Career Insight

What is a Developer Advocate?

developer advocate working on web development

Over the last few years, developer advocates have become some of the most popular professionals in tech. Their job puts them at the intersection of the developer community and the company they work for: They advocate for developers, helping them grow and succeed by teaching them about their company’s products that support the work they do. Developer advocates are also the developer community’s voice. They gather community feedback and questions about the product and take it back to their company/product team so they can make improvements and create a better user experience. This interaction between the community and the developer advocate is beneficial to a company because it sets the foundation for genuine and naturally occurring product promotion, as well as helps them build a high-quality product.

Does this sound a bit like a marketing position? Or maybe it has similarities with product management? In truth, the developer advocate role is much more nuanced than that, so let’s get you up to speed on this popular tech career.

Demystifying What They Do

Developer advocates generally have a background as software engineers. The familiarity they have with the technology and processes in software development lets them do their job much more effectively. But what is that job exactly?

Let’s say their company is rolling out a new feature in one of their most popular products. The developer advocate will use the feature for a period of time to better understand it and provide any potential feedback for the product developers. If the developer advocate believes the product is ready to be introduced to the development community, they may write blogs, produce videos, attend/speak at conferences, or create other types of content about it. This content, in turn, helps teach developers how to use the product.

Developer advocates take an active role in the development community, interacting on social media, communicating through message boards, and even joining communities on Discord or similar forums. If they notice the community has feedback about the product, they relay the information to their company, so the newly discovered needs can be implemented to the product.

This may sound similar to what a marketing team may do. However, whereas the marketing team may work tirelessly to push a product, no matter how good or bad it may be, developer advocates function with the developer community in mind. This means they believe in and truly value the product, as well as how it benefits developers and helps them succeed. Not to mention, if the product is not up to the community’s standards, the developer advocate will not write or speak about it. In essence, they are liaisons between the developer community and their company’s product team.

Why the Popularity?

You may be wondering how a role that primarily focuses on the community as opposed to the product can be so important to a company. Look at it this way: by establishing trustworthy communication with the community, encouraging progress through education while prioritizing feedback, and being transparent about products, company awareness will grow in a natural, more organic, way. Not to mention, once a developer advocate actually features a company’s product, it will be because they truly believe the product can make a positive impact on the community at large.

What Do They Fall Under?

Is the developer advocate role found in marketing, product development, or engineering? In actuality, the developer advocate role and where it fits is still up to debate and generally depends on each specific company. If a developer advocate answers to a marketing team, they may feel more inclined to work toward page views and clicks. Conversely, if they report to an engineering team, they’ll likely focus more on perfecting the product itself. Ideally, however, developer advocates fit best between these departments, acting as a link among them and the software development community.

The Marks of a Good Developer Advocate

So, what makes a good developer advocate? While not a strict requirement, engineering experience is a valuable asset in this line of work. After all, they have to foster credibility with the community via articles, conventions, and even community forums. One sure-fire way to do that is to know what you’re talking about, which includes software engineering knowledge. With that said, there are other advocate developer traits that are just as important:

  • Empathy: As a developer advocate, the developer community is your responsibility. For this reason, it’s important to recognize their struggles, understand what causes them, and be willing to help them succeed.
  • Sharing: As the bridge between company and community, developer advocates share their knowledge about a product with developers. It’s their job to guide the developer community as it learns how to use and understand their company’s product. They do this by getting involved with their community, answering questions, and creating educational content.
  • Communication: Developer advocates are tasked with relaying trustworthy information to their community. This means their communication skills, both verbal and written, should be honed.

Getting There

Let’s say you’re interested in becoming a developer advocate and ready to help your community grow while supporting a company you believe in. How will you get there? It really all starts with learning technical skills! After all, being the bridge between the developer community and a team of software engineers means you’ll be expected to communicate in a comprehensive, technical, and meaningful way.

So, why not start developing your coding skills today? Kenzie Academy’s Software Engineering Certificate program helps you create the foundation for a future in tech. This program emphasizes backend Java, a popular programming language used in the development of applications like Twitter, Spotify, CashApp, and so many others. After completing the program, you’ll be ready to choose your path in tech, whether that means complementing your experience at Kenzie with additional education, seeking a career as a software engineer, or starting your journey toward a developer advocate role. Apply today and contact us if you have any questions.

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