If you binge-watch coding video tutorials in your free time (or have considered making your own), and know how to work the room at a networking event, there’s a popular tech career that’s right up your alley: Developer Advocate.
A Developer Advocate — aka Developer Evangelist, Developer Relations (DevRel for short), or Developer Advocacy Manager — is someone who teaches developers how to use a product or technology, explains Jesse Hall, a Senior Developer Advocate at the document database company MongoDB. In a way, a Developer Advocate is like an extremely knowledgeable influencer who makes educational content (like videos and blogs) and fosters relationships with developers who use the product or software.
“I’m helping developers understand how to use MongoDB in their applications and in their use cases,” Jesse, who was an Engineer before becoming a Developer Advocate, says. “By doing that, you’re finding pain points that developers are having with your software, communicating that back to the engineers, and figuring out how we can make it easier for them.”
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You may have seen Jesse’s YouTube videos or tweets about MongoDB — that’s all part of the job of a Developer Advocate. Here are a few questions you might have about how to become a Developer Advocate, and the next steps to take if you want to pursue this exciting career.
What does a Developer Advocate do?
The role of a Developer Advocate is basically to help Software Engineers better understand how to get the most out of a product or piece of software through outreach and education. You can think of a Developer Advocate as a bridge between the technical teams that build products and the community of developers who use them.“Networking, communicating, collaborating, and teaching are the main aspects of the job,” Jesse says.
For example, a Developer Advocate might pick developers’ brains to uncover issues they’re having with software, then take the feedback to the engineers who can improve product features. Or they might create video tutorials demoing how to do a particular task with the software. A Developer Advocate may also attend events and conferences where they represent the company they work for and network with developers.
How much coding experience do you need to become a Developer Advocate?
While a Developer Advocate may not be writing production-grade code in their job, they need to stay up to date on the latest technologies in order to educate the developers who use their products. “I’m constantly learning new frameworks and products that integrate with MongoDB,” Jesse says. With their diverse and robust collective knowledge, Developer Advocates help software companies build credibility within the engineering community.
Depending on the organization, Developer Advocates may straddle engineering and marketing teams. “It’s kind of a balance between marketing and engineering,” Jesse says. But the main difference between a Marketer and a Developer Advocate is that Developer Advocates are engineers with a wealth of technical know-how.
What are some traits that make a great Developer Advocate?
It might seem like a Developer Advocate has to be an extrovert with the charisma of a social media influencer in order to be successful — but that’s not the case, Jesse says. “I would have never imagined myself speaking in front of hundreds of people, creating video content, or being on live streams,” he says. Being able to communicate your expertise effectively — to a video audience or in an internal written memo — is key in this role.
The most important soft skills a Developer Advocate can have are a desire to help people learn, and genuine enthusiasm for the technology you’re supporting, Jesse says. When you’re passionate about the product or software, or you have personal experience using it as an engineer, it makes your work as a Developer Advocate much more impactful.
How can you get hired as a Developer Advocate?
The career path of a Developer Advocate is not so straightforward, in part because it’s a relatively new field.
If you’re interested in becoming a Developer Advocate, start by creating your own content, like making short video tutorials about a language you love or writing a blog about how you solved a problem, Jesse says. Figure out which topics or languages you’re interested in the most, and get your voice out there. You might find that explaining concepts out loud or in writing helps you learn, too: “The process of teaching someone actually really instills that knowledge in yourself as well,” he says.
Get comfortable networking and collaborating with other developers on Twitter and LinkedIn, Jesse says. “There’s a lot of groups of Developer Advocates that get together and share how to do things, procedures, and workflows,” he says. Looking up the hashtag #DevRel on social media is a great way to start connecting with other Developer Advocates. (Hot tip: Developer Advocates often have the avocado emoji 🥑in their social media profile, because “avocado” and “advocate” sound similar.)
We have a few resources that can help you work towards becoming a Developer Advocate. Contributing to Docs, or community-driven collection of code documentation, is one way you can practice writing about coding. Meet other developers on our Discord server or through IRL chapter meetups, and lend a hand in our Codecademy Forums. And as always, check out our catalog for the coding courses and paths that will allow you to build your expertise and become a Developer Advocate.