The Power of DevRel: A Community of Leaders and Learners


Wesley Faulkner

Job title

Senior Community Manager




DevRelCon London 2023

The Power of DevRel, Wesley FaulknerIn this personal, heartfelt opening keynote from DevRelCon London 2023, Wesley Faulker discusses the importance of community, resilience, perseverance, integrity, accountability, and paying it forward in the field of Developer Relations (DevRel).

He emphasizes the value of the DevRel community and the support it provides, especially during challenging times. Wesley encourages DevRel professionals to stay true to their values, be resilient in the face of adversity, persevere in making an impact, maintain integrity in their work, hold themselves and others accountable, and support and mentor others in the industry. He also introduces challenge coins as a symbol of unity and encourages attendees to pass them on to others in the community.

Key themes

  • The importance of community in DevRel and finding support and validation within the community.
  • The duality of success and validation in DevRel, where one can be successful in one domain but feel like nothing in another.
  • The core values of community, resilience, perseverance, integrity, and accountability in DevRel.
  • The need to be true to oneself and not seek validation solely from those who pay you.
  • The importance of being uncomfortable and having difficult conversations in order to do the right thing.
  • The concept of paying it forward and helping others in the DevRel community.
  • The role of DevRel in holding companies accountable and being the conscience of the company.
  • The discussion of integrity and the need to be honest and transparent in representing companies and products.
  • The idea of rehabilitation in DevRel, where DevRel professionals can help improve a company’s community profile and reputation.
  • The importance of speaking up and not pretending everything is okay when it’s not.

The video

Watch the video on YouTube >

Full transcript

Hello everyone. If you had talked to me at any of the previous events, you probably heard me say one thing about my talk today that I’m super nervous, also ill prepared.

(01:07): One thing is when I was asked to give the keynote for DevRelCon you think set the tone for the conference, but for me it’s like evaluate my whole entire life. And it was hard for me to kind of fit everything that I wanted to say in a box, especially a 25 minute box. But it made me think that the title of the keynote is it’s not Here. Maybe Do I need to do that? Nope. Alright, so it’s a community of leaders and learners. And the duality of that made me really kind of question, how do I set the tone in the environment that is today? And if you’ve been watching the news, if you’ve been talking to everyone in Dorel, you realize it’s rocky out there. It’s not the best, but it does feel like the best job. And the tone or the reflection of my career feels like it mirrors the outside world, the duality of things in terms of I feel like I need to be here, I need to be in this space.

(02:24): But also when you look at companies cutting DevRel jobs, are we important? Do we make a difference? My first DevRelCon was in 2019 and it brought me to San Francisco to find if this is the thing for me, I was just let go. From my first job, I was told that I was not doing the thing that I was supposed to do. And then back then when I needed a job, I just put it out on Twitter saying, I need a job. I’ve just been let go. It’s been real. Is there a place for me? And immediately I was inundated with messages of support, messages of validation where I did not get that in my job. And it was overwhelming.

(03:24): I felt like that I was being seen. And so in one count, the people who basically were their job to evaluate, if I was doing a good job, didn’t see me. The people out there, the people I touched, the people who saw me reinforced that I was worth something. And that duality never really left me that in one domain I could be successful in another domain, I could be nothing. And I went to DevRelCon not knowing if I can find another job, but day after day, people would say, I think you’re great. I’ve seen your work. It’s great. We want to have you. By the time I made it to DevRelCon, I met great people, great friends, a lot of you’re in the audience.

(04:21): And that reinforced that it wasn’t me that needed to be validated by the people who paid me, but validated by the community, validated by each one of you because that is what told me that this is where I needed to be. And as I thought about my history, the duality and me finding my home, it really solidified, I would say, five core values. And so the core values that I felt that I got is what my presentation is on. And the duality of how things can be simple but yet complicated, how things can be clear, yet you have plenty of room to fill in the blanks is something that I want to impart with each one of you. And at the same time, it’s going to be new but should be familiar. We are all endeavor and we need to be flexible. We’re built to be flexible. We’re built to learn and we’re built to teach. And us as a group, we need to come together during this time when at the same time they say We need DevRel, we need to find someone, we need to find the right person. We need to execute on the plan, but we need to have strategy. We need to show impact, but we need long-term growth. We want you to do sales. No, we want you to do marketing.

(06:01): So the duality of the things that we need to do is going to be in each one of these. And you saw the first one, it’s going to be community from my perspective. So this is all from the heart. And I think if I reflect what I’ve learned, you’ll see it in yourself. The community has been nothing that I’ve ever experienced in DevRel.

(06:25): Not just the community that we own and manage when we do our jobs, but the community of ourselves and how we support each other. During the pandemic, I was super honest and super open about how I didn’t feel like I belonged. How I never really fit in everywhere, which caused me to kind of fit in everywhere because if I am one of a million, then I don’t need to conform. I can be myself and I don’t have to do that which allowed me to be in my body, which be present, which means that I felt the same and I felt belonging wherever I went. But when I opened up about me not having a place in DevRel or sometimes not having a place in this world, those dark thoughts I didn’t have to hold. I talked to the community, I talked to everyone in DevRel and they told me the same thing. You do belong here. We want you here, we need you. And without that support, I don’t think I could have made it. And I’ve never had that community in any group that I’ve ever been in. And what I want you to take from that is that to be yourself, to be accepted, you do not need the validation of the people who hired you. What you need to do is make sure that you are within yourself

(07:54): And that part you can bring to the community. Jobs are going to change,

(08:01): But it doesn’t matter what that name, that logo is on your badge when you go to a conference, that could cycle. But your community will always be here. We will always be here for you. I will be here for you if you need me. So if you feel like community is this, then I consider you part of this community. So that’s all you need to do is to say yes. And then boom, you are initiated. So we’re all here. And I love being around people. I love being with people and this is part of community and that’s why I love you as dev re practitioners, and that’s why I love you as people love you too. Thank you. And then the next principle on my list is because things are so hard, it’s hard to kind of feel like you can still be yourself. You have people who tell you you’re not enough, you’re too much. You have people who tell you you’re not technical enough, you’re too technical. You have people who tell you that you’re not on social media or you spend too much time on it.

(09:21):  There are things that is going to challenge your core. Once you get grounded in yourself, it makes it super hard it to feel like those evaluations is equal to your worth. You need to disconnect that and you need to be more in yourself. So the resilience is for you to be unwavering, for you to have a set of values that won’t change, no matter who signs your paycheck or who’s in the room with you, you need to make sure that you stay steadfast and don’t give up that thing that makes you remember your core, remember your values and take that with you. That validation comes from only one person and that’s yourself. And you need to do that to stay resilient. It’s not where the flag blows, it’s not where the economy goes. It is where you go and that sets the tone and you need to make sure that that never changes.

(10:24): And the resilience leads to perseverance. Perseverance, like trying to pronounce something. You got to keep going in order to make sure you get it right. So for perseverance, it’s different than resilience. Resilience is staying very stoic, staying like a stone and unmovable. Those are the things that make you outside of that. There are things that make what you do matter. There are things and impacts that you make that is going to be great. What you need to do is stay in your perseverance. If you’re fighting for what’s right, if you’re fighting for the thing that is going to cause impact, that is going to change lives, that is going to make sure that what you’re doing matters. You need to keep trying. No matter if people say that you speak too bluntly or they say the way you delivered it didn’t feel good to me. I’m not saying don’t care for people’s feelings. I’m not saying don’t try to adjust so that you can make your points more palatable. What I’m saying is don’t give up your core, but don’t stand still. Always push that envelope, always find the edges and then make sure that once you establish your circle, keep going. The sky’s the limit. We are people that make impact. We are people that represent not only ourselves, but companies, products, services, and in some spaces, technology itself.

(12:06): The people in this room are probably emissaries to some of the most powerful companies in the world. That is very weighty, and that is why you cannot push the boundaries further without realizing that it’s important. What we do is important and what you are is important in order to do that perseverance. So stay within yourself, use your community if you need to. But come on, let’s not send on our laurels. Let’s have our standards higher and we need to keep making sure that we keep having those difficult conversations. We need to keep making sure that we do the right thing. And that comes with integrity. If you’re able to consistently show your values consistently, say what you’re going to do and then do what you’re going to say, you are going to have a reputation of someone that is honest and has the right thing in their heart that they want to make sure spreads throughout the world. We are nothing without integrity. Our badges might change jobs, but our reputation will follow us everywhere. And if you are trying to participate in capitalism like we all do, there are some compromises, but integrity should not be one of them.

(13:40): Sometimes you might send an email asking for help, asking for a promotion saying like, Hey, if you couldn’t mind, if you mind hitting the retweet button, sliding to someone’s DMs, asking for help with their job, even though it’s not something that you want to do, you don’t want to be a salesperson, you want to do marketing, you don’t want to do customer service. Those are things that we come sometimes we have to do,

(14:04): But your integrity, where it’s coming from, that matters. Don’t leave out information. Don’t mislabel something. Don’t say a product will do everything. Don’t say that we will fix all your problems. We are the people of, it depends, right? It depends on your situation, it depends on your tech stack. Make sure that you don’t give super solid answers to wavy problems. You need to make sure that you have the caveats. Be transparent, be honest, and make sure that there is a match where there needs to be one. But don’t force it. If there’s some brand new technology that says that it will end world hunger, it will democratize. I don’t know, power. Be skeptical. Ask the right questions. Make sure you know what you’re representing before you go out and represent it and be honest. And if it doesn’t work out, meaning the things in their edge cases where it breaks down, make sure you talk about that too.

(15:15): Of course talk about it internally, but don’t stop there if you need to. When someone asks, when you’re told to promote something, make sure you’re honest there as well. It’s easy to get into a small group and talk about how something sucks. It’s harder to get on camera on a microphone or on the internet and have that same honesty. It might be even harder to have that same honesty with the people who give you your paycheck, but you need to do that. It’s very important. And this is one where we need to come together on because we define what DevRell is, we don’t let them do it. And if they think DevRel is just a hired gun, we need to dispel that right quick. What we do is we do the right thing and we always do the right thing.

(16:07): And then there’s accountability. So of course you can control your own actions, but you also need to speak out when you see other people make the wrong choice. We need to hold people accountable, and that’s including me. If you ever see me do something that violates what we call DevRell, please let me know. We need to keep each other in line because we all have our own reputation, but we also represent the industry as a whole. And if is it’s integrity is somehow compromised, if it’s de-legitimized, that hurts all of us. And so we need to make sure that we all do the right thing all the time, consistently in public and private all the time.

(16:59): And that is what we signed up for when we did this. Because what is it saying? No one can define DevRell. No one knows what it is, but we all know what it is. You’d know it when you see it, you know it when you see it done wrong. And when you see it done wrong, say something about it. Don’t just gossip. Don’t just back channel. Choose which way is respectful of course, but also don’t stay silent. When we talked about community before, I mentioned that I found my community in those communities, of course there are little cliques and sometimes those cliques can become toxic and sometimes they can be a force for good. If you’re in those spaces, make sure it is the latter and not the former.

(17:54): Having integrity and having accountability is the thing that’s going to make sure that we are all doing the right thing for everyone at all times. And it might feel uncomfortable, it might feel awkward, and sometimes it might feel a little gatekeeping. And I’m not talking about keeping people out, I’m talking about keeping people honest. If they say that they are one of us, if they say that they are for truth and they’re for technology and they’re for advancement and for equality, and therefore making sure that everyone can get something out of our relationship, meaning that it’s not just selling to sell and it’s not just taking to take. We need to have an ecosystem of DevRel, all of us together. And in that we need to have those uncomfortable conversations and we’re built to be uncomfortable. If you’re in technology, it always changes. Who knows what’s going to happen today, what’s going to happen tomorrow? And we all know what’s happening out there. The instability is what we’re born with. This is what we are used to. And this is a thing that we are made to be adjusted for. So being uncomfortable is not new. So get ready to be more uncomfortable by being uncomfortable together and making sure that we are keeping each other accountable.

(19:22): And last but not least, pay it forward. Some people aren’t in this room, some people aren’t in this industry anymore. Some people aren’t here to hear this. But if you get what I’m saying, give it to someone else. If you understand and you agree, recognize when other people are on that journey. I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t be on this stage if there wasn’t someone sticking their hand down and pulling me up. And I bet most of you can say the same thing about where you are right now. What you need to do is make sure you put your hand down and you pull other people up with you. You didn’t get here on your own and the next group won’t get there without you. So I want you to pay it forward. I want you to find someone here and someone out there that needs help. I want you to not leave DevRelCon thinking that you just got great knowledge, but how you can help other people. Most of the people in this room

(20:43): Love DevRel. Some of the people in this room have been in DevRel less than a year. Some people have never done DevRel outside of a pandemic. Some of the people in DevRel have never led a program, created strategy built community. There are problems that they’re going to discover and they’re going to need your help. So please don’t just think about what knowledge you’ll get, think about the knowledge you’ll give. Do that in your sessions. Do that unconference, do that during lunch, do it after this. Any get together. Find the people who need help and then offer that to them. Let’s be a community, not a community of one. Let’s do be a community of all. Okay? Make sure we’re all getting what we need and make sure we are there to help. We’re a community of leaders and we are a community of learners.

(21:41): And that duality will never change. I don’t know everyone in this room. I haven’t met everyone in this room, so there’s a lot that I don’t know. But at the same time, I love each and every one of you because I’m not just of DevRel. I mean DevRel is part of me. And that means that we are all connected. And for that reason, I know that I love and care about each one of you. That won’t change even if you’re not able to be accountable, if you’re not able to be resilient, if you’re not able to be persistent, that’s not a judgment of you. That’s just a judgment of them. And out there it’s complicated. But in here, in this room, in DevRel, we have to take care of each other. I’ll always be there for you and hopefully you’ll always be there for each other. And with that, thank you. Thank you for your time.

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