Hiring evangelists: five ways you’re doing it wrong


Vacancy sign


Hiring a developer relations team is hard. The pool of experienced people is small and the role requires an unusual mix of skills

Here are five things you should avoid if you’re hiring developer relations professionals.

1. You have no strategy

Too many companies start the recruitment process without knowing what they want from their developer relations programme.

“Hey”, you might be thinking, “I’m hiring a devrel person to come create the strategy for me!”

If that’s the case, then you’ve already thought about it more than some hiring managers. Before you start recruiting, ask yourselves:

  • Are we looking for a strategist or someone to implement an existing programme?
  • What’s the main outcome we want to see from this role?
  • How does budget affect what we can expect of this person?

The answers are not a developer relations strategy but they will point towards the skills and seniority you require.

If you’re not sure what the answers should look like, seek help. Ask your peers in non-competing industries or hire a developer relations consultancy.

2. You’re not actually hiring: you want free consultancy

There’s a point at which interview questions and tasks turn into free work.

Ask yourself: are you gauging the candidate’s suitability or are you using them as a sounding board for your plan? How likely are you to go back to candidates with a, “we’re putting hiring on hold as we don’t quite know what we’re doing” type of response?

3. You’re trying to hire “rock star” coders

If you have a software engineering vacancy, hire a software engineer. If you want to do developer relations, hire a developer relations professional.

There’s a fallacy held by some that to do developer relations you need to be a supremely well known developer. That’s wrong for at least three reasons:

  • Devrel is more than code: developer relations people need to understand what it is to create code and they should be able to throw together sample code. That’s just one aspect of a wide and rare skill-set that makes for a great devrel person.
  • Amazing developers want to write code: they see devrel as a sabbatical. Within a year or so they tire of the travel or realise they didn’t like blogging all that much and they go back to software engineering. It’s a pattern that happens over and again.
  • Rock stars are trouble: with “rock star” type personalities the story will always be about them and never about your product.

It’s hard enough to hire for developer relations roles as it is. Don’t throw ego and the wrong skills into the mix.

4. You’re overly fixated on location

Building awareness, adoption and community for a developer-targeted product is usually a global task. It’s absolutely right that your strategy should focus on certain geographies but don’t get too tied up on where your devrel team lives.

Developer relations happens online and at events. Find the right people, establish remote-friendly working practices and give your team a reasonable travel budget.

The caveat is that you’ll need to work harder to integrate a remote devrel team with any office-bound engineering, marketing and product colleagues. That’s just table-stakes, though.

5. You see outside interests as conflicts of interest

The people who excel as developer advocates, technical evangelists and community managers are creative and have a bias for action. They almost certainly run an event or an open source project or have some other side project.

You should celebrate that. It takes them, and your product, into places they wouldn’t reach otherwise and it gives them experience that they can feed back into their day job.

Don’t take the very characteristics that make a great devrel person and then quash them.

Bonus round: You forget that developer relations people talk … a lot

If you are hiring, it’s worth knowing that the small developer relations community is pretty tightly knit. News of your vacancy, and details such as compensation, will spread before your recruiter has finished their LinkedIn search.

Doing it right

Know what you’re looking for and then be honest and open about it. The developer relations community will help you. Not just with things like the devrel jobs board or events such as DevRelCon but also with personal introductions.

If you need help with your developer relations plan, speak to the developer relations consultancy Hoopy.

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