Dec 15, 2022

A sense of DevRelCon

Read on to find out about DevRelCon Prague and how Developer Relations done right can help your company, especially during the downturn.

Marion Nehring

Marion Nehring

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Developer Relations Manager at Aiven

A blue background with the text "DevRelCon: Show value, join forces and remove barriers", and the Aiven logo at the bottom.

DevRelCon Prague 2022 was all about the importance of growing healthy communities and driving value for businesses during a downturn. The event was a great experience and definitely a conference that I would recommend for anyone looking for insights on how to set up value driven company cultures, expand your business through community outreach or how Developer Relations can have a positive impact to your company in times of economic downturn.
The picture below captures the main messages in form of a scatchArt and was inspired during the event by another Developer Advocate.

Scatchart of Developer Relations Conference. A smiling person wearing a DevRel cap, with an "I heart Community" T-shirt. In one hand a megaphone labeled "Value", in the other balloons saying "Sales", "Product", "PLG" and "Business Needs". Their shoes are labelled "Kindness" and "Respect". They stand on a podium with three parts, "1. Culture", "2. Product" and "3. Brand"

The event got off to a very strong start by sharing some research data about the impact and value of community initiatives through a roleplay scenario of a funding discussion between the Head of Community Rebecca Marshburn and the COO Jake Randall from Common Room.

They pointed out that even though it is very hard to measure relationships - and relationships are what communities are all about - it is possible to measure your community impact, e.g through growing member numbers, reduction of answering times or an acceleration of pipeline, Rebecca and Jake also demonstrated in a very practicable way the theory of how to get to a yes.
Involving, aligning and showing the impact of different community initiatives with various organizations in your company like Sales, Product Engineering or Customer Success plays a critical role in success.

I'd also like to emphasize one paradigm in particular as this came up in various talks during the conference: "Sales is about value matching". Building bridges between DevRel and Sales can massively impact faster Go-To-Market (e.g faster deal progression in < 90 days)

Ben Greenberg on stage

Measuring DevRel during a downturn: returning to the fundamentals

Ben Greenberg, Senior Developer Relations Engineer at Parity Technologies, brought this to the next level. Not only was he (in my personal opinion) one of the best speakers on stage, but he really hit the spot by pointing out the importance of (re)aligning DevRel to the rest of the business, and measuring outcomes.

Achieving this begins with speaking a common language; using concrete terms and actually measuring outcomes. As he said "a team that does not measure ‘well’ has a hard time to show success".
Next time you think about OKRs or want to communicate the impact of Developer Relations in your company, include sentences like: "We supported Marketing by..." or "We helped Sales achieve...". This will encourage long term viability and alignment throughout all business units.

He also made a second important point: FOCUS! "An economic downturn is not the time to try out new things". Focussing DevRel activities to the fundamentals of "Why DevRel was introduced in your company in the first place" and "returning to the path with the highest impact" is of critical importance.

Strong alignment and focus are the first step to improving your value-driven culture. By putting DevRel at the heart of it, we can certainly make a positive impact.

Is Product Led Growth (PLG) the DevOps of DevRel?

Sticking to focus and alignment a little further Daniel Bryant, Head of DevRel at Ambassador Labs, rallied on an interesting matter. With the rise of PLG, the question around the distinction between PLG and DevRel also came up.
Daniel pointed out that DevRel adds loads to PLG because "everyone [nowadays] wants to get hands-on with the technology - even the CxOs". So transferring the fundamental idea of DevOps to tear down walls between organizational silos underlined his statement.

DevOps Silos. Text says "So, how does DevOps play into this? The picture shows stick-figures separated by walls, for Business, UX, Dev, QA and Ops. Each figure has an arrow, over the wall, to the next, and Ops has an arrow back to Dev. Ops has a speech ballon saying "!?!"
versus
DevOps for DevRel. Text says "So, how does DevOps play into this? (Let's swap the silo names). The picture shows stick-figures separated by walls, for Business, Product, DevRel, Growth and Sales. Each figure has an arrow, over the wall, to the next, and Sales has an arrow back to DevRel. Sales has a speech ballon saying "!?!"

But HOW? Daniel gave some great insights on how they tackle this in everyday business at Ambassador Labs. So one way to align could be DevRel proactively delivering ideas and insights for various hypotheses and PLG driving 1-5 experiments per month, tweaking their campaigns and ads based on these insights. By reviewing the funnel, results and hypotheses on a more frequent manner asking questions like:

  • Did it affect trials?
  • Did it drive Product Qualified Leads (PQL) or Product Lead Opportunities (PQO)?

With goals shared between DevRel and PLG, regular syncs and retrospectives will help to form an end-to-end user experience by also engaging the beginners mindset and identifying "aha"-moments and hence telling the story of the user’s path to value.

How effective DevRel helps build great companies

Brandon West from Datadog really made clear that Developer Advocates are role models and the spokespeople of your company's culture in the community. So showing respect, being available and approachable are key attributes for a Developer Advocate.

He also made clear that there’s quite a big difference between your company's brand, which is established over time and focussed on products rather than people, and its culture, which exists from day one and shows how things are done.

In that context his approach to focus on culture first, product next and brand last is a very valuable advice, especially for younger companies.

Toying with people's emotions: A cognitive theory of DevRel

Don Goodman-Wilson provided some clear scientific evidence, that kindness and respect trigger Oxytocin, a neurotransmitter that increases the feeling of connection and belonging.

He literally said: OXYTOCIN = Love

So making your community users feel welcome and being listened to and providing them with relatable stories and validation to their feelings and opinions will increase their engagement - if done consistently - because doing it ONCE is not doing the trick! as Don pointed out.

Pro-Tip: If you love scientific evidence on how to hack some everyday life challenges in DevRel - like facing anxiety when talking on a stage I definitely recommend watching my colleague Olena Kutsenko's talk "Using Science to calm your nerves before public speaking".
Hint: this might also work before presenting your outcomes to boards during a downturn.

Where do we go from here? The next level of DevRel value

Matty Stratton on stage

Matty Stratton, Director of DevRel at Aiven, not only choose a very fitting title to his closing keynote, but also magically summed up all the mentioned topics in his one.

He emphasized that, with DevRel being at the heart of many tech organizations, DevRel is the glue to all of them and fosters an inclusive and value driven culture.
This goes along with connecting to both: "the people who build and the people who sell" to understand their goals and challenges both inside and outside of the organization.
However, due to being everywhere, it often is hard to understand the direct impact DevRel has to a company. So a clear communication of what DevRel will do and what it will not do by setting boundaries, expectations and proactively communicating initiatives and outcomes is key to success.

He shared with us this excellent recommendation: "Do things that require less imagination to understand their impact" like top of the funnel content, meeting customers and prospects at special occasions to have thought leadership discussions and provide value driven outcomes or supporting initiatives that aim to meet top level OKRs.

One step more?

"Building great relationships (inside and outside your company) will make you stronger" has been the repeated message throughout this great event. The Aiven team had a great time at the event and we connected with so many other DevRel professionals from other organizations. When we work together, what could Developer Advocacy Partnerships bring to the table?

Let's find out - get in touch with your friendly Developer Advocate/Neighbour here at Aiven by tweeting at us.

If you feel like you missed out on the event, check out the recordings of this (once they're published) and past events on their YouTube channel.

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