DevRelCon London 2018 retrospective

November 15, 2018

Author Matthew Revell

DevRelCon founder and CEO of Hoopy, the content agency for the developer economy.

Sue Black at DevRelCon London 2018

Sue Black at DevRelCon London 2018

On November 7th and 8th, developer relations professionals came from across the world to gather together for DevRelCon London 2018 at the QEII Conference Centre in Westminster. This was the fourth and biggest DevRelCon London yet and the eleventh DevRelCon overall in the series.

The first DevRelCon unconference and awards

DevRel Awards 2018

DevRel Awards 2018

For the first time, this year we began DevRelCon with a full day unconference, in which birds of a feather sessions and on-the-spot talks took place side by side. We’ll publish a dedicated report on the unconference day soon.

After the unconference we also held the inaugural DevRel Awards! Again, we’ll have a full report soon.

Empathy at the heart of dev rel

Our theme for the conference day was grounded in the idea that developer relations is at the intersection of humans and technology. As dev rel becomes more widespread, how do we maintain the empathy necessary to the role while also becoming a standard part of how tech companies do business.

Dr Sue Black

Dr Sue Black

With those themes in mind, the day opened with a talk from Dr Sue Black, OBE. Dr Black told the story of how she’d gone from living in a women’s refuge to earning a doctorate in computer science and technology evangelist, including how she’d instigated and led the campaign to save Bletchley Park.

After Dr Black, Red Hat’s Leslie Hawthorn took to the stage with her talk on Cultivating Empathy. This was a practical guide to ensuring that empathy runs throughout all of your work and each of your programmes.


The morning’s breakout tracks took the themes of professionalisation and general developer relations practice.

Dropbox’s JJ Kass and IBM’s Amara Graham looked at how dev rel teams can become more effective by aligning with other departments inside your company. JFrog’s Baruch Sadogursky and DigitalGlobe’s Steve Pousty both had their own take on measuring the value of dev rel work.

Questioning dev rel

After lunch, Open Source Initiative President, Simon Phipps, told the story of how developer relations came out of the free and open source software movement. Simon argued that developer relations wouldn’t exist if it hadn’t been for the rebranding of free software as open source, which in turn made free software more palatable to businesses.

Next up, GitHub’s Don Goodman-Wilson questioned the philosophical basis of developer relations, with his talk Kicking the hornet’s nest.

Developer experience and developer marketing

The afternoon break-out sessions focused on developer experience and developer marketing. Google’s Erin McKean made the case for treating documentation as a practical expression of empathy: meet your readers at their level and where they are. At the same time, Nexmo’s Martyn Davies showed how easily available data can seed your content marketing calendar.

Later in the afternoon, Melinda Seckington gave The art of talk design, which was the sequel to her very well received 2017 talk The art of slide design. Continuing the design theme,’s Matt O’Riordan showed how visual design principles can be used to improve how we design APIs.

Sympathy for the DevRel

Closing the day was RedMonk co-founder, James Governor, with his talk Sympathy for the DevRel. This was a call for developer relations professionals to take better care of themselves, even as the role takes on greater scrutiny from other teams.

Thank you!

DevRelCon wouldn’t have been possible without the amazing speakers, attendees, organising team and, of course, sponsors. GitHub‘s support as Presenting Partner, IBM as Platinum Sponsor, Algolia, Vanilla Forums, Worldpay and Nexmo as Gold sponsors, OutSystems as Silver sponsor, Kauri, Katacoda and Weavr as Start-up Sponsors and Salesforce as Bronze sponsor, meant that we could welcome attendees from a wide variety of backgrounds and abilities to pay for tickets.

As ever, this DevRelCon was as much about the informal chats, the karaoke and the new friendships made as it was about the talks. Videos of the talks will be online soon but to get the most from DevRelCon make sure you join us at the next edition.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.