There's been a lot of talk lately about whether change needs to come from the top-down (stakeholders / CXO's) or the bottom-up (individual contributors on the DevRel team). While I agree that sitting around simply waiting for change to happen isn't a productive use of our time and skills, at the end of the day, if we don't get the buy-in from upper management, whatever changes we implement likely won't last long.
I brought this up in a recent conversation with my friend & fellow DevRel Professional Karissa Peth and she made the observation that we need to find a way to get in front of stakeholders from other companies. After all, while banging the drum in your own company is important, that's only one company of many in the tech industry.
The mission of my company, Persea Consulting, is to provide resources for the community of community builders in order to push the entire DevRel industry forward, but we need to realize that the peripheral community is made up of the stakeholders at each of the companies that we work for. Providing resources for DevRel professionals, while important, is only part of the puzzle. Until we start providing resources for the leadership teams who are seeking to implement DevRel practices, we'll keep running into the same dead-ends we've been facing for the last decade.
I'm making a concerted effort to do that in a variety of ways, including speaking at non-developer conferences. While Product, Marketing, and even Sales-related events definitely aren't normally the conferences on the top of our list, I think it's time that we begin to give talks about the value of Developer Relations to these audiences. If we expect these individuals to support us in our dedication to building relationships with developers, we need to make sure they understand why it's valuable. I'd love to talk to those of you willing to step outside of our typical comfort zones to see how together, we can help stakeholders around the world better understand the value that we bring to the table.
p.s. As I mentioned in the last issue, I'm looking for some help with upcoming issues in late August and early September. A handful of you emailed me asking for more information, which I really appreciate! I should clarify one thing: I'm not expecting you to put together a weekly round-up of all the news as I've been doing. Instead, I'd love you to share your top 5 (or more) favorite articles about DevRel & Community Building. When I'm back on the grid post-vacation I'll do a round-up of my top picks from the previous weeks. Hit reply and let me know if this sounds like something you'd be interested in doing!
Hire Like You Actually Want to Change
If you wonder why the change you're looking for isn't happening as quickly as you'd like it to, perhaps the problem isn't the plan, but the limited headcount.
It's amazing to me (still) that relatively large organizations want to create a digital engagement ecosystem/community for their brand... and hire ONE person then wonder why it's not working better. SMH
The same is true internally... large organizations will hire one internal #cmgr and wonder why their culture hasn't changed. Seriously. Years of hierarchical and controlling leadership and you want ONE middle-level employee to transform engagement?!?
Let me repeat, just for clarity. If you hire one #cmgr and expect your brand sentiment or internal culture to change (even if you have the best technology), you are doing it wrong. Hire like you actually want to change.
What Department do You Live in?
Jessica West asked this question last week and I'm fascinated by the answers.
What department do you and your team live in? Taking it a step further, do you think that's the right department for you? Why or why not?
As someone who has reported into Marketing as well as Engineering and even directly to the President once upon a time, I'm always interested to hear how DevRel and Community teams are set up and how that's impacted their day-to-day goals. Have an opinion to share? Hit reply & type away -- I'd love to hear it!
Change Requires Hard Work
Changing a community's culture is really hard. You have to set boundaries at the beginning, and continually and consistently enforce them.
The Behavior of Leaders is Reflected in their Communities
Rachel Happe made a comment earlier this week that the behaviors of the community builders and stakeholders will be reflected in the communities that they lead:
The power of validation & behavior mirroring is so strong that the behavior of leaders will rapidly be reflected in the community they lead.
We can see this in community data now (thanks to communities interacting online). Behavior is the fractal of culture.
I couldn't agree more! We see this in good ways in companies like Twilio, who were founded by developers who care deeply about their fellow engineers. We see this in bad ways in the Linux community, where the question of "Why am I still subscribed to this mailing list?" is unfortunately not uncommon.
These patterns start at the top and work their way down, creating a welcoming, friendly, helpful environment, or a toxic forum that people are still forced to use on occasion. The patterns that we as community builders set are just as important, and I would argue that there are times where it's our responsibility to change the patterns entirely. The question is, will you put in the time and energy necessary to do so, and will the people above you -- your manager, your company stakeholders, your founders -- support your efforts?
5 Conference Speaking Tips from Tech Gurus
Looking for speaking tips? Gant Laborde brings you five pragmatic tips (many of which have their own tips hidden within the paragraph!). From knowing what type of mic you'll have to writing slides in a high-energy environment, you're sure to learn something from this article whether it's your 5th or 500th speaking engagement.
How To Increase User Engagement in your Online Community
This fascinating article from Leader Networks walks through how to move community members from simply "being" online to "thinking" online. Similar to the Shiramyd, you promote the work and effort of the "thinkers" while encouraging others to take the next step.
As a community manager, you’ve got to constantly encourage users to visit, participate, and add their wisdom to the community. The key to making that happen is knowing which stage of activity each user is in—and what prompts are likely to spur him or her to the next stage.
On Developer Relations and Personal Integrity (vol. 2)
One question that I get asked often by DevRel professionals and companies alike is how to straddle the line between representing the company you work for and the community you serve. Leslie & Laura tackled this dilemma in a recent blogpost that is well-worth your time!
The Community Growth Paradox
If you maintain an online community, you're likely familiar with the problem of trying to hold onto your most experienced members while still catering to the newest members. In other words, as Richard Millington says,
To attract the most people, you need to cater to the average member. But to attract and keep the smartest members, you need to cater to the smartest members.
In this recent article from Feverbee, Richard walks through a handful of tough decisions you have to make in order to keep your smartest (and most active) members onboard.
If you're in the very early stages of your community, you might be thinking this sounds like an awesome problem to have! But how do you get to a point where you have this "smartest members" problem? Don't launch your community too early. Another recent post from Feverbee puts it this way:
If you don’t have relationships with the top influencers in your sector, an audience of hundreds (or, ideally, thousands of people), or a solid group of 50+ members committed to participating in the community, keep going until you do.
Building Bridges, One Teammate at a Time
One of my favorite things about DevRel is that we're bridge builders. Whether it's between the company and our community, or community member to community member, we're often making introductions (I like to call them warm handoffs). But one of the bridges we often don't think about is co-worker to co-worker, or department to department. Because we work between Product, Marketing, Engineering, and Support, it's likely that we're some of the only employees with insight into each department's projects and how they could impact the community.
We deal with at least 2 communities - one being our own organization.
This collaboration can actually speed up processes and smooth out the adoption of various strategies.
According to the SOCM 2018,
...communities are contributing to multiple strategic objectives, some of which they were not explicitly set up for. Communication efficiency and speed was a key benefit of 70% of the programs.
This article, referenced in Christin's tweet, walks through a few practical ways to build strong relationships with stakeholders from various teams within your company.
Stop Following the Competition
While keeping an eye on your competitors is a necessary thing to do, we've formed bad habits around changing the roadmap and strategy of our company to follow what our competitors are doing rather than what's best for our customers. Lorie Tene advocates that we need to be setting ourselves apart from the competition by getting to know our customers:
Instead of trying to keep up with the competition, try establishing an advantage. Set yourself apart from the competition versus competing with them using the very same tactics and make your success your own.
One from the Archives 📰
Pros and Cons of Executive Engagement
While this article was released 4 years ago, the questions it asks are still relevant to our discussions today around stakeholder involvement and understanding around community initiatives.
You may have stakeholders (usually upper management) who simply want to keep an eye on all community interactions, or they may want to be actively involved in conversations. The key is making sure that their communication with the community is natural and beneficial to both sides, not stilted and confusing.
Looking for a way to spend your Professional Development budget between now and the end of the year? Take a look at these upcoming events related to DevRel and community building.
p.s. If you'll be at Community Leadership Summit in Portland this weekend, be sure to let me know! I'd love to meet you in person.
It seems like more DevRel roles are springing up by the day! If you're looking, you're in luck: there are over 100 jobs linked in this collection. See one that's no longer available or don't see one that you know is? Hit reply & let me know!
Developer Avocados 🥑
DevRel, with the Assist!
Teamwork makes the world go 'round, even in the world of fruits and vegetables. According to this article from Love One Today, fresh avocados act as a ‘nutrient booster,’ helping the body absorb more fat-soluble nutrients from the foods eaten with them. For instance, eating avocados and tomatoes together, for example, can boost your intake of beta-carotene.
TL;DR: Not only are they "good fat" on their own, avocados can easily be called upon for an assist when combined with other "colleagues" from the fruits & veggies company.