What is DevRel?

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There was a short discussion about DevRel that got me thinking about my role and what I do as DevRel. I removed the link to Birdsite. It was a meme stating:

DevRel is marketing

Some aspects of developer relations can certainly be considered marketing, but I think it can and should be far more.

To me, DevRel is a lot things: marketing, engineering, product management, and support.


I have a background as a SWE, but joined Google as a Developer Programs Engineer in 2019. At that time there were two different roles in the DevRel ladder at Google: Developer Programs Engineer and Developer Advocate. The former was more engineering focused, and the latter was more marketing focused. These were eventually merged into a single role, Developer Relations Engineer, but there is still a spectrum of work and responsibilities determined by individual interests and team needs.

What is DevRel?

Iā€™m going to define developer relations by what I do in my work.

Daily work

  • Write and maintain open source (client libraries, extensions, etc) -> DevRel is Engineering
  • Fix and expose interfaces in the product (TypeScript Typings, exporting Errors, etc) -> DevRel is Engineering
  • Interact with developers on Discord, StackOverflow, GitHub, etc -> DevRel is Support
  • Provide feedback on API design, use cases, etc -> DevRel is Product Management

Weekly work

  • Produce content (blogs, videos, tweets, etc) -> DevRel is Marketing
  • Capture friction logs and other proposals based upon a deep understanding of the dev ecosystem -> DevRel is Product
  • Write tutorials, samples, documentation -> DevRel is Tech Writing

Sometimes it is about bringing knowledge of the general developer ecosystem back to pm/eng. For example, identifying challenges in using modern web frameworks for a 10+ year old JS product. This requires experience beyond what pm has and what eng is often familiar with.

Staying technical

Basically, Iā€™m a generalist that biases to the engineering side of DevRel and I mostly act in a software engineering role.

  • Adding support for TypeScript to Google Maps Platform
  • Taking a design for adding JavaScript Promises to the public interface from PRD to Design Doc to Implementation to Marketing
  • Interacting with the open source community to build extensions, component libraries, etc.
  • Writing open source that bridges the gap between the product and developer ecosystem (@googlemaps/js-api-loader, @googlemaps/react-wrapper).
  • Writing a plugin using WebGL to extends the functionality of Google Maps Platform.

My favorite role

DevRel is my favorite role to date because it is a little bit of everything and is always exciting; allowing me to push the boundaries of current technologies and explore the developer experience. The hardest part is turning that into an outcome that has an impact; it will vary by in the moment, it may be marketing or it could be engineering or both!

The most frustrating part is being perpetually under-resourced and seeing the empathy I have for the developer experience not shared across the organization. In these cases, I turn to open source to find my footing and motivation, by independently making the developer experience better and finding my own creativity and fulfillment.

For me, I still express my creativity through engineering and in my mind, DevRel, is much more than marketing.


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