Charity Majors @mipsytipsy CTO @honeycombio, ex-Parse, Facebook, Linden Lab; cowrote Database Reliability Engineering; loves whiskey, rainbows. I test in production and so do you. 🌈🖤 May. 21, 2019 3 min read

I am increasingly of the opinion that ~every company** who employs developer advocates / evangelists is *outrageously* underutilizing and undervaluing them, even undermining them. To their own distinct disadvantage.

** maybe not google

what would *you* call a senior engineer with deep domain expertise in not one, not two, but MANY disciplines? who knows your users and their rainbow of use cases better than anyone else (who actually embeds with them), and who knows how the business functions work too?

the secret of cross-functionality is that your powers do not go up linearly when you learn adjacent skill sets.

they're more like languages. learn a new skill, now you can not only speak a new language, you can translate between that language and *every other language you know*

in other words, they are not additive; they are multipliers. force multipliers. great dev advocates are literal force multipliers embodied in human form

PLUS they carry the moral authority of the lived experience of your actual paying users.

So why aren't all the baby engineers looking longingly at developer advocate jobs, thinking how much they can't wait to pay their dues and learn enough and apprentice around til they are finally senior and valuable enough to achieve the Lofty Title of Developer Advocate?

Why aren't we all competing for the talented folks out there doing this role, bidding up their salaries and complaining about how expensive they are?

Why aren't we wrapping them into high-level discussions and strategy decisions? Why aren't they regularly leveled as VP or C*?

I have no idea.

(It definitely can't be related to the feminization of the role, and of communication-dense skills in particular; that would be crazy. Everybody knows the free market wouldn't tolerate such silly inefficiencies.)

News flash: nearly every effective engineer at the highest level bands spends more of their time communicating than writing code.

Because levels aren't primarily about output, they're about *impact*. Most code that needs to be written doesn't require a principal engineer.

Fact: to level up beyond senior engineer, you generally only increase your impact by improving your communication skills. Whether your title is Principal Engineer or Principal Developer Advocate.

Except the dev advocate *also* has to keep one foot in your customers' systems.

Now I can already hear your objection:

"but charity, you get to work with liz! of COURSE you think devadv are superheroes, but we can't all be liz. ours are just mediocre developers/marketing chicks/some other slur"

and it's true, liz is a fucking superhero. She bounces around from marketing to sales to SRE to product engineering to strategy to other depths we have not yet plumbed. 🦋

but even liz wasn't born a liz. nobody is. we get and are given opportunities, and we act in response.

How many of you work at a place where the potential superheroes coming up would *want* to be a developer advocate? Do they get the same respect, power, impact, opportunity for advancement, and cold hard cash as other director/VP/C-levels?

I would genuinely love to hear from places where developer advocacy is valued and championed and seen as an aspirational career, not a backwater. Hint: it's great for recruiting.

The status quo sucks, but it can change. Ops has undergone a similar redefinition in recent years.

I guess what I'm saying is give your developer advocates more money, power, and respect, and the great people will want to be dev advocates.

And you should want this because you should want to strengthen the connective tissue of your organization, and dev advocates can do that.

(also, it's just basic arbitrage. if everyone else is undervaluing a valuable thing, it's an opportunity for anyone who sees the value. :P)

never underestimate how much people crave autonomy and the opportunity for impact. you'll never recruit great people to a dead end role.


You can follow @mipsytipsy.



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