Aug 29, 2019

You’re a What? The Life of a Developer Relations Intern

This summer, I had the pleasure of interning on the Developer Relations (DevRel) team at Twitch in San Francisco. Being a DevRel intern is a unique experience, as many companies don’t offer internships (or even junior roles for that matter) in this space. I’m humbled that I received this opportunity at Twitch and was a part of the inaugural intern cohort #BleedPurple.

Outside of Twitch, I’ve also had an incredible experience being in the Bay Area and constantly being surrounded by so many smart and passionate people working to build impactful technology. I loved meeting these people at local tech meet-ups and conferences and learning about all the various projects they were working on.

However, while introducing myself at these events, I was consistently met with the same confusion and questions: “You’re a what?” “You mean you’re not a software engineering intern?” “Wait, so what do you do?” I realized that because a DevRel internship is so rare, many people don’t understand what it is. Fortunately, I’m here to answer some of those questions.

But first: how did I get here?

Let’s start from the beginning. Once upon a time, I was in high school. To learn computer science skills, I did two things 1. I enrolled in community college classes at the age of fourteen to study computer science 2. I went to hackathons. Hackathons were cool and fun, and I learned a lot! I didn’t try to win anything or even demo my projects, but I went to workshops and picked up skills.

Fast forward to college. I stopped going to hackathons, but I still wanted to be involved in the hackathon community. I found the perfect way to do this by being a Coach at Major League Hacking (MLH) where I could truly give back to the community that had supported me for many years. Through this role, I was able to mentor hackers and support organizers at various hackathons across the country. I loved being able to teach and empower students to continue to learn, build, and share their passion for technology.

My introduction into the wonderful world of DevRel

While coaching at hackathons, I began to interact with the sponsor representatives from different companies who introduced themselves as “Developer Advocates” or “Tech Evangelists.” Underneath these mysterious titles, I soon learned that these representatives were full-time community advocates. Their main purpose was to empower developers to create new technologies and equip them with the right toolkit to do so (usually through their company’s developer tools and resources).

It essentially was what I was doing in my part-time job of coaching at hackathons but on a whole new scale. It wasn’t just helping out hackers one weekend a month; it was thinking about how to help developers all day, every day. And it extended way beyond hackathons. It included creating good documentation, speaking at conferences and leading technical workshops, relaying user feedback to respective product teams, and interacting with the developer community through hackathons, meetups, and even online forums. But at the end of the day, I loved how the sole focus of this type of job was to help community developers, and I wanted to experience this role first hand.

Hey, you over there, can you open the door into DevRel for me please?

While researching ways to break into the DevRel space, especially as an intern, I was met with futile Google searches and zero job postings. It seemed like the only way to get into DevRel was to start as a software engineer, become an experienced developer, and then move into DevRel.

While my job prospects in DevRel were not looking good, I still continued to send cold-call emails to companies who had DevRel teams and talk to people in the field. Just when I started to consider software engineering opportunities, I got an email from a Developer Advocate at Twitch (who eventually became my manager) explaining a new DevRel internship they were setting up. I was ecstatic about the potential opportunity to spend the entire summer learning about DevRel — and a month later, after loads of interviews, I accepted an offer as a summer intern on the DevRel team at Twitch! (Side note: Applications are now open for Summer 2020 internships at Twitch.)

So what did I actually do as a DevRel intern at Twitch?

During the first couple days in my internship, I quickly realized that this would be a fantastic experience. This summer would be my first time working in Developer Relations, working for a company as big as Twitch, and working in the live streaming and gaming industry. As a non-gamer and non-streamer, I definitely felt a bit intimidated by the huge learning curve. However, I believe I brought fresh eyes that were able to empathize with new developers, understand their pain points when using Twitch products, and relay this information to respective teams.

By attending DevRel Con SF in June, I got a crash course in all things DevRel and learned how differently each company treats DevRel. At Twitch, developer advocacy’s mission is to educate developers about Twitch developer products and act as liaison for long-tail users or third-party developers. I began to think of advocacy as bringing awareness of products to developers, enabling them to build on the developer platforms, and making them feel successful — while also sharing in that success.

As an intern, my work focused on Extensions, one of the Twitch developer products. Extensions are live apps that provide more engaging and interactive experiences for both streamers and viewers. Specifically, my project focused on creating an “Extension Education Journey.” I built technical tutorials to create a better onboarding experience for developers and teach them how to build Extensions. This work involved interacting with the developer community to better understand their needs, and then figuring out how to address these needs by working cross-functionally across many internal teams, including developer advocacy, solutions architecture, technical documentation, design, and product management.

The only thing I loved more than the work I was doing was interacting with all the various office puppers that provided me with endless love and support. Fun fact: Twitch is very dog-friendly 🐕

And that’s a wrap!

I hope I answered all your burning questions about my journey into Developer Relations and my experience at Twitch. I only touched upon a few of things as part of my experience — if you would like to learn more, feel free to reach out to me at @sonia_sachar on Twitter. However, to be honest, I don’t actually tweet: I just use Twitter to learn more about the world and communicate with people.

Also, that content that I created? The Extension Education Journey? Yeah, that’s coming out very soon 👀 I don’t want to unveil too many details yet, but stay tuned for announcements!

What to learn more about Twitch internships? Go here!

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