The Anatomy of an Avocado
X Reasons Why Avocados Are Healthy
Once upon a time (roughly half a year ago), I already shared my thoughts about the next step on the career ladder. Now that I have started my first full-time job and am proud to be part of car2go its new Developer Relations team, I wanted to share why advocates are so vital.
At that time I mentioned several points which are important to me and which relate to both the company & the role. I don't want to go into them in too much detail, just want to see them as brief checklist:
- new challenges ✓
- loving the product ✓
- working on early-stage products ✓
- more communicative & supporting role ✓
- promoting cooperation & exchange ✓
- supporting open source ✓
Looks quite good, doesn't it? In addition to the points mentioned above, there have been a lot more added recently, but somehow they can also be assigned to the six points again. My conclusion at the end was that this sounds like the role of a Developer Advocate — or, like the role is lovingly called, a Developer Avocado.
Avocado ≈ Advocate
To stop keeping you on your tenterhooks, I would like to show the characteristics and relevance of advocates by orienting myself on the avocado as a metaphor. As it turns out, the avocado fits better than you might think at first glance.
The stone of an avocado embodies two very different purposes. On the one hand, it represents the core in the sense of technical & communicative skills that are urgently needed for the role. On the other hand, a stone can always grow into something new.
Technical skills are necessary to understand the problems & concerns of the developers and to give meaningful feedback. Probably only through this understanding and one's own experience as a developer is it possible to be accepted by developers as one of their own. This enables a better basis of trust and the advocates are contacted as a trusted person in case of concerns.
The communicative skills round out the technical skills and no, this should not be an allusion to the round stone of an avocado. Management, engineering & other departments often speak a different language. For this purpose one should not only be empathetic & sympathetic, but also be some kind of translator. This avoids misunderstandings and eventually increases the efficiency.
However, what the hell do I mean by 'letting new things grow'? This is more on the mental level. Advocates should inspire colleagues from all departments, the tech community and anyone else who is in touch with the company or product. This can be achieved with the help of mental impulses, neat prototypes, automation of previously annoying processes, corporate events, talks, ...
This reveals new reasons why both technical and communicative skills are necessary. As a developer, it is of course much easier to create prototypes and present them both internally and externally in an appropriate way. In general, representing the company as a tech company — for example at conferences, meetups or in open source communities — requires both types of skills. Why this is the case, I shouldn't have to explain.
As most people probably know, the peel is hard, bumpy & has quite a huge surface. Oh, and of course it's on the outside. This is precisely what the peel represents in this metaphor: the public relations & image. As already mentioned above, an advocate serves as an interface and technical spokesman between developers, the rest of the company and the outside world.
A huge surface means many contact points, a high reach and therefore better chances to establish your company as a tech company. How this interface is formed is less relevant: whether active member in open source communities, influencer on Twitter, helping hand on StackOverflow or the favourite nerd of the audience at events, ... no matter, many ways lead to Rome and everyone has to find his/her way on which he/she feels comfortable.
The hard peel serves as a barrier. Especially in communicative roles, it is essential what you reveal to the outside world or what feedback gets forwarded back. Or, what is more important and correct, that it is less about what but about how. Here again, the communicative skills are crucial. Tactfulness is needed. It's hard to explain, but I'm sure you know what I'm trying to say.
Well, the pulp between stone and peel is the actual healthy part of an avocado. I firmly believe that both the internal and external aspects of an advocate's role are healthy for the engineering department but also for the company as a whole. To back up this statement, I would like to summarise the positive effects.
The interface, which speaks several languages and is, therefore, more comfortable and pleasant for everyone involved, enables an overview of other teams or departments, sharing of knowledge and also the removal of silos. Through the improved understanding for each other, hurdles can be overcome, and a product mindset can be established. Last but not least, the DX and thus the developer's satisfaction can be increased by the previously mentioned points and the shielding of the internal developers. All this leads to more efficient teams which identify more strongly with the product and view the company holistically.
Concluding, I can honestly say that I am delighted with this role and the associated challenges. Over the last few years, I have had insights into many very different companies, so that I have gained much inspiration there. I am glad about everyone who joins my journey; as always, updates can be found on twitter.
Of course everyone should find his/her definition for the avocado and assemble his/her own skill set. That's just my opinion, and I had to pick up the metaphor.