DevRelCon 2021 retrospective

December 13, 2021

Author Matthew Revell

Founder of DevRelCon and of Hoopy, the developer relations consultancy. Let's talk about your developer relations strategy.

DevRelCon 2021 retrospective

November 8th to the 10th 2021 saw the third fully online edition of DevRelCon take place. Over those three days, we brought together one hundred speakers, panellists, and MCs, along with more than a thousand participants to hear, learn, and share their experiences around the profession of developer relations.

The DevRel career path

Our overarching theme for this edition of DevRelCon was the developer relations career path. Although individual technical evangelist roles go back to the 1980s, developer relations doesn’t yet have the same established ideas around specialisation and career progression that we see in other disciplines. This lack of clarity has made it harder for newcomers to enter developer relations, for experienced practitioners looking at what’s next, and for managers building teams for the longer term.

We wanted to help uncover what is already happening in DevRel teams and progress the conversation around how the developer relations career should look. As such, we used the event to surface both individual DevRel career stories and to look at the broader context of the developer relations career.

It became apparent that there were three sub-themes and so we dedicated one day to each of them:

  • Getting started in and levelling up a DevRel career
  • Managing teams and relationships in DevRel
  • Honing the craft of DevRel.

Getting started in and levelling up DevRel

DevRelCon 2021’s first day was mostly aimed at newcomers to developer relations with themed blocks covering DevRel fundamentals, how to get hired, and stories of non-typical routes into the profession.

Snyk’s Field CTO Simon Maple and Ionic’s Vice President of Developer Relations Kim Maida both shared their personal developer relations career stories. In both cases, their journeys have taken them from individual contributor to developer relations executive.

Elsewhere in the day, Joe Nash, Matthew Revell, Caroline Lewko, and Tamao Nakahara gave workshops on understanding the fundamentals of developer relations, along with how to get hired in that first DevRel role. Experienced DevRel hiring managers, including Phil Leggetter, Marcos Placona, Amara Graham, Dave Nielsen, and Tasha Isenberg took questions from the audience from people looking to get into DevRel.

GitLab’s John Coghlan closed the day with a talk on the specialisations and career progression he has set up for his team.

Managing DevRel teams and relationships

Day two of DevRelCon 2021 focused on managing relationships in developer relations. Specifically, there were talks on managing DevRel teams, managing up to execs and investors, and managing sideways to other teams in the organisation.

Cherish Santoshi detailed some of the metrics that VCs and other investors want to see from DevRel programs, while Google’s Tim Messerschmidt looked at the the tangible, real-world value that developer relations can bring to people’s lives. Experienced DevRel managers shared their advice on leading developer relations teams, including Slack’s Bear Douglas and Cisco’s Matt DeNapoli on managing a team for a first time. GitHub’s Martin Woodward told the story of growing their global developer relations team, while Hashicorp’s Adam FitzGerald set out a practical career matrix for DevRel.

When it came to the broader influence of developer relations, Jonathan Ashong-Lamptey looked at practical steps towards diversity and inclusion both for our companies and communities. Mano Marks of Google spoke on building practical working relationships with other teams across the business.

Honing the craft of DevRel

For the closing day of DevRelCon 2021, we covered the practicalities of developer relations. Themes included documentation, community management, speaking, live streaming, events, and developer marketing. Ramón Huidobro and Layla Porter gave practical tips on streaming for developer audiences, Suze Shardlow dived beneath the surface of marketing and how it applies to DevRel, while Philipp Krenn and Kevin Lewis looked at how to take part in online and in person events respectively.

Content has been a huge theme of developer relations during the pandemic. Kaitlin Carter shared how HashiCorp tackles technical writing, Fatima Sarah Khalid emphasised the importance of storytelling, and both Lauren Schaefer and Megan Grant gave practical tips on SEO.

These are just some of the many sessions that we had at DevRelCon 2021, with almost all videos now available.

A global event

DevRelCon 2021 was a global, online event from the very beginning. As such, we had three priorities in mind:

  • Schedule sessions so that every time zone can watch at least some of the event live during normal waking hours
  • Welcome as many speakers as possible from locations where there isn’t yet an in-person DevRelCon
  • Create an ongoing community, specifically through the event’s Discord.

People attended, spoke at, MCed, and helped out behind the scenes from all across the globe and we’re excited to see that DevRelCon is part of a truly global developer relations community.

We couldn’t have the run the event without our amazing sponsors, so thank you to Commsor, Orbit, CoScreen, Forem, Mux, Call of Conduct, Common Room, Aiven, Peritus, Weaveworks, AhoyConnect, and Cloudinary.

DevRelCon in 2022

Plans are already under way for DevRelCon in 2022. We’d like to see a return to in person DevRelCon events, perhaps on a smaller scale, if government rules, insurance, and the progress of Covid-19 allow. Whether it’s fully online or as hybrid events, next year will see at least two or three DevRelCon events.

We hope to announce the first of the 2022 DevRelCons soon.

Thank you to the entire DevReCon 2021 team.