I'm Now a Developer Advocate at Google!
Here's the career path this developer took.
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After more than four years at Google, I'm now a Developer Advocate! "Wait, I thought you already were that?" is the most common reaction. Allow me to tell my story.
How the Google Journey Began
Google recruiters had reached out to me over the years, and in August 2014 — if my memory serves me right — they queried about my interest in becoming a Developer Advocate for the Web at Google. I expressed my interest and we started Google's detailed and granular assessment and hiring process. In my first call with HR, though, they informed me that this role was full-time in London. Not having an interest, nor possibility, to move to London, I said that I couldn't relocate but I would be happy to travel there every second week and work there then. I was met with "Unfortunately that's not going to work out; you have to be based in the London office full-time."
Having worked remotely at Mozilla for close to four years at the time, and working with something like developer relations and having over 100 travel days per year for the (now) latest eight to nine years, to me personally it felt a bit off, and not necessary, with that requirement. Google can be pretty strict with its rules around this, though, and at least I appreciated that they were open with this at the outset of our discussions. I still don't agree with that kind of requirement for this kind of role — working in an office together is great, but at the same time, working remotely is just fine as well — it rather depends on your team and manager. It is what it is, though. I respected Google's decision, and we stopped the process for becoming a Developer Advocate when it was clear that I wouldn't move to London.
Three weeks later, however, Google reached out and said they had an opening for a Program Manager doing developer relations for the Nordics (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland) for all developer-facing products, and that I could do it from the Stockholm office. Being still interested and wanting to get in at Google, I decided to go for the opportunity. Granted, it wasn't for the web platform (only) but I figured it would be a good experience and an "in."
I worked about 14 months as a Program Manager within Developer Relations, doing outreach around Android, Android TV, gaming, VR, startup coaching, web development, and more. It was indeed an interesting experience, to mainly meet Android developers to see what they were interested in; what the similarities were with web development, and where it was quite different. The most common questions, by far, from all types of areas, were these two that I got almost daily:
- Can you please get me featured in the Play Store?
- Can you please sponsor my [conference/event/meetup/work/dog/something else]?
Mostly it was great where I could help developers in any capacity. I realized that helping developers being successful, learning, and overcoming hurdles is worth more to me than necessarily the platform. That said, at occasion I did feel useless since I don't know Android development — I do know most other things around development and connecting the right people, though.
One part that was cool was helping the VR team on a 20% basis, meeting really cool people and trying exciting experiences at GDC, Slush, and more, and meeting top partners to Google in expensive hotel suites with VR rigs set up to show off their not-yet released games.
In February 2016, I was going to go to London for a YouTube VR Symposium, and learned that the Web Developer Relations team at Google would have an offsite there just the day before. I had contemplated ways of moving into the Web DevRel team for a while — kind of finding my way home to the web and what my role had been as a Technical Evangelist at Mozilla for four years prior — so I rebooked my flight to London to arrive one day earlier so I could meet them.
I remember standing outside a pub in London in the rain for about an hour, pitching to Ben Galbraith and Dion Almaer why I should move over into the Developer Relations team.
Moving to Web Developer Relations
Ben and Dion agreed with me, and a little over three years ago, I moved into the Web Developer Relations team. When I moved, my new manager Paul Kinlan and I talked about possibly becoming a Developer Advocate or continuing as a Program Manager (everyone else on the team was a Developer Advocate or a Developer Relations Engineer). We looked at the descriptions for both work ladders, and at my level they seemed to be mostly about driving strategic initiatives and similar, so we decided I'd continue as a Program Manager.
I spent about three years as a Program Manager, focusing on creating and driving various programs for developer outreach. I got really good ratings and got promoted to the next level in my ladder — I'm quite organized and like control, so that side of program management was something I could relate to and deliver on.
The role of Program Manager is a peculiar one, though, and different from company to company. At some companies, I've learned, it's more akin to being a Product Manager. At Google, I would say the focus is generally much more of an administrative one: creating and running processes, working with spreadsheets till you're blue in the face, creating trackers, herding people and teams, and more. For instance, for Chrome Dev Summit November 2018 I worked with representatives from 55 different teams, organizing the Forum space...
Over time, though, I felt that my relation-building skills and developer outreach were less appreciated by the Program Manager ladder than the focus on processes and structure. Since my main drive and interest is communicating with and inspiring developers, I felt that got lost a bit along the way. So, I decided to, finally, explore what a move to a Developer Advocate would entail.
Becoming a Developer Advocate
Paul Kinlan — my manager — and I started exploring the paths to go through a so-called "ladder transfer." There were a couple of ways that would apply, and what it resulted in was that I needed to list all the things I've done in the last three years which would match the Developer Advocate ladder: artifacts, evidence, results, and impact. This was almost as much work as going for promotion at Google (those who know, they know). I put together a 13-page document with all the things I've worked on since 2015, the results, and how each and everything in turn matched my level on the Developer Advocate work ladder.
When I had completed that doc, Paul Kinlan needed to write a statement about me and I needed Google supporters verifying the value and meaning of my work: those people were Addy Osmani, Dion Almaer, Ilya Grigorik, and Paul Bakaus. Once I had all of that in place, all of this went to Google's hiring committee — being transferred at Google is basically getting hired, again. The Committee looked at all the materials and support statements, and then decided if they wanted to hire me in the new role as a Developer Advocate.
As you can imagine, all of these steps took a little while, but finally it went to the hiring committee, who agreed I had proved my competence and impact, and I'm now a Developer Advocate at Google. Yay!
Thank you to Paul K., Addy, Dion, Ilya, and Paul B. for your help and support throughout all of this, and also to the various HR representatives who guided me along the way.
Let's go make the web better together!
Published at DZone with permission of Robert Nyman, DZone MVB. See the original article here.
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