relations

Moreover, developer communities are continuing to grow, with communities of 1,000 to 5,000 developers up from 13 percent to 16.3 percent, and communities of 5001 to 10,000 developers up from 9.6 percent to 12.6 percent. Unsurprisingly, when asked which activities should be included in Developer Relations, respondents overwhelmingly identified community as one of them, along with advocacy and Developer Experience. In other words, these are the three pillars of Developer Relations, and a mature DevRel program will have support and strategies for each one.

The Future of the State of DevRel and the AI Rubber Duck

I’ve been job hunting since I was laid off from my Developer Advocate role back in April and the market right now is weird and tough. While I’ve progressed to the final rounds in a few interview processes, I haven’t received an offer yet, and as the year draws to a close, job openings are dwindling. I’ve felt discouraged more than once, often considering rewriting my resume for an engineering role. Then I gave my talk at PyBay earlier this month and remembered how much I love this work. I was so inspired after my talk that I wrote a technical blog post the next day. No one asked me to, I didn’t make any money off of it, I just got good feedback after my talk and was motivated to help others with my writing and technical skills.

Attending the State of DevRel live session reminded me that I’m not the only one who is passionate about Developer Relations and that others have come before me and lived through tech busts and survived. We talked a lot about how we can continue to legitimize our work and I want to help. Wherever I land next will be more than just a job for my sake — I see it as an opportunity to help continue to lift Developer Relations.

The DevRelX Summit also helped reinforce my love of Developer Relations. I have to admit, I went into it a little skeptical (Because honestly, aren’t we all a little tired of hearing about AI?), but I left feeling revitalized and motivated. Being around other DevRel folks always makes me happy and the talks were really informative and engaging! Highlights included Lisa Tagliaferri’s talk on building learning communities that scale with developers, using AI-powered chatbots to enhance documentation with Todd Kerpelman, Meredith Hassett’s AI-delivered talk, and this quotation from Paulo Tavares: “AI has changed things fundamentally and there’s no turning back.”

At first, such a proclamation might sound kind of ominous and sinister, but AI isn’t coming for our jobs just yet. As Meredith Hassett’s talk proved, there is no replacement for an actual human in DevRel, but AI can make our jobs easier. In the panel between Ash Ryan Arnwine, Jon Gottfried, Joyce Lin, and Kerri Shots, they discussed how AI can be a benefit, especially when it comes to brainstorming content or “rubber ducky-ing” through some code.

This is what you get when you tell DALL-E, “create a picture of an ai generated rubber duck”

What neither AI nor humans can do is predict the future, but we can look at trends and make some educated guesses. Developer Relations is experiencing some growing pains, but at least we’re growing and embracing and adapting to the changes happening around us. The worst thing you can do at a time like this is remain stagnant — and that’s something DevRel definitely does not do. I’m going to hold out for my dream DevRel job and hopefully continue to strengthen the community in doing so.

Events and Resources and Other Notable Things

Read other editions of the DevRel Digest:



The DevRel Digest

Relentless optimist | Artist turned software developer turned developer advocate