Making an impact as a developer advocate: an interview with Colby Fayock

In this interview, we talk to Colby Fayock, Developer Advocate at Applitools. Follow Colby on Twitter (@colbyfayock).

How did you get into developer relations?

In my previous life as solely a Front End Engineer, I ended up learning about mapping technology, specifically tools like Leaflet, that allowed you to built your own maps for the web. With the impact that maps can have on the world, I felt like there was a huge opportunity to try to help others learn how to build maps to maximize that impact.

That led me into developing education materials like blog posts, videos, and courses trying to help others learn. As that spread out to more tools, I realized I wanted to help others learn and build impactful things with awesome products, which led me to becoming a Developer Advocate for Applitools.

What do you do day-to-day?

My day-to-day is a bit of a mix between working to maintain internal projects, trying to find creative ways to make it easier for developers to use Applitools, putting on my instructor hat to create educational material both for Applitools and the developer community, and trying to reach out to others in the community to collaborate.

While I did a mix of this as a Front End Engineer, the biggest difference to me is how I plan to get that work done. As an Engineer, I constantly had a ton of tickets being thrown at me by my Project Manager that needed to get done, where as a Developer Advocate, I need to plan my own work prioritizing what's going to have the most impact.

What skills should developer advocates focus on building before getting the job?

Communication is a big one and that comes in a few different forms. From a personal perspective, because I’m not sequentially knocking out tickets, there’s not a highly visible way for someone to get a quick look at all of the work I’ve done. Being able to keep an open line of communication with my manager is critical to both getting feedback on the work I’ve done and to help her gain confidence and trust in my work

Outwards, communication is important when working with the developer community between helping others with their challenges, whether that’s ultimately with your product or not, and working with others through collaboration and networking. The more you work with the community and prove that you’re in it to actually help people, you’ll start to gain that community’s trust and open up new opportunities to learn and grow.

What developer advocates should people follow online?

I’ve personally been inspired by:

Domitrius Clark's energy and ability to create and build communities

Sarah Drasner’s influence and guidance for the DevRel community as a whole

Angie Jones’ enthusiasm for helping people learn

Kurt Kemple’s efforts to helping others feel included and fighting hate

But there are so many others that are doing incredible work, it’s so motivating seeing so many people trying to help others learn and grow.

Any tips you would give to someone just getting started in the field?

As a Developer Advocate, part of your work is building an audience and growing your personal “brand”. That may feel self-serving, but as you create content and help others, you’re building trust with your community.

This is something I personally had to get past, but that trust ultimately helps your team. When you talk about your product and develop content around it, you’ll have an audience to share it with that knows they can rely on you for helping them learn and grow. (Just don’t abuse that trust!)