Many founders and executives struggle to decide the right title for their first DevRel hire. Should it be a developer advocate or developer relations leader?
Unfortunately, I see a lot of early stage startups hire a developer advocate first—and fail. They wonder what they did wrong or why developer relations doesn't work for them. Don't let this be you.
Similar to old question "which came first, the chicken or the egg" there is no black and white answer on which role to hire first. The way we approach this question really breaks down to one simple question:
Do you have the right strategy and processes in place for your developer advocate to succeed?
If you can confidently answer most of the following questions, you're likely ready for a developer advocate.
One caveat we should share is that there are developer advocates who have done this job. They've been the first hire and they're had to work through finding the answers to all of these questions, sometimes without even realizing it.
You may be able to find a developer advocate who can define the answers to these questions for you, but your search is going to be lengthy and difficult, or require you to find a unicorn. 🦄 Hint! This unicorn is going to be someone who understands business & dev. Look for someone experienced in product management, community, entrepreneurship, or other roles that require business strategy.
If you're adamant about hiring a developer advocate first, break down the above mentioned questions in the interview process and ensure you or they can help you define strategy around your developer audiences.
To help you understand which role is the best fit for your organization, I've broken down the skill sets of a developer advocate versus a developer relations lead.
Did you notice how none of these exposed hard skill sets, like "needs to have a deep understanding of React." Your developer relations leader or strategist will be able to drive deeper into these bullet points and associate more details around your developer advocacy hire, who they are, and what they need to feel supported.
We're not saying that you can't bring in a developer advocate without having all the answers, we just want you to be prepared. If your developer advocate hire can't define the answers to the early questions we outlined, then you or someone on your current team will need to work alongside your developer advocate to define strategy and approach before they can find success.
At the end of the day, you should do what is best for your team. If your team is ready and prepared to work alongside a developer advocate hire, great! If your team is scrappy but already over-committed, you may want to double think your hiring decision.
This article was originally posted on Devocate, which joined the Common Room family in August 2022. For more developer relations insights and resources, check out the Common Room blog. Learn more about Common Room’s solution for DevRel teams if you're looking for an intelligent community growth platform to educate, empower, and enable your community.