What the Tech?!
Developer Advocate at Loom
Interviewer: Isabella Enriquez
Q. Please introduce yourself!
My name is Trushitha Narla—I usually go by Tru online—and I work as a Developer Advocate at Loom. I'm specifically just my own team, as a Developer Advocate, but I work closely with the team that builds our SDK out.
Q. Could you give us a simple summary of what Developer Advocacy is?
Yeah, for sure. The actual [Developer Advocate] role depends a lot on what company you work at. For Loom specifically, what that means is that we have a team that builds out an SDK—which is a Software Development Kit—and the Software Development Kit basically allows anyone to build a record button on their website very easily using the Loom video software. So what I do as a Developer Advocate a Loom is I advocate for that SDK.
So what does that mean? I build content around it. I make video tutorials. I find companies, small startups [or] big companies, that could potentially use the Loom SDK in their product, and I reach out to them [through] cold emails, cold DM-ing, etc. And then I also write a lot of code. There's open-source marketplace apps, so things like Figma where they have plugins, or WordPress where you can also build plugins. I write code and I actually use our SDK and write plugins for those platforms. That's kind of what I do day-to-day.
Q. In your opinion, what are the most important qualities for a successful Developer Advocate?
The key thing about being a Developer Advocate is [that] you kind of sit in the middle between your company's team that's building the product and then other developers, right? So you have to be very knowledgeable and you have to know how to communicate with other developers. That doesn't mean that you have to be the best programmer, but it does mean you have to be able to talk about tech and be able to debug or help in technical ways. So a big important quality is just technical communication.
The other thing is [that] a lot of soft skills are required. As a Dev Advocate you're making content. You’re kind of like a face of the company in some way, at least on their developer side, so you have to be able to, like I said [before], talk to people, but also just be easy to talk to as well, be a friendly person, approachable, etc.
On that note, I'd say like there's a lot of tasks that revolve around a Developer Advocate. Like I mentioned a lot, you make content, you code—there’s all these things going on and you want to be able to prioritize your time and what you're working on, so time management is also a pretty big skill that I'm slowly learning.
Q. What are some of the biggest challenges of being a Developer Advocate?
I think one of the hardest things that I'm running into right now is kind of like what I would define as a metrics of success for a Developer Advocate. At Loom specifically, there's many ways you can think about this, like, “how many people use the SDK?,” maybe that is a metric that grows over time, maybe that's something that I can say I'm doing well in this role. [Or] is it community building, like do I want our Discord to grow like 2X in the next quarter? So that's like a big challenge—figuring out what the metrics for success are and how they relate back to your company's values and metrics for success.
The other big challenge that I'm facing, at least at Loom, is [that] there's a lot of cross-functionality. I work a lot with marketing or overlap with marketing and I overlap with products and I overlap with sales, and so it's like, “where does my role fit in in the grand scheme of things?” so [that] I don't step on other people’s shoes or take over work that other people are doing.
Also just like time management. As the only Dev Advocate, there's a lot of work to do. Just being able to prioritize your time and sometimes just [saying] no if you don't have the time to handle certain tasks and things like that.
Q. What are some common misconceptions of being a Developer Advocate?
I get this a lot actually. I feel like a lot of people think Developer Advocates are less smart software engineers—like people think it's because they fail their software engineering interview or something that they choose to be a Dev Advocate. I don't think that's true. I have to code a lot on my job, and I came from a software engineering background. The reason I chose to be a Dev Advocate is because I was getting burnt out a lot with my tasks that I got as a Software Engineer. It felt a lot of just some manager giving me tasks and me just having to do them, [whereas] in this role, I get to define what I do, and I have autonomy in what I get to work on. It's way more fun, and I do get to build things, like on the side I'm building Loom Cards, which are collaborative birthday videos [where] you can invite people to birthday cards and have them film a video and then you can put them all together and have a big birthday video for someone. It's a really fun project, and you have to know how to program it. So I think that's a big misconception—a lot of people just think it's an easy way out, but I think it's still a lot of work. There's a lot of other things that are not tech, like I mentioned before, that also go into the role [and] that you have to be good at. It's really difficult to make content constantly and to talk to a bunch of people all the time. You have to be very social, so that's also a struggle too.
Q. What do you enjoy most about being a Developer Advocate?
I mean I love it. I've been making content on the side for a long time now—I’ve been streaming on Twitch for about two years, and I program on Twitch, and so that's already content there. So I've already been open to having a community of people on my Twitch and talking to developers because they're the people that are in chat and watching me. Just streaming on Twitch has made me grow as an Engineer, and I was able [to] build those technical communication skills because writing code as you're streaming it is very hard. That helped a lot in this job role, and I just really, really like it.
I've been a Software Engineer for the past three years before I joined Loom and I've gotten burnt out at every single place I worked at. I like coding, [but], first off, the environment and a lot of those companies weren’t great for me—they weren’t a good fit. At Loom, I have a great manager and I really love working with him, and it's super nice to actually have a manager that sticks [up] for you and [cares] about you. But the second thing is [that] I would just be assigned random tasks or assigned things that I had no interest in. Here it feels like I can kind of pick what I want to work on, and it does have to go back into my metrics for success—I have to figure out something that'll lead me to be successful—but it's always really fun things, like building these cool projects to use the SDK or talking to other companies, helping them out. It always little happy moments that happen throughout the job that make it really fun to keep working. It's way more hours a week that I spend here than I did at like, Square, for example, where I worked last, but it's just the time that I spend is so much more fun [that] it doesn't feel like I'm going to get burnt out. It [does] feels overwhelming sometimes just because I have so much [to do] and I have to manage my time, but apart from that, it's been super fun and I love [that] every month that there’s something new.
Q. What advice do you have for students who want to go into Developer Advocacy?
So the main reason that I actually was able to get these jobs was because I was already making content. That could either be streaming on Twitch, making YouTube videos, or even just writing blogs. Having something out there that you can talk about when you're doing these interviews [is helpful] because you don't want to go into a Dev Advocate interview with no prior experience making content. I feel like that's a decent amount of [Developer Advocacy] jobs, even if it's just like blog posts that you write for Google as a Developer Advocate. If you haven't written a blog post before, what're you going to talk about when they ask you about it? So just having content, [which] could be anything like I mentioned—video, text, any of that—that’s something that I would highly recommend starting if you're interested in this career because that's kind of what this is about. You're building content for developers. You have to kind of know how that works. I mean I haven't written blogs—I'm actually really bad at writing—[but] I'm really good at saying things and making video content, so just pick what you're good at and focus on it.
The other thing is building in public. For Figma, one of the companies I interviewed at [as a] Developer Advocate, I got [the interview] because I posted online of things that I was working on using Figma. I was like, “oh, look at this cool Figma plugin that I'm building,” and they liked that a lot [so] I was invited to their closed beta. Then I was working with people on their Slack, and then they were like, “if anyone is working on this in public, tag us,” and so I did when I was streaming, and then they retweeted my tweet. That got a bunch of people to watch, and so I was able to get an interview because they knew my name and they knew that I am a good programmer because I was doing this [in] streams and building out widgets for them. So I highly recommend building in public because a Developer Advocate is a public-facing figure.
But yeah, I mean, there's so many new roles, and so many companies are seeing the value in this role because it's the person that sits in the middle between the engineering team and the developers that are using the product. It's hard when the engineers have to deal with the developers—they have too much to deal with themselves—so a lot of people are coming up with these roles. If you're interested in it, just apply to [these roles] and build your portfolio of content.