Tell me about your role at Africa’s Talking
Anthony: I help lead the Developer Relations efforts at Africa’s Talking. This covers growing the community around us and working on technical documentation. It’s been an interesting 11 months so far helping developers discover the magic of seemingly old technologies in the industry while also guiding them through integrations with our services.
The team and I have also worked on some cool tools and content that help developers to integrate our services into a variety of frameworks as well.
What brought you to this point in your career?
Anthony: I have always been passionate about technology but I didn’t start writing code until 5 years ago once I made my career switch (I was gearing up to be a biochemist). I started off helping out running our local university developer group with GDG and ended up learning a whole lot about how to grow and nurture a community. I didn’t think that being a community manager or a developer relations professional was actually a thing until much later. In between, I worked with Andela as a Program Assistant managing their online learning community, alongside ten other amazing community managers spread across Kenya and Nigeria. This was a massive learning experience and what made me realise that I wanted to work with developers and help grow the African ecosystem.
Now, I get to do that with Africa’s Talking where our focus is helping developers build amazing tech businesses that can scale across the African continent.
How does dev rel work at Africa’s Talking?
Anthony: The team has evolved over time. Two years ago, it was a one man team but we’ve grown to three team members. I work with my amazing teammates, Roina and Liz, and together we support developer communities and startups around sub-Saharan Africa and we’ve been doing this for the past year. I have learned quite a bit around how businesses can interact with developers and it basically boils down to an exchange of value. Through supporting developer communities with their events as well as with content and training, they often give back.
We also work with quite a few young startups and this follows the same philosophy. If our platform provides value to them, then it’s easy for them to use our services. We help several startups pro bono to develop their businesses and improve their products. There is so much joy to be found in helping developers find their way; from their beginnings (mostly in universities) all the way through to helping them build their first products.
Apart from community and startup support, we have also been recently invested in developing content for our reimagined docs (build.at-labs.io). We work with our product teams to develop content around the products and creating interactive docs experiences. It’s been a massive learning experience for the team and we love what we’ve been able to do so far.
Since we are expanding rapidly as a company, it means we approach different markets in different ways. For the markets we are active in, engagement as a general metric across our social media, events and upcoming initiatives is pretty important to us.
What’s your dev rel philosophy?
Anthony: For me, it’s all about providing value to developers. Whether it’s through the technical content, talks, or just being present to listen to what they’re excited about as well as the pain points that they deal with. It’s all about being present to help them build what matters to them.
Developers are the future of Africa. They have the tools to change so much about our continent and if my team and I can play a role in shaping their futures in a positive way, that’s all that matters.
What do you see as the big challenges for dev rel right now?
Anthony: Having accurate and reliable metrics to track is something that I personally have had a tough time with. It’s easy to have so many activities running but if it can’t be tracked effectively to show the business the value of what we do, it becomes hard to get things done. However, it’s a massive learning process and as we continue to form the best practices behind dev rel, I know it’ll get easier with time.
Also, something that becomes a challenge in Africa is how to grow the number of developers in the ecosystem. Having more people being able to build and solve the critical issues on the continent is crucial. Being at Africa’s Talking has been critical in making me understand how important African-grown tech companies are.
What are you hopeful about?
Anthony: So much! The future is bright for the dev rel profession. There’s so much to be done and there are amazing people across Africa doing some incredible work to grow the ecosystem and empower more developers. I think dev rel will play a crucial in actualising the Silicon Savannah vision.
All the fun stuff happens with shiny new tech, right? Nah. You can get audiences excited about older tech, if you serve them well.
Are dev rel teams just here to make everyone feel good about using a technology or is there a deeper responsibility?