Advice from a DevRel Hiring Manager

Phil Leggetter shares his advice for DevRel hopefuls from the perspective of a hiring manager.

January 11, 2023

Phil Leggetter smiling at a point just off camera

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Phil Leggetter

Head of Developer Experience

Tigris Data

UK

Previous companies:

  • Ably
    PostHog
    tru.ID
    Vonage
    Pusher

Phil Leggetter has interviewed hundreds of DevRel candidates over the past ten years. Here is his advice on what you should and shouldn’t do when applying for your first DevRel job.

Key takeaways

The key takeaways from Phil’s advice are:

  • Write a cover letter that shows why you are the right person for the role, mapping what you have to offer to the role’s requirements.
  • You don’t need a particular career or education background but you should have relevant experience.
  • It’s more important to show you understand and have experience in what the role requires than to know the company’s technology space.
  • Progressing in a DevRel career means specialising in one aspect, such as developer education, community management, and so on.
  • However, leadership roles will require you to become a generalist again.

 

What do you look for in junior DevRel role applications?

The main thing I look for when reviewing applications for junior DevRel roles is actually the same as any role I’m recruiting for. Whether it’s a DevRel role or whether it’s a project manager role I want to see a genuine:

  • enthusiasm
  • excitement
  • and understanding.

That can often be seen in a cover letter. So, I’ve always recommended that time and effort is spent on writing a cover letter. And the purpose of that is to map your resume to the role.

Your cover letter helps highlight those things in your resume that really show that this is the right role for you.

Because it’s a DevRel role, I would expect the tone of voice to be informal. There’s an opportunity also to demonstrate the type of person you are and have that leap off the page.

Make sure your cover letter maps your resume through to the role and also demonstrates the sort of person that you are and that it demonstrates you are enthusiastic for the role that you’re applying for.

Do applicants need a particular career or education background?

Applicants don’t need a certain type of education or career background, but I do look for some demonstration that the applicant is interested and has tried some of the role’s activities.

So, if that’s a Community Manager role, I’d expect them to be involved in supporting and organising communities.

If it is a technical, hands-on coding role, then I would expect to see some code in GitHub probably.

For a Dev Advocate role, I’d expect to see blogging, some involvement in communities, and having given at least a couple of talks.

Previous experience doesn’t have to be paid experience. It can be:

  • volunteering
  • involvement in existing communities
  • writing content
  • recording your own videos.

There’s no need for formal education. There’s no need to have been paid to do some of that work. But I do want to see examples of proof that they really do want this role.

Do applicants need to know your company’s technology space already?

An applicant doesn’t need to know the company’s technology space.

If it’s a technical hands-on coding role, ideally they should able to demonstrate that they can code in the target language. They should also understand some of the platforms that your target audience might use. But most importantly they should be able to demonstrate that they have some coding ability.

For the community management side of things, it’s about demonstrating an interest in that community management side of things through some of the things that they do outside of work or within university or where they live.

What mistakes do you see?

One of the common mistakes I see is just clicking the “Apply now” button on LinkedIn.

You’ve got to spend time and effort thinking about whether this role is actually right for you. It will save you time and it will save the company time. Spend some time and effort demonstrate that you are actually interested in the role rather than just clicking the “Apply now” button. A cover letter is a great way to do that.

What one thing do you want to share with DevRel hopefuls?

A career in DevRel often starts out very general. You might be joining a larger company where they’re building their first team and, so, need someone who can do a bit of everything. Or it might be a small company where you’ll definitely need to be a generalist.

However, to progress in your career you will need to specialise. That might be going into community management or becoming an events specialist. You might focus on developer education or advocacy. Increasingly, though, career progression in DevRel is about becoming an expert in one particularly aspect rather than remaining a generalist.

Interestingly enough, as you move towards a leadership role, you’ll likely have to generalise again so that you can understand the full sweep of your team’s responsibilities. But before that, you’re going to have to specialise.