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Why every good IT leader should know DevRel

Maria Maleeva
09-15-2020 13:04
Why every good IT leader should know DevRel
DevRel Manager as a profession has become quite a hot topic recently. Some companies believe, that there should be a particular person in your team to perform the job. Slack even has the whole bunch of DevRel Managers to lure in IT crowd. Others think that the whole idea is a bit overstated. All in all, it’s company’s job to decide whether it’s worth having a standalone person (or even a department). Here I would like to share some thoughts on why an efficient leader should always practice DevRel basics.

First of all, you already have the most of the skills.

Since the duties of DevRel Managers may vary a bit from one job description to another, there is still no clear understanding of the concept itself. However, the most common responsibilities are:
  • Building relationships with the community;
  • Being able to contribute to corporate web outlets;
  • Hard-skills to blend in with professional crowd;
  • Event organization.
Sounds easy, huh?
In fact, if we look closely at this description we may see a bit of correlation with managerial roles. The first three responsibilities define a professional in general – be it IT specialist or even a doctor. If one has enough expertise, (s)he is visible in the community, has experience in communication and surely knows how to work with hands. So, we (almost) have a winner. If a person knows how to organize a crowd and facilitate a discussion – we have a DevRel manager here.
Clearly, I am oversimplifying the role, but you are getting the idea. The whole concept is not really a black box for a leader. Thus, why the hell are you still avoiding it?

The reasons why you need to practice those skills more often

Imagine you have the right amount of people in your team to perform a task. Then, one of them decides to change the career path and quits. Shortly after that another employee goes on maternity leave. Finally, your junior developer realises that (s)he wants to move back to their hometown and goes away. It’s always hard to lose an employee and stay efficient as a team. How will you manage the situation, when a bunch of them leave simultaneously?
Surely, you have HR Department to help, but the recruitment process may last weeks and even months. As a result, the important features suffer and the rest of the team is exhausted and demotivated. Here come your networking abilities and general tech brand awareness. If you know people (who know people who know people), finding a substitute may happen really quickly – just spill a word here and there and voila. Otherwise, when you don’t have any connection to the community, the search will last forever. Probably, working at Google, you won’t wait too long as the amount of replies to job opening is going to be huge. However, it’s not the case with some small (and yet unknown) companies or your own start-up. To sum up, being visible part of the community is a key.
Another example is knowledge sharing. When you perform as a DevRel Manager, you frequently give talks or write about stuff. It’s not only good for your self-development and your CV, but gives you the ability to teach someone. As we’ve already discussed, nurturing employees is your responsibility as a leader. Use this public speaking skill to mentor your team.
The third case is about organizational skills… duh! Have you ever organized an event for dozens of people? Have you thought through every detail to entertain the whole crowd? Have you efficiently assigned the roles to keep everything moving? Have you ever fixed the things when everything is going wrong? Have you ever improvised in front of the audience in order to give technicians some time to fix a projector? If so, team(s) management seems a bit less scary, right?
To sum up, I am not saying that you should substitute a DevRel Manager with your existing employees (and hope they will do the job). The scope of work is way too broad to be combined with team leading job. I want to emphasize that every good IT leader should steal the tricks in order to put a quick patch on business wounds. On the long run it will also help you to become a known leader in the industry and fast-forward your career.
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