Taylor Barnett-Torabi

Recruiting your first Developer Advocate: The first email

by Taylor Barnett-Torabi

[In the sense of "digital gardening" this blog post is a work in progress. It might not even turn into a blog post but take a different form. Until then, here are my thoughts as follows. Be kind.]

The messages often have a fairly basic format:

"___ is hiring its first Developer Advocate and I wanted to reach out to you because your background looks great!"

Followed by something about the company, and:

"We'd love to chat with you!"

In the last four months, I get 5+ emails like this each month. Don't get me wrong, it's a privilege to get these emails. On a weekly basis, I think about how grateful I am to get these emails. People are reaching out to me and not vice versa. Also, it is a privilege to even write this blog post. I am both happily employed and can say these things without a fear of negative future impact.

But none of these emails leave me feeling good about the field of Developer Relations. I wish they did. I wish they gave me hope that it is not only expanding, but maturing in all aspects. (Other things do give me that feeling though, just not these recruiter emails.)

As someone who will have been in a full time Developer Relations role, exclusively at startups, for 6 years in June, I expect more from these emails and recruitment. Maybe I am being silly, but I believe that 6 years of DevRel at startups is like 10+ in other roles at larger more established companies. This ain't my first rodeo. (This is my blog so I can say stuff like that.) The first person in a Developer Advocate role (and likely first in anything closely related to Developer Relations) at a company sets the tone of the practice in a BIG way.

In these emails, I want to know that. I want to know that the role is respected and not just a box that needs to be checked because you might be developer facing.

So I want to break down some of the things I think are important in first email contact from a candidate's perspective:

I've been a bit negative, so here's an example of something good I've seen (with some summarization):

"I am working directly with our executive management team to hire for a Director of Developer Relations here at ___."

Followed by some of my experience and what leadership team member they would like me to talk with.

Right off the bat, this email shows me that they mean serious business. Not only is the title showing seniority, but that this is something important to leadership and potentially has leadership sponsorship. It's a role that is more than a checkbox.

I want to see more of this. This is what would make me feel like Developer Relations is maturing. I want to see not only a future for Developer Relations, but I want to see that ladders are being created, that upward mobility is possible, and that we aren't just a checkbox that you were told you needed.