Developer advocacy has always fascinated me as a career. Since I finished my full stack coding Bootcamp and jumped into my career as a front-end developer, I’ve always thought it would be awesome to make a career out of devrel!
What Exactly is Developer Advocacy?
Sometimes it’s called developer relations and, in some cases, developer evangelism. We see a lot of tech Twitter famous folks who go into these types of roles and grow their followers. It is not all likes and follows. Most developer advocates don’t have quite the following as the handful of niche ones you might see popping up on your Twitter feed.
So once we cut through the noise, I’ve found developer advocates on different teams have these types of responsibilities:
- Building a community around a specific developer product or service, like an API.
- Mentoring newcomers by teaching and introducing new technical concepts in blog posts, video content, Twitter threads, or courses.
- Speaking at events, like talks and workshops, conferences, meetups, or hackathons.
- Bridging between developers and internal product teams and leading efforts on improving the developer experience.
This is not an exhaustive list; overall, this position can differ slightly depending on where you work, but these are some typical duties I’ve seen pop up during my time interviewing for a role as a developer advocate.
Why this Career Choice?
It started when I attended Full Stack NYC 2019. I didn’t understand what a developer advocate was, but several folks introduced themselves and gave terrific talks. I thought I would love to be able to come to events like this and make an impact on other people wanting to get into the tech industry.
I kept this thought in my head as I began my journey as a front-end developer. I loved that I achieved my goal of switching over to being an engineer, but I wasn’t sure if I was satisfied with where I was. Thus began quite a lot of experimentation and side projects.
I tried to launch a start-up in the mental health industry, and although my team and I were not able to get it off the ground, I learned a lot during that process. I learned about marketing instead of just adding new features; I learned about talking to others about what I was working on and sharing progress and things I learned on both the technical and entrepreneurial sides.
My main takeaway from this whole experience was that I like experiencing new things and teaching others about them, especially if I fail and can lead them to do something better than I managed to do.
In the meantime, I went through a couple of different jobs as a frontend engineer. I also started to teach at the Columbia University Coding Bootcamp run by 2U as a teaching assistant. I loved teaching coding concepts to people new to the space; I loved seeing people grow from almost no code experience into building real full-stack applications and pursuing their dreams in the tech space.
Empowering People to Build
I gave myself a mission - empower people to go out there and build. I started doing more talks at conferences, both technical and on the mental health side.
Around January of 2021, I decided to start learning a little more about Web3. I saw the NFT scene start its astronomical rise. I decided to learn Web3 and dive into Solidity. It was a slow-going process. I wasn’t building anything but writing out some functions here and there, not going beyond any small conceptual contracts.
Eventually, I started seeing better educational resources pop up like the chainlink boot camps, which jumpstarted my foray into Solidity and doing projects in communities like Buildspace. I attempted to deploy my first smart contract onto the Ethereum Mainnet and found the unfortunate blocker of not having over $1000 in Eth to cover the gas costs. Ouch.
I continued learning and working on test nets and, at the same time, became more active in Developer DAO which I had joined early on as a moderator. During that time, I got my first job in web3 as a Frontend Engineer at Rabbithole. I enjoyed it, but I wasn't enjoying my job as much as I loved the company. So I decided to contribute to different DAOs and push myself into becoming a developer advocate.
Organizing web3con while Building an NFT Project
I reached out to Nader Dabit, the creator of Developer DAO, about leading efforts for a conference that members of the DAO would put together. Thus web3con was born, and I found myself putting together a team of Developer DAO members to organize a virtual conference and hackathon.
At the same time, I did something I probably shouldn’t have done in hindsight. I also signed up to be the only developer at an extensive NFT project for their first drop. On the one hand, it pushed my Solidity building to new heights, but on the other hand, I did not prepare for what it would take to run a conference and develop a smart contract like this all at the same time.
Several nights came by where I was up until 2 am, or 4 am working through things on both projects and was utterly unable to even spend time with my wife and daughter. I felt like I hadn’t seen them in days, and I lived with them.
This thought is true for anything, but in this case, learn to say no and don’t take on the weight of so many different new and uncertain projects.
Interviewing for a Job in Web3
Now, I was still doing even more in the background of all of this. I was interviewing with several different Web3 companies and protocols; I was receiving offers but hadn’t found something I felt like I wanted. For the first time in my career, I decided not to take the first yes that came to me and go in and figure out what I wanted and where I wanted to work. Through some of our sponsorship channels for web3con, I was introduced to the awesome folks at Polygon by a fellow Developer DAO member, Nas (not the rapper).
Some initial conversations took place. The process jumpstarted further after Eth Denver, and soon I found myself with an offer from a place I did not expect even to consider me for a position.
However, I had a couple of excellent offers at this point, so I decided to make my final choice. What pushed me to Polygon was remembering when I tried to deploy my first smart contract onto Mainnet and could not afford it. I wanted to make development more accessible to a broader audience. Polygon allowed me to do just that; to help folks work with different layer 2 options of building on top of Ethereum, lowering that cost barrier, and working in Web3 in a more eco-friendly way.
Finishing My Open Tasks
I accepted my offer, but I still had two things to finish. Web3con and this NFT project needed to get to the finish line. I was utterly exhausted from this marathon of job interviews and pulling off a conference with my friends at Developer DAO. But I still needed to finish a smart contract for the project, and I needed to finish building out the frontends for minting said contract while dealing with life and running on a half-empty tank. The weekend of the conference came, and as a team, we got through it, but I was tired.
Those last couple of nights I spent in my home office shaking, learning through Merkle trees that I did not implement correctly. I had to pivot directions in our smart contract before it needed to launch. There were so many times I just wholly wanted to crash and give up; I took on way too much work all at once.
It was hell, rocky, and quite frankly a traumatic experience that I’ve been unpacking with my therapist, but we got through it. With some encouragement and pushing from the founder of the NFT project, I was able to get through it while consulting on help from developers from a couple of other NFT projects. Although I was still tired and barely functional, that experience led me to improve my skills further while learning from more experienced developers in the field. I learned a lot; I don’t recommend learning this way, I almost didn’t make it through, but I learned.
I learned about myself and what my limits are. I learned when I needed to push and when I needed to take a breath. Most of all, I learned I just needed to say no to myself and others. I got through it, and now my goal is slightly updated. I want to help people smarter than me to build, but I want to help people enjoy what they create. I want them to enjoy the results, to have that relief of accomplishment that I couldn’t get until much later.
I wasn’t planning on writing this article here; I was going to gloss over it. But earlier today, I saw a tweet about how people share stories about how quickly and painlessly they entered the tech space.
My journey wasn’t without pain; I nearly destroyed my mental health, and my physical health took a huge toll. I hope folks can take from this experience and learn not to push themselves beyond their capabilities. It’s important to explore our limits, but not at the expense of our health.
Let’s build and take care of ourselves simultaneously; that's what I want to advocate for in this new career.