What the Heck Is a Developer Advocate?

Let’s try to understand if lawyers are the new developer advocates

As soon as we hear the term developer advocate, the question arises: Do we really need an advocate degree (that is, an LLB) to become a developer advocate or will lawyers start to become advocates for any legal complication for developers? Obviously, to protect us from any legal complications, we require an advocate. That is totally true, but the developer advocate is a somewhat different field altogether.

Who Is a Developer Advocate?


A developer advocate is a purely technical person who has coding experience or enough knowledge about the entire software development life cycle and paradigm. A developer advocate works for the interest of software developers and the product team so that both work in sync for the growth of the organization. The developer advocate role is a very creative field since one has to wear the multiple hats of orator and communicator and one thinks through the mindset of the product and development team.


Obviously, this field has its pros and cons, which makes it relevant for specific sets of people. We will be discussing who would be the right match for one such role and how to progress in this field.

If it's still confusing, don’t worry. Let’s discuss the developer advocate in simple, plain English. A developer advocate is a role in which a person has to connect with the community and help them understand the respective products of the company for whom that person is advocating. By doing so, they help people understand the shortcomings and the highlights of their product versus similar products. Following that, they can propose to the product and the software development teams new features or issues that are reported by the community.

Now let’s discuss the roles and responsibilities of developer advocate in-depth.


Roles and Responsibilities of a Developer Advocate

If we talk about your roles and responsibilities as a developer advocate, then we must say they revolve around communicating with the community to bring the product of an organisation out there in public. Like every other role, even developer advocate responsibilities change based on the organisation. But still, we will try to divide them into these three broad categories.


Content


The developer advocate’s prime role is to help the developer community by launching content that could help a developer in working with their products, API, etc., in the best way that the company has to offer. The developer advocate is not restricted in any way whatsoever from producing new content. The content can be in the form of YouTube videos, written blogs, podcasts — anything that does get things done.

Many of them even indulge in creating an open-source project for the product of the respective organisations, where they can get feedback from other developers out in the industry. The issue section in the open-source control sources, like GitHub and Bitbucket, showcases the likeability of the product and can also be used to improve the product by providing feedback to the in-house development team.


Community


The community is something that a developer advocate has to cater to on a daily basis. Developer advocates host live sessions and conferences where they can network with other fellow developers. The agenda is mostly to let the developer community know about your product. This provides free publicity to the organisation, which in turn helps the organisation to scale as their product is out in public.

They can many times moderate platforms like Slack and Discord channels so that networking can be done by joining like-minded individuals. A developer advocate has extensive experience with the technology, so answering Stack Overflow questions regarding the product on which the person is working also becomes part of the job.


Code


This is debatable and based on different organisation requirements. They are not directly involved in the development of the product but work with open source products and answer Stack Overflow questions unless there comes the need to code. When the advocate from Google and IBM was asked, there was a partial requirement of coding. But it could not be generalized since there are multiple domains in which a person can become a developer advocate


Know Whether Being a Developer Advocate Suits You


Let's discuss some of the social and technical traits a person should have to become more relevant in a developer advocate role. Meanwhile, in the process, you can also find out if this domain suits your requirements. Travelling

A lot of travelling is required in the developer advocate role since you have to attend many conferences happening in different parts of the globe. Many times, one even has to organise a few conferences. A developer advocate gets a lot of chances to explore new places, but that comes with the cost of sacrificing some of your weekends to travel. If a person is fine with a lot of travelling and can sacrifice a few weekends, then the role is a perfect match and, we can say, a match made in heaven. But clearly, travelling for work is sometimes entirely different from leisure travelling, since a person has in the back of their mind that they are at the place for work. But it totally depends on the individual, the way they can handle the situation.

Opportunity

A developer advocate has a lot of opportunities to learn about the new technology that is trending since they have to provide content on the internet. They get to meet a lot of industry experts in different domains who can help them build a strong network of like-minded people who can help at the time of need.

Personal brand

As a developer advocate, you have to put out a lot of content over the internet. This could be on your blog posts, YouTube channel, podcast, etc., and can, in turn, help in creating a personal brand. A developer advocate gets the chance to speak at a lot of conferences so moves from attending the conferences to the stage. The audience starts recognising them. But many developers don’t like exploring so much or sharing knowledge. If a person is among those who like to build a personal brand and share knowledge with the general audience, then this domain is perfect for them. Social personality It goes without saying that a person needs to be social to perform better in the position of developer advocate. But a developer advocate should not only have an extrovert personality. Introverts can also perform better, since for many individuals, their behaviour changes while at a job. A person should be active on different social platforms where they can increase networking. So somebody who wants to be out in the audience and share their knowledge with other developers can go for the developer advocate role.


Finally, I’ll say that a developer advocate is more of a social person than just a developer. Plus, having knowledge of coding development is the icing on the cake for becoming a good developer advocate. The agenda should be to help the fellow developer community who could use the product for which you are doing advocacy. Also, take back feedback from the community to your in-house team so that the product can be enhanced and new features can be added, although you don't have the privilege of coding any new features but only give suggestions about new features that could be implemented. So this is a bit about what a developer advocate role looks like. I hope you have got some idea about the role and responsibilities of a developer advocate and that you can make up your mind if this domain is for you or not.

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