For the past three months, I’ve had the absolute pleasure of working as an intern alongside Dolby.io‘s developer relations team as an intern. DevRel is often an ill-defined, little known role, but I’ve loved my experience with it and am so grateful to have had this opportunity. I’ll be sharing what I learned about DevRel, what I contributed to the team, and my next steps from here.
A year ago, I probably knew as much about developer relations as the average person in the CS field – which is to say not much. I’m currently majoring in computer science, and before this internship, I’d stuck to the more traditional areas of CS: I did some research with professors, took classes in data structures and algorithms, and worked on a mobile app for my school’s newspaper. In hindsight, though, my collision with DevRel seems almost inevitable. Even as I planned for a career in software development, I nurtured interests well-suited to interacting with a community of devs. I took creative writing classes to further my love of storytelling, I spent my free time watching developer conferences and interacting with other Android devs on the internet, I TAed and tutored other computer science students because I found joy in helping them understand complex technical concepts. And although these skills have served me well in my internship, there was also so much more to learn about developer relations.
What I learned about DevRel
The definition of developer relations differs depending on who you ask, which article you read, and especially from company to company. But as a starting point, I really liked the way one of my coworkers described it to me — developer relations works as a mouthpiece between a company and a community of developers, amplifying voices in both directions. This broad definition means that a DevRel team will often work on a variety of tasks that stretch across many different fields. Specifically at Dolby, developer relations blends marketing, engineering, and product to grow and support the community of developers using Dolby.io APIs. We work cross-functionally, meeting with product teams to make suggestions about the APIs, talking with engineers to build demos that show off interesting use cases, coordinating with marketing to spread awareness about Dolby.io at conventions and other events, and more. It’s easy to look at developer relations from the outside and think “isn’t this just marketing with extra steps?” But I quickly realized that developers are at the heart of everything Dolby.io is about, and the things that DevRel works on creates tangible value for those developers in a way that pure marketing or engineering can’t.
Why I loved it
For me, the various areas DevRel works in meant that I was never bored in my internship. I helped staff a hackathon, reviewed onboarding journeys, wrote developer guides for Android, designed and built an entire app, and there was still always more to do. As a lifelong learner, I also feel incredibly lucky that my team and developer relations in general encourages seeking out learning opportunities. Going through the onboarding experience for new frameworks and tech stacks increases empathy for users who are starting with Dolby.io‘s onboarding guides, so taking some time to learn about something new was doubly valuable. My team members supported me in my learning endeavors — I worked through some exercises to polish my git skills, read about Android best practices, and spoke with UI/UX experts, product managers, marketing, and engineers to gather information about the app building process. Something else I grew to appreciate about DevRel was the chance to pay back all the knowledge I’ve gained from using resources other developer relations teams created. I can’t begin to describe how valuable online articles, tutorials, and code samples have been throughout my journey as a computer science student, so to be on the other side and putting out educational content to help other devs learn is so gratifying.
The work I did spanned many of the areas that DevRel covers: technical communication, community outreach, software development, and product feedback. In the first half of my internship, I got to explore a variety of DevRel tasks. Like I mentioned above, I staffed a hackathon with my team, chatting about the Dolby.io APIs with hackers from across the world and helping them get started using our services. I also generated a friction log analyzing the good and bad parts of the Dolby.io onboarding journey, from sign-up to a creating a barebones video conferencing app using the Interactivity Client SDK. Lastly, to help developers looking to use the Media Processing APIs in tandem with their Android app, I wrote a blog post explaining and comparing the most common libraries and frameworks to record audio from an Android device.
My main focus for the internship was on building out a demo Android application that used some of the Dolby.io APIs. It was thrilling to have basically complete creative control over this project — I got to design, architect, and build the app on my own, albeit with plenty of support from the Dolby.io team along the way. The finished product, a mock interview practice app, will be released as an open source repo on our GitHub to inspire and guide other Android devs towards video conferencing solutions of their own using the Interactivity APIs. Here’s a sneak peek of what the app looks like!
The GitHub repository for the project:
Forward from here
I’ve learned an astounding amount at Dolby over the past twelve weeks. Not just technical snippets like Android best practices for RecyclerView binding or how to conceal your app key and secret while deploying a server with Heroku, but also an understanding of product timelines, how to tell good from bad documentation, and why developer-centric products are the future of SaaS. As I return to school, I’ll take this knowledge with me and continue to pursue the passions that led me to DevRel in the first place. A huge thank you to my manager and the rest of my team members for their support and expertise throughout my internship. I hope to return to developer relations work in the future, but for now, I’m signing off from the Dolby.io team with a fond farewell!