Best Things About Developer Advocacy

There are some excellent articles around about what a Developer Advocate does, but have you ever wondered WHY we do what we do? I tried to articulate this when chatting with another developer lately, and I’m still thinking about it! So I thought I’d write it down to share a little more widely why I love this strange, misshapen career as much as I do.

It’s Alarmingly Varied

Sometimes when I’m doing career development talks or outreach (I’m a STEM Ambassador ) people will ask “Can you describe a typical day?” and the answer is … not really! Advocacy requires a lot of different skillsets and you can expect in any given week to be planning, writing, speaking, recording, coding, fixing, and attending as many meetings as anyone else. Even when I think my schedule is pretty much under control, there’s always someone with a technical question, a new issue or pull request, something that needs my review, or a request from another department.

It’s Surprisingly Technical

Developer Advocacy has been an incredible way to pick up a broad swathe of new technical skills in a way that I simply didn’t get the opportunity to do in a full time engineering role. When I took my first Developer Advocacy job, I knew one programming language very well. I’m now baseline competent in four tech stacks and I can wrangle the dependency managers and code from another few. There is much less gatekeeping of what you’re “qualified” to do so if you can produce some content or a plugin that could help a developer: then you just do it. It’s also made me absolutely fearless with new technology because I meet a new codebase at least every week and I greatly value this confidence now that I’ve found it.

It’s a Helping Profession

This part might be too sappy but bear with me, if you can. As a Developer Advocate, I help people and I empower them to reach greater achievements. I love being a multiplier — as an engineer I can only build so many things myself. But as a writer and a speaker, I can aid and abet a whole community of developers who are all making awesome things themselves. It’s an amazing privilege to choose a profession where I so regularly feel like I’m making a difference to others.

It’s Deeply Creative

Developer Advocacy is incredibly creative. Software engineering by itself is already very creative, by definition you’re creating things. But Developer Advocacy, to me at least, is like being asked to write at least one very geeky fairy tale every day of the week. Thinking of examples, ways to explain things, concepts to inspire and stories to help humans digest big technical ideas — then putting together a strategy to tie it all together … Developer Advocates are ideas people because that’s the job!

It’s Not Forever

Developer Advocacy improves the not-just-code skills that are so valuable in very senior engineers: the ability to communicate well in written form, the ability to present complex ideas to others, the ability to handle multiple incompatible tasks all at once. I’m generalising for engineers when Developer Advocates are also Data Analysts, Ops people, consultants, and all sorts — but the point still stands.

Polyglot programmer, technology addict, open source fanatic and incurable blogger (see http://lornajane.net)

Polyglot programmer, technology addict, open source fanatic and incurable blogger (see http://lornajane.net)