Tell me about your role at Kentico
Petr: I lead Developer Relations at Kentico. Our team is in charge of all Kentico‘s community efforts which include open-source projects, champion programs, developer marketing, and taking care of developer portals for two separate product lines. I transitioned to the community role in 2015 and it has been a long journey since then.
For the first two years, I was a ‘lone wolf’, taking care of most of the stuff myself. It took a great effort to get where we are and to establish a team with a clear vision and mission. For me, it’s been a never ending learning process.
What brought you to this point in your career?
Petr: I’m a developer by heart, I used to lead a team of developers. After seven years in development, during my expat period in the Netherlands, I was fortunate enough to be given the chance to define my own role.
It was 2015, and at that time I was very much into Stack Overflow and saw the huge value an active community can bring to a product. Also, I was noticing a gap in what Kentico was doing for developers.
Having a year-long experience working on ‘the other side of the barricade’ for one of our customers and considering the fact that I was very technically oriented and therefore able to see and feel all the developers’ pains, I decided that my new role would have something to do with the developer community. Frankly, we didn’t even know what the role should be called in the beginning!
How does dev rel work at Kentico?
Petr: Unlike many dev rel teams, ours falls under the Customer Success department, next to the Customer Education and Support.
The broader mission of the Customer Success department is to ‘help customers get the most out of our products’ where I think the dev rel team fits nicely. We are now a team of four Developer Advocates and Evangelists. Besides the core team, we collaborate with a wider and more diverse group of people from various departments throughout the company; we call it a Community Guild. We sync regularly every week, share the latest news, and help each other if needed. We build the community from inside.
We pay a lot of attention to aligning our objectives with high-level company goals. Hierarchical OKRs helps us do that right. As we all know, measuring is hard but OKRs are a great tool that forces us to think about outcomes rather than activities.
What’s your dev rel philosophy?
Petr: Being developers ourselves, we always put the developer first and try to be true to ourselves. We are not marketers or sales guys and I wouldn’t let my team be pushed into that position. It’s ok to increase awareness of our product, but it’s not ok to do it in a way that doesn’t bring the developer some added value.
I think finding the right balance between providing value to developers and company at the same time is what makes this job fun but also what gives us sleepless nights or even burnouts.
When it comes to community engagement, I found the combination of the following three is the key:
1) Leading by example
2) Personal approach
What do you see as the biggest challenges for dev rel right now?
Petr: From my perspective, the biggest challenge is proving the value of dev rel to stakeholders.
For many people, this inherently extends to finding the right metric. To me, it’s about focus and alignment. If you and the stakeholders agree on the problems you want to fix with DevRel, it’s much easier to find the right metric; or at least explain where you did well. This is where I think we all need to mature in order for developer relations to become a recognized discipline.
What are you hopeful about?
Petr: I’m excited to be a part of this (in my opinion, still newly emerging) industry. More and more I have the feeling that I’m not alone, that there are companies out there that face the same issues, and that we can help each other. In my opinion, things are getting more structured over the years. We have resources to learn from (both online and printed), there are thought leaders and agencies who are ready to help, and the terminology starts to become more clear. All this gives me hope that we are going in the right direction.
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?