4 min read

Build a DevRel Team

Build a DevRel Team

Developers are the lifeblood of any software company, and building strong relationships with them is key to success. That’s where a well-crafted Developer Relations (DevRel) team comes in. However, building a high-performing DevRel team requires a strategic approach and recruiting the right individuals with the skills and passion to foster a thriving developer ecosystem.

Whether you’re a startup founder considering hiring your first DevRel or the only DevRel in your company tasked with scaling your team, this discussion offers valuable perspectives on building a high-performing unit that cultivates strong developer relationships.

Laying a Solid Foundation for a DevRel Team

One of the biggest mistakes companies make when building a DevRel team is trying to hire fast for quick results. Simply hiring a Developer Advocate won’t guarantee success without clear goals. Establishing a solid foundation before hiring ensures that the team aligns with the company’s goals and objectives and delivers the anticipated results.

Understanding the company’s goals is crucial. Is the objective to drive sales, foster a community, or something else? These goals guide the creation and operation of the DevRel team.

Company buy-in is also necessary for the DevRel team to be effective. DevRel should not be an afterthought but an integral part of the company’s operations. Executive buy-in and understanding of what DevRel can contribute are essential for the team's success.

While results are essential, they should not dictate the team’s direction from the beginning. The initial focus should be on defining the strategy and playbook for the DevRel team. With a clear direction, the team will be more capable of delivering meaningful results aligned with the company’s objectives.

This foundation—understanding the company’s goals, ensuring company buy-in, and defining a clear strategy—is where the building process for your DevRel team should begin.

Hiring Your First DevRel

After laying a solid foundation, hiring your first DevRel and structuring your team is the next step. This can be daunting, especially for startups. Companies often crave quick results, so there’s a temptation to seek a “do-it-all” DevRel superstar. However, it’s crucial to consider your needs. Here are four actionable steps to guide you through the process:

Pinpoint Your Product Stage

The stage of your product development will directly impact your DevRel needs. Are you in the early stages of building awareness or fostering a thriving community around a more mature product? In an early-stage startup, your first DevRel hire might need to wear many hats—developer advocacy, community management, and content creation. They’ll be laying the groundwork for future growth.

Leader or Hands-on DevRel?

Do you need a strategic leader who can drive the vision, build the team, and achieve company objectives? Alternatively, would you benefit from a hands-on DevRel alongside a consultant to help establish the strategy and playbook?

Explore Team Roles

Initially, your DevRel team may include roles like Developer Advocates and Community Leaders. Developer Advocates champion developer needs, promote your products within the developer community and provide feedback to product teams. Community Leaders focus on overall community strategy, manage day-to-day operations, and cultivate a welcoming developer environment.

Define Your Team Structure

The specific structure of your DevRel team depends on your company’s needs and goals. For instance, targeting a new developer market might require multiple developer advocates and a dedicated community operations leader.

The Unique Challenge of DevRel Recruitment

DevRel recruitment stands out from other tech roles. It requires a unique blend of technical credibility, strong communication skills, and a passion for engaging with developer communities. Many companies struggle to find candidates who possess this specific combination of skills.

Recruitment Tips and Strategies:

  • Consider software engineers with the necessary skills and a desire to transition into a DevRel role. Ask candidates to showcase their community engagement or samples of their work.
  • Move beyond social media buzz. Popularity on platforms isn’t the sole indicator of a candidate’s skills or fit for the role.
  • Verify the candidate’s reputation. Ensure the candidate can effectively perform DevRel tasks and align with your company culture.
  • Take a proactive approach to recruitment, targeting potential hires instead of just waiting for applicants. Leverage your existing network within the DevRel community.
  • Utilize targeted platforms and communities dedicated to DevRel professionals. Platforms like DevRel Careers can be an effective bridge between employers and candidates.

A strong DevRel team isn’t just about technical experience. It also requires considering an individual’s skills, experience, and diverse life views and backgrounds. This approach helps create a team that represents the community it serves and builds a culture of inclusion and mutual respect.

How to Compensate Your DevRel Team Effectively

According to a recent report, the median gross total compensation for DevRel professionals globally is $175,000 USD. When hiring a DevRel, be ready to invest heavily. Competitive compensation is important because DevRel professionals aren’t just marketers but technical experts who bridge the gap between your product and the developer communities.

When transitioning from software engineering to DevRel roles, professionals often expect salary increases that reflect their growing responsibilities and the value they offer. The compensation you offer should reflect the technical and interpersonal expertise DevRel professionals bring to the table.

Scaling Your DevRel Team

Scaling your DevRel team strategically is about more than just adding headcount. It involves determining your organization’s broader needs and how your DevRel team can adapt to meet them. Consider internal operational scaling (supporting your team’s efficiency) and external community scaling (expanding your reach within the developer community).

As your DevRel team grows, specialization becomes more important. Identify your most successful DevRel areas and use this knowledge to guide how you scale your team. Planning for resources, such as tools, additional personnel, agencies, or contractors, can help decongest operations and allow your team to focus on core functions.

Effective scaling involves deeply understanding your company—its products, strategic goals, and customer base. Aligning your DevRel team’s growth with these factors ensures it continues to be a valuable asset to your company’s success.

Enhancing Your Own Skills in DevRel

Building and scaling your DevRel team is a significant accomplishment. To ensure your skills keep pace, here are some practical strategies:

Develop a Continuous Learning Habit

Dedicate time to ongoing learning, exploring online resources and books on Developer Relations.

Create a Well-Rounded Skillset

Focus on improving effective communication, relationship building, and stakeholder management.

Continuously Self-Assess and Conduct a Skill Gap Analysis

Regularly evaluate your strengths and weaknesses across different areas of your DevRel strategy.

Maintain Your Technical Proficiency

Set aside dedicated time to stay connected to the technical aspects of your role through activities like developing example apps, participating in code reviews, and contributing bug fixes.

DevRel Strength FTW

Building a strong DevRel team is a strategic endeavor that requires careful planning, effective hiring, and constant nurturing. As the developer relations field evolves, so does the approach to hiring in this sector. Recognize the value of a well-rounded DevRel team and the significant impact it can have on your company’s success. By fostering connections, continually learning, and adapting to the needs of your company, you can build a DevRel team that drives meaningful results.

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