Some companies have evolved the Developer Relations area to a point they have a specialized orgs. Google is one of them, and I work under the Developer Relations Ecosystem team. What does we do?
Sticking to the broader DevRel goal (see the definition from my colleague Reto), I consider ourselves a connection layer. On the one side, there are the different Google Product Areas (PAs) like Android, Cloud, Assistant, etc, and we solve for them the complexity of dealing with local tech ecosystems. This scales global initiatives by engaging local developers. On the other side, that “articulated” tech ecosystem, where we’re often seen as the “last mile” between them and Google, brings valuable insights back.
How do we connect these two sides? We apply a 1:few:many interaction model. I see us (the one) as “passion multipliers“. We take Product Areas goals and, with a touch of magic, translate them for the “influencers” in their local context (the few), supporting them in doing even more of what they love doing. It could be organize tech communities, share their knowledge on Google techs, run amazing 3rd party tech conferences, solve people’s needs in innovative ways using company’s products, deliver best apps to clients and much more.
The more successful our audience is pursuing their passions, the more vibrant, mature and fun the company 3rd party tech ecosystem becomes (the many). A win-win situation I love and a way to implement Google’s philosophy “Focus on the user and all else will follow”.
We’re a tech team in the relationship business, at scale. Thanks to the trust component of our relationships, we have the rare privilege to be exposed to global and reliable first hand insights about developers all over the world. They let us know who they are and where they are; what they love and hate about our company’s technologies; emerging and descending trends; how they’re organising tech communities in every country; their success stories supported by our technologies. Because of this knowledge, we can be even more effective in building relationships and matching PAs needs, creating a virtuous circle.
Diversity is also deeply embedded in our team culture: there isn’t a project that can scale worldwide without considering how diverse the world is. For example, mentorship activities are very effective in some cultures, and totally against the mindset of others; developer and community dynamics in cities with millions of people are very different from cities with thousands; running a hackathon in Italy is different from running one in Nigeria, etc.
So, we naturally recognize the value of diversity and we focus on it, across our programs and audiences. What does diversity mean? Gender, culture, race, religion and many more.
From a team structure point of view, we approximated the complexity of the tech ecosystem splitting it in several audiences, like tech communities (GDG and all the other communities), Tech Experts, Startups and their developers etc.
Thus, we created work streams to deal with each one of these audiences, organising ourselves around two main roles. One gathers Program Managers that work on these streams at a global level, defining the infrastructure, strategy, goals, tools, budget etc. The other is made by people like me, called Regional Lead, in charge of executing these programs locally. It’s the implementation of “Think globally, act locally” strategy.
Maintaining a bi-directional communication channel between the roles is fundamental. Global work streams cannot evolve without the inputs, knowledge and experience from the local ecosystems provided by regional leads, while high-level directions from global allow us to operate in an aligned way despite we spread all over the world.
The most difficult challenge is linked to Ecosystem’s core: in fact, building these relationships at scale is a never-ending, tailor-made and time-consuming process, as the ecosystem is a living creature in constant evolution. In addition, after a certain point, we suffer from “reach-ability bandwidth” saturation: we simply cannot interact with additional people anymore and with all the amazing stuff they’re doing.
Apart from company PA goals, I personally see another important behavior for being a good citizen of the ecosystem we deal with: act as superb connectors. Pentland wrote in his book “It is not simply the brightest who have the best ideas; it is those who are best at harvesting ideas from others. It is not only the most determined who drive change; it is those who most fully engage with like-minded people. And it is not wealth or prestige that best motivates people; it is respect and help from peers.”
Connecting people with similar passions helps the ecosystem to grow and improve in the mid-long term. It’s something you cannot control or measure, but years later, someone that has done something worthwhile your admiration will tell you: “Thanks to your suggestion all those years ago, I’m here now”. Priceless and crucial, this is one of my duties, and my passion!