Under The Hoodie is a weekly series where we talk to people about their journey into tech. It focuses on the intersection between life and career. UTH Week 6.
Shedrack Akintayo is a 22-year-old developer advocate at Cloud Foundry. In this edition, we talk to him about what it's like to work in developer relations—a relatively unpopular side of tech.
Hi Shedrack. Thanks for doing this.
Your profile shows that you have been working since school, what was that like?
I started working in school because I had been learning on my own and I needed the experience of building stuff with a team.
So, when someone reached out to me on Facebook and said they wanted me to work with their team, I took the opportunity.
It was a non-paid, internship position as a frontend developer. I worked the job for about six months before I decided that I had gotten the experience I needed.
How long have you been coding?
I stumbled on coding for the first time in 2016, but I didn’t take it seriously till about 2017.
Funny story, I only took coding seriously because someone told me at the time that I needed to be good at it for the course I was studying in school.
It was a big lie, but I’m happy he said it. It paid out in the end.
Really? What did you study?
I studied Mechatronics Engineering at Yaba Tech
Ah. That was a dirty lie!
Yes. It was.
Going through your job history on LinkedIn, it doesn’t look like you have worked with many Nigerian companies. When did you get your first remote role?
I got my first remote role in 2018 with Legal Robots, a legaltech startup in San Francisco.
That was one year after you started coding, yes?
How was it like, especially as regards pay and handling time differences?
Time was easy to manage since work started around 5 pm. My final lectures for the day typically finished around 4 pm.
As for the money, it was mind-blowing. I had just finished an internship where I was earning 15,000 naira, and my first remote role paid near $1,500/mo. It was a lot for me.
Wow, that’s a significant jump in earning power. But if lectures ended by 4 pm, and work started by 5, didn’t you sleep?
To be honest, I barely slept.
Touché. Have you worked for any Nigerian company since your first remote job?
Yes, I worked with Reliance HMO for about six months.
So, you’re one of those code mercenaries they speak of?
Haha. Yes, and I’m proud of it.
Why did you change jobs often?
Most times, it was either my contract expired or I got too busy with school work that I had to drop the job.
Let’s talk about your journey into developer relations. When did you discover developer relations as a discipline?
I first discovered Developer Relations towards the end of 2019, but I had been doing work in the field since at least 2017. I had community-building experience and was already writing technical articles.
I had seen folks like Prosper Otemuyiwa and Segun Famisa doing a lot of events and I tried to emulate them. I would speak at events in my school and other places from 2017.
In late 2019, I discovered that these things I had been doing had a niche - Developer Relations, so I started doing more reading on it. That was when I decided to make a career out of it.
How would you describe Developer Relations to a newbie?
Developer Relations or Advocacy exists to empower developers to do their best work.
It includes various activities like writing blog posts to help developers understand software, to organizing events, etc.
The role of a DevRel person will differ depending on the company. I work at an open-source company, so we’re not looking to make a profit. But, in for-profit companies like Google, DevRel can include marketing, product, and engineering.
Google, for instance, has internal DevRel experts who cater to the needs of in-house developers, and external DevRel folks for its open-source community.
What’s an average day as a Developer Advocate like?
Meetings… a lot of meetings. I work at an intersection between marketing, product, and engineering, so I have to meet with the people in all these different tracks. Also, the company I work in is a foundation and has a lot of external members.
Then I have assigned tasks like writing or fixing product documentation, writing a blogpost, building demos for new products or features, etc.
I spend a lot of time writing i.e. technical writing, blog posts, etc. I still write code but mostly when I have to build a demo for a new feature.
Sounds like there Developer Relations is a discipline with many roles under it. Can you highlight some of those roles?
Yes. Community Manager, Technical Community Manager, Developer Advocates, Developer Experience Engineers, and Technical Writers.
Do you think a person needs coding experience before they go into Developer Relations?
It depends on the role you’re coming in for. If you’re a Technical Community Manager, you may not need coding skills for your daily activities.
However, if you’re coming in as a developer advocate, then you need some sort of coding experience. Include “some sort,” so nobody drags me. Lol.
Developer advocates tend to livestream demos where people can ask questions about the software. Your coding experience can come in handy in that kind of situation.
What advice would you give to people looking to do DevRel?
You don’t need the title to do the job. You can always start with writing technical articles on your medium or creating a YouTube account to explain certain things around software development. These things set you apart when applying for jobs.
Even if you’re coming in for a Junior Developer Advocate role, your interviewees will likely want to see evidence of some work you’ve done in that field. You need to do something specific to the role before you’ll be able to get a job.
What were some of the things you did before you landed your first DevRel role?
I also helped to build out communities like the Facebook Developer Circles, Lagos. I was an Ingressive Campus Ambassador at Yabatech, which also helped me with building communities. I was also a volunteer at the first Concatenate in Nigeria.
Final question: Does being in DevRel pay well?
Haha. Trust me, I wouldn’t be here if it didn’t pay well.