I was one of the first employees in Google’s developer relations team, joining in the fall of 2006. Did you know that when Google started doing developer relations, the group was called API Support and under TechOps which was in the Online Sales and Operations (OSO) org with @sherylsandberg as the org leader? What led to its prominence within Google?
DevOps. No, not that DevOps
The name changed, of course, to Developer Operations (DevOps, which means a very different thing today!) and we had very capable leadership under Mike Winton. But I think a singular decision had the greatest effect: the move into the Engineering org. Why?
Google has an engineering-driven culture
Many of you have heard me argue that DevRel is marketing, so why was DevRel being in the engineering org at Google so important? It’s contextual. Google is an engineering-led culture. To influence eng teams to effect change on behalf of the developer communities requires their respect.
Respect comes with understanding and helping with their challenges, but also knowing their language, systems, code, tooling and operations. Access to these at Google required being in the engineering org. Also, it greatly helped that a Eng VP had to sign off on the quality of all hires.
I’d argue that DevRel can be super successful in a marketing group, but it requires the right culture and leadership that truly gets the role it plays in product and community success. Without that, a home in engineering is much better for all.
How about having DevRel in a sales org?
No, DevRel never belongs in sales. DevRel is a long game, and sales is driven by short-term lead/opp/closing targets — all sales leaders will be tempted to reach these targets by involving some of their most talented technologists in DevRel, and that comes at the expense of our real long-term goals.