A Portfolio is Key

After ten years as a technologist, Carly built a portfolio to secure her first DevRel role

Carly Richmond

Series sponsor

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Carly Richmond

Developer Advocate

Elastic

London

Key takeaways

  • Create a portfolio of DevRel activities, such as content and talks, to help show hiring managers what you can do.
  • Reach out to people already working in DevRel to get their advice and to better understand what the job is all about.

Carly’s video

What were you doing before DevRel?

I came into developer relations following just over 10 years working in investment banking as a technologist. I actually joined the bank fresh at university and went onto their graduate program.

So for a long time, banking was all that I knew, but I had done various different roles, which is what kind of informed my experience of the technology industry. And that has helped me to a lot to the challenges when I’ve been talking to developers as an advocate.

I worked as a front end engineer. I was a software developer working on all sorts of different technologies. I had stints as a tech lead as well. I tried scrum mastery for a while and I dabbled in agile coaching.

What made you consider a career in DevRel?

Outside of the bank, I enjoyed blogging. For a few years I would mainly talk about agility process and engineering topics on my blog. But I felt the call to come back to technology and start writing about tech and code.

After I took a six month break to go on maternity to have my son, I came back wanting to do something else for myself and I decided to get into conference speaking. Not exactly a small goal!

I had heard about Global Diversity CFP Day, which are workshop days run throughout the world where mentors can help you with writing conference abstracts and can give you advice and mentorship on how to get started in speaking.

When I got back to work I sought out a mentor in the company. That was James Gough, who is a prominent Java speaker. He gave me so much help in mentoring and support. He introduced to the London Java community, even though I am not a Java engineer. And from there I also got introduced to other communities such as the Aspiring Women’s Speakers group.

In addition to hearing from speakers to get guidance and tips from them on how they approach speaking, I was also able to do practice runs of conference talks at their meetup. And I was also able to do lightning talks to try and get some general speaking practice. After a while I found out that that was what I enjoyed: the content side, the speaking to people side, the community side.

So I asked James for some advice and he put me in touch with two wonderful advocates, Helen Scott and Trisha Gee, who both spoke to me about their experiences at that time.

How did you find out about DevRel job opportunities?

After a while, as I was finding more and more that the content and the speaking side was really what I wanted to do, I started applying for jobs in advocacy.

Now, I found them through a mixture of resources. I used LinkedIn, which might seem like a surprising one. I actually had alerts for “developer advocate” and “developer evangelist” because those titles are used for similar roles depending on the companies that are posting.  I would also occasionally get job specs sent to me by friends that they thought might be interesting for me.

Now, as an advocate, I know there’s other ways to find them too. So obviously you can do a bit of Googling, you can search company websites to see if they’ve got any openings. And then there’s other job boards. People will post stuff up on Twitter as well. So there’s loads of ways to find out about what roles are available.

How was the recruiting process?

The interview process was interesting. I submitted to a few companies and every company had a very different process to how they interviewed advocates.

Some had takeaway coding problems that I had to do similar to what I would’ve done as a software engineer. Some of them had presentations that I would need to give. Some asked for takeaway submissions for writing a blog post or doing a video. And some were just conversations, talking about technology community and my experience. They were very similar to what a generic job interview would be like.

And to be honest, I really enjoyed the interview process with places that I was interviewing at. I found it was very much a two-way street. I was able to evaluate the company to see if it was something I would enjoy doing, a place I would enjoy working at, and a place where I could feel like I could authentically be myself, which is very important thing as an advocate. And you know what, it was also quite nice to meet some very lovely people. That’s always been a joy in my job, whether I’m going to meet-ups or conferences, whether I’m chatting in various forums to help developers or even if I’m sitting writing content and, and geeking out on writing code as well.

What advice would you give to DevRel hopefuls?

Now that I think back on my story, there are two pieces of advice I would give you.

One is a piece of advice that was given to me by Trisha Gee, which is the importance of a portfolio that will showcase the skills that you need as an advocate. Doesn’t matter if it’s a five minute lightning talk or a 50 minute conference talk. All of these are relevant. So make sure that you add those onto your CV (resume) and make them available on your public website or even on your GitHub so people can check into it.

It’s not just about speaking. Make sure that you work at any blog content and code as well. Showcase what you can do.

And the final thing is reach out and speak to individuals who are already working in developer relations to find out what their day-to-day is like and to find out if it’s a fit for you.