DevRel Leader Spotlight - Tessa Mero, Cloudinary

DevRel Leader Spotlight - Tessa Mero, Cloudinary

May 13, 2022

To bridge the divide between product, marketing, and development, DevRel plays an increasingly vital role in innovative organizations. Implemented effectively, it is a change agent that drives future success. In this podcast, Peritus Head of Customer Success, Adrian Gonzalez explores the building blocks of an effective developer relations program with Tessa Mero, Director of Dev Advocacy for Cloudinary.

Challenges and Opportunities in DevRel

Tessa Mero’s experience as a developer, professor, and instructor guided her to leading roles in developer advocacy at Cisco and Cloudinary. Today, she scales engagement with critical APIs and infrastructure, and leverages a new model for developer success to build and nurture lasting relationships.

Mero emphasizes that developer success depends on gathering feedback about bugs, features, and overall developer experience when using a product. It requires the right internal processes to act on feedback once collected, and the decision making structure to enact or deny changes efficiently. Historically, developer feedback was often ignored. A single stakeholder denying a change request could freeze communications with both internal and external developers. It’s a lot harder to change a process prone to rejections than to build a new system designed to address developer feedback. Startups, new tech companies, and nimble organizations open to change can empower developer and product teams with a system that acts on this feedback in a timely manner.

The days of relegating developer feedback to a bucket of “feature requests” are over. With the right systems in place to evaluate each request, companies are finding close correlation between developer and user concerns. Changes that make the product easier to use, the SDK more flexible for faster development cycles, and an overall improved user experience are often identified by developers.

What Success in DevRel Looks Like

To support developers, Mero invests ample resources into awareness and education of key API features and resources. More importantly, she works with senior leadership across departmental silos to align objectives for developers and work toward organizational goals. Reciprocal communication replaces a historically top down structure, taking crucial developer feedback into consideration within product and engineering teams. Tessa describes her team as “developer advocates [who] serve as change agents within the company.” The combination of internal and external developer advocacy ensures “we are making the changes in a way that not only helps developers be more successful in using our APIs, but also allows us to achieve these goals with KPIs.

For work to align with key objectives, it must be measurable. Developer relations provides actionable feedback and measurable results that are taken into consideration at the organizational level.

Success takes many forms. Mero describes a recent collaboration with Twilio on a tool that empowers companies to build custom games that train developers on their platforms. “We use it in a gamified way, where developers can complete missions, earn swag items or donate to a charity of choice.” Gamification is just one arrow in the quiver of creative DevRel teams. Advocacy efforts continue to evolve through collaborations that produce podcasts, video streams, and educational tools.

The Future of DevRel

Mero sees DevRel as the foundation of every successful tech company. Having a strong advocacy team that understands developers and the underlying business they impact is crucial. It crosses departmental barriers, translating differing KPIs, goals, and infrastructure into a language developers and non-developers alike understand. Communicating information to and from development teams is critical to the success of a developer-focused company.

Mero predicts a boom in DevRel teams throughout the tech industry, but notes that most lack a clear strategy for hiring and governance. A concerted effort is needed to better understand how DevRel teams form and what skills are needed. As this happens, companies will create additional lower-level roles on these teams to support broader efforts.

Mero describes a time early in her career when these positions did not exist. Her own path involved personal outreach and one-to-one mentoring from high level developer advocates. To support the next generation of developer advocates, she created a website cataloging communities in the field, past and upcoming events, and presentations she’s given. Her recommendation to aspiring DevRel advocates: “Network with the right thought-leaders and showcase your contributions within the developer ecosystem on your resume, no matter where that experience comes from.”

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