This article was published on August 11, 2013

The rise and rise of developer evangelism in Europe

The rise and rise of developer evangelism in Europe
Martyn Davies
Story by

Martyn Davies

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Martyn Davies, Developer Evangelist at SendGrid.

Up until three years ago, developer evangelists weren’t really on anyone’s radar. Indeed, even a year ago, when tech advocate Courtney Boyd Myers documented the daily lives of developer evangelists in North America, awareness of these hacker-hustlers in Europe was still relatively low.

Fast-forward fourteen months and while developer evangelism is not exactly mass-market in Europe, there has been some serious growth.

At the moment, most developer evangelists in Europe represent US companies. However, the number of European companies with strong developer evangelism cultures, such as Pusher and SoundCloud, is growing rapidly. Companies like Facebook, StripeTwilio and many others are all hiring, making the market increasingly competitive. Those of us who are already developer evangelists have seen a substantial increase in the amount of LinkedIn approaches and recruitment emails we receive.

There are a few reasons for this increase in demand:

  1. The cross between developer support and marketing has always been necessary when launching a technical product or service, but it’s just been the “thing you do.” So while technical evangelism has always existed, now it has a name and an increasingly recognisable one at that.
  2. The European startup scene is exploding. More companies, particularly in the SaaS and PaaS space, means a greater need for developer evangelists. It’s as simple as that.
  3. Suddenly being a developer evangelist has a certain cachet. People are waking up to the fact that it’s a highly attractive job that guarantees huge variety and often lots of travel. The jobs are so appealing that we’re even starting to see companies use the job title to hire for roles that aren’t really evangelist ones.
  4. It’s not a job for life. Most developer evangelists go so hard on the road that after around 18 months, they’re ready to take it back a notch and move on, either to other engineering roles in the company or to start their own. Churn is a factor.

But though demand is high, good candidates are hard to find. Developer evangelists need to have a diverse set of skills that include community management, development, engineering, events, tech support and product management. An ideal candidate must also have speaking experience, a flexible travel schedule and a high-energy personality. Not so easy, is it?

What does this mean for companies looking to hire?

All this may have you thinking that you need to hire an evangelist of your own. If your company is developer-focused and is looking for some personal marketing outreach and relationship-building, a developer evangelist will certainly be useful to you. Grassroots marketing through developer evangelism is a great way to test the waters and gather early-stage feedback from the people who matter most: developers.

In fact, some companies think it’s so important that they make their whole team into evangelists. in the US is a perfect example. The San Francisco-based startup has publicly stated that everyone in the company is an API evangelist. All team members monitor their public chat and have direct interactions with users so they can better understand the public pain points.

If you do make the decision to hire, there are a couple of good ways to do it, beyond the usual job advert:

  1. The community is pretty small in Europe, so a good reference from any other evangelist in the community will usually be a safe bet given we’re all looking out for the same skills. That said, we’re seeing a lot of new people coming through the ranks and hope to see even more in the future.
  2. Hackathons are a pretty good place to look for evangelist candidates. You can gauge genuine interest and see who is using your APIs or product in a cool way. Inviting possible hires along to one can also serve as a trial run.

This sounds interesting, where do I sign up?

It should be pretty clear by this stage that developer evangelism is a hot space to get into right now if you’re both community-minded and a developer at the core.

As previously stated however, the mix of skills required for a developer evangelist means that the bar has been set pretty high. Brandon West, also at SendGrid, has blogged about the similarities between being an evangelist and being a founder.

However, if you’re a jack of all trades who thinks that a combination of developer / marketing / community / product (and a good bit of travel) sounds appealing, then think about what services you love to work with and see if they’re looking for a developer evangelist.

There is no limit to the amount of networking, travel and knowledge sharing you can experience as a developer evangelist. It’s worth noting that the developer evangelism role, particularly in a new territory, can make you something of a lone wolf at times. Developer evangelists are often the first hire in a new territory for launch or expansion.

With that said, there’s a lot of exciting collaboration. Most of us in the industry know each other and are not competing on product, so partnerships around events and meetups and just general swapping of ideas, tips and support are commonplace. It’s like having a lot of colleagues on your team who all work for other people.

With all of these relationships that you’ll build, you find that it’s helpful to speak fluent “developer.” Getting the message right with a developer audience the first time can make or break a service. You’re not there to sell but to introduce your product, show possibilities, and to get people excited about the technologies. An endless appetite for innovation is also key—the more you tinker and test, the more you’ll learn and the more you’ll be able to share with your fellow developers.

So what are you waiting for?

In short, the rise of developer evangelism is a sign of new jobs, new investment and new growth in Europe. There’s a rocket ship taking off here and it’s time to grab a seat – the opportunities are out there.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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