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What is a Developer Advocate?

27 Nov 2017
13 Oct 2020
3 minutes

Developer Advocate and Technical Evangelist roles are more common than when I started. Still, the definition behind these titles can be quite different from one place to another. It’s also a source of interrogation and copious interest when brought in a discussion. People don’t always understand the goal, return on investment and the day to day of my job. I’ve written on this topic in the past, but today, with a couple of years of experience at companies like Microsoft, Mozilla, Fitbit, and more, it’s time for me to update my vision of this peculiar gig.

I like to define myself as the friendly social technical approachable face of the company. The foundation of my work is people: connecting with them, connecting with my audience, developers. Why? It’s about helping developers being successful and bringing feedback to the product team. Of course, I would prefer that you achieve your goals, no matter what they are, by using the product or service of my employer. In the end, we, advocates and evangelists, are one of the contact points that make a company more human and accessible.

To achieve this, a massive chunk of my time is dedicated to create trust relationships and outreach opportunities. It’s also a matter of finding the right balance between offline and online, which means:

  • speaking at conferences and user groups;
  • building relationship with developers and tech influencers;
  • writing articles and updating documentation;
  • be a spokesperson of the enterprise in the media and everywhere you go;
  • helping developers at hackathons and online forums;
  • networking at meetups and at conferences’ after-parties;
  • preparing talks and writing code demos;
  • connecting with people on different social media channels;
  • learning new technology and knowing the right people inside as outside of the company;
  • creating interesting video content like video tutorials, interviews or podcasts;
  • working with, what I call, virtual evangelists to help us grow together (Microsoft MVP and the Mozilla ReMo are great examples);
  • discussing technology and brainstorm ideas with people;
  • collaborate with partners, customers and event organizers;
  • bringing feedback to influence, when needed, the product roadmap.
  • and more…

To achieve this, you need a high level of transparency, integrity and honesty with your peers. Credibility is the secret sauce here. You also need a trust relationship with your employer. You work closely with so many people from marketing, legal, engineering, support and many other entities inside the business. Trust remains the mandatory ingredient here as you both want to achieve your goals. You need to understand their priorities to find great collaboration opportunities. You need to be passionate about technology and have the facility to share that passion. Being social with an extrovert tendency doesn’t hurt. Even more important, being empathic to developers’ day to day and struggles is the key.

I’m glad I’m back in that role I missed so much. The line has always been fuzzy between working and having fun while I’m doing what I like for a living. Actually, I think it should always be like this! People, technology, innovation and helping others make me a happy camper…

  1. 2020-01-21 - Reply

    Great article Fred! I run a developer community at my school and I spend a bulk of my time doing some of the work you do (I have to start writing articles, making videos and code demos…). Think this is a great start for a fulltime developer advocate role?

    • 2020-01-29 - Reply


      First, congratulations for your involvement, it is amazing!

      It is definitely a great start! In a perfect world, if I hire someone for his first one as a Developer Advocate I would like that person to have such experience, no matter if it was professional or at school: a community of developers is a community, no matter what. As an additional note, I would also love someone who had experience as a professional developer, as you would know the good, bad and ugly of that job. You had to deal with projects, customers, company expectation… You know the pain developers have day to day, you can relate to them based on your experience, but it’s also about your credibility when you talk to them.

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