Last year in February I joined AssemblyAI as a Developer Advocate. The decision was not easy for me. Should I really make the switch from Software Engineer to Developer Advocate? And should I leave my comfortable and safe job in Germany behind to join an early-stage startup based in the US? A company I've heard of for the first time just weeks before?
One year later I can say this was the best career decision I've made to this date!
However, the role is quite different from all my previous jobs. So in this article, I want to share my experiences during the first year. Maybe it can shed some light on this role and be helpful to someone who is considering this career path, too.
- What did I do as a Developer Advocate?
- Remote start-up culture
- What about coding?
What did I do as a Developer Advocate?#
There are different types of Developer Advocates and the work can differ for each company and for different teams.
I know roles that involve video creation and/or a lot of public speaking, and other roles that only involve writing articles, and even a few roles that are focused on a Discord community or Twitter content creation only.
In my case, most of my tasks revolve around growing brand awareness, growing the community, and educating developers about our product and about AI in general.
Here is what I achieved in my first year:
- Grew the YouTube channel from 0 to 30K subs together with Mısra
- Grew the Twitter account from 100 to 20K followers
- Wrote a few tutorials for our blog
- Started the AssemblyAI Creators community
- Co-hosted a large virtual hackathon
- Gave hackathon workshops
- Collaborated with freeCodeCamp to create a Speech Recognition course
- Coded lots of demo apps
- Tested new AI models
- Collected and forwarded user feedback
- I even helped out with customer support a handful of times
So I did a lot of things, and I really enjoyed it.
What I love most about my job is that I get lots of freedom in how I want to achieve my goals. Yes, there are OKRs and numbers I chase, but I can decide what content I want to create, where I want to engage with the community, and even spend time on the job learning about the latest research and AI trends.
The results matter, and I can proudly say that I exceeded the goals in all four quarters last year. It turned out I am not too bad in this new role😉.
Developer Advocates are paid similarly to Software Engineers. It can be a little bit lower in some companies but it can also be higher (after all, it's a pretty unique skillset). If I am not mistaken, larger corporations like Google put Developer Advocates on the same salary level as Software Engineers.
I won't share my exact salary, but given the facts that US companies (especially with their roots in Silicon Valley) pay a lot more for tech jobs than European companies, and that AssemblyAI could raise a large amount of money (more below), it was a great pay raise for me.
Remote start-up culture#
Even though my previous company switched to remote work when Covid happened, being in a remote-first company with people from all over the world is different.
I took advantage of it last year and traveled quite a bit while working from nice Airbnbs. This worked out better than expected. My main daily tools (besides the ones for video creation) are Slack, Notion, Zoom, Email, and Google Docs. And for me, these tools are all I need for good async communication, even if people are in different time zones.
I like working remotely, but in the long run, it would be great to have the option of an office. Talking to people face-to-face is just a different thing.
AssemblyAI is aware of the challenges that being remote brings, and they have worked hard to overcome these challenges. We get a nice budget for our home office each year, we recently hired someone who is focused on remote culture building, and we get together for multiple offsites per year (I got to visit New York and Orlando already).
Another exciting new experience for me is being part of a US-based startup. I joined at a pretty early stage and since then I witnessed Series A and Series B fundraising rounds, almost 3x'ing our headcount, and growth in many other areas.
The environment is incredibly fast-paced and full of high energy. It is kind of how I imagined the startup culture to be from watching TV series😁. Here's an excerpt from one of our job postings:
Our culture is super collaborative, low-ego, transparent, and fast-paced.
We want to win - and have a flat organization where everyone can openly share ideas (regardless of their title or position) in order to get the best idea.
We look for people who are ambitious, curious, and self-motivated, and we put a lot of trust and autonomy into everyone on our team.
I can confirm this is true. This culture is not the right place for everyone, but I love being part of it! Being around so many talented people where everyone is super supportive and motivated also motivates me. The whole last year was truly a very exciting year!
However, I have to admit that I was sucked into it pretty quickly and probably worked too much in the beginning. Especially, since I had Slack notifications popping up on my phone late in the evenings due to most of my coworkers being 6 hours behind.
Mental health and a good work-life balance are very important, though, and I quickly established a "normal" work routine again. To my surprise, I noticed that most days I prefer having the good old 9-5 work routine. But I also like having the flexibility and sometimes I switch things up. No one cares about my work hours, it's the results that matter in the end.
I’d say that I can manage everything quite well. But if you consider joining a startup, I don’t want to hide the fact that startups have innate qualities that can make them exhausting for a lot of people. E.g., you have to be able to adapt to different roles quickly, and you have to be able to take ownership of projects and deal with high goals and tight deadlines.
What about coding?#
This is a question I often get and I talked about this many times with other Developer Advocates: What about coding? Don't you miss it?
Well, in some teams Dev Advocates code quite a lot and contribute to the production code. I first wanted to do this, too, but I was so absorbed in my new role and I enjoyed all the new tasks that I didn't find time to contribute to our code base.
I still write code, but more for demo apps and tutorials. Now, after one year, I have to admit, I am slowly starting to miss coding. Actual coding - with code reviews, bug fixing, code optimizing, and all the good stuff.
I'm pretty sure we would find a solution with the engineering team if I wanted to pick up a few coding tasks. But for now, I set myself the personal goal to contribute more to Open Source projects this year. I believe this is another great way of keeping your coding skills sharpened and it can also be very fulfilling.
I love my role and I'm so glad I took this opportunity.
If you are interested in becoming a Dev Advocate, too, make sure to ask about your concrete tasks during the interviews. Because as I said, the role can look quite different in each company, so make sure it aligns with what you want to do. If you have more questions about it, feel free to reach out on Twitter. I'm always happy to talk about this.
P.S. If this sounds interesting, check out AssemblyAI’s careers page. We have lots of open roles across engineering, research, and marketing. Also, our Developer Educator team will grow this year🤗.
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