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Building Your DevRel Resume with Open Source

· 8 min read
Bekah Hawrot Weigel
Developer Experience Lead

One of the questions I’ve heard quite a few times since starting at OpenSauced a couple of months ago is “How can I use open source to get into DevRel?” The answer is one word: Contribute. Contribute to docs, contribute to code, contribute to the community. Contribute by writing, contribute by creating content, contribute by sharing. To be in Developer Relations, your journey will require technical expertise, communication skills, community-building skills, and, most importantly, empathy. In my last post, I talked about the overlap of DevRel and Open Source. In this post, I’ll get more personal to help you create a plan to use open source to support your journey on the DevRel path.

Resources to Learn More about the Different Types of DevRel

Everyone’s path into DevRel is different. And there are a lot of different flavors of DevRel. That’s important to keep in mind as we go through this journey. Yours won’t look the same as someone else’s. But in all of the journeys, there will be some commonalities.

Listen to Contributors

One of the most important skills you need in Developer Relations is the ability to listen, hear what other people are saying, and respond to that feedback. Because so much of open source requires a need for community, it’s a perfect opportunity to work on your listening skills. Listen to what people in the community are saying. Where are the commonalities? What can you take away from those conversations? Listen to the feedback community members are giving. How do the maintainers respond? How does the tone impact the way the information is received? How does listening impact the health of the community? What conclusions can you make from your experience? By actively listening, you can gain valuable insights, identify common patterns, and draw meaningful conclusions from your experiences.

Showcase Your Skills

Open source projects provide a public way to showcase your technical skills and expertise. By actively contributing to a project, you not only demonstrate your coding or technical abilities but also how you interact and collaborate with the developer community. Actively contribute to projects, highlighting your coding expertise, problem-solving capabilities, and community interaction. When listing open source contributions on your resume, make sure to provide details of the projects, the role you played, and any significant impact your contributions had.

A great way to showcase your skills is to add it to OpenSauced's Highlight Feed and then share it to social media!

Communication is an important part of DevRel. Although your code and other contributions matter, how you communicate will showcase whether or not your skills are strong enough to be in Developer Relations. Does it show that you understand the choices you made in your PR? Does it show that you communicated respectfully with maintainers? That you asked questions when you weren’t sure? That your goal was to grow and support the team?

Pro Tip: emphasize your effective communication throughout the process, demonstrating your ability to understand and respect others' perspectives as well.

Gain Practical Experience

Open source projects offer a unique opportunity to gain practical experience and enhance your understanding of real-world development processes and to work with diverse teams, communicate with different audiences, collaborate on code reviews, and follow best practices—all valuable skills that you don’t get by working on your own projects. Remember, this is a hands-on learning experience.

Networking and Collaboration

The open source community provides networking opportunities, allowing you to connect with other contributors, industry experts, and potential employers. Being able to collaborate with so many different developers allows you to gain a depth of experience that’s nearly impossible outside of open source. As you collaborate, you’re building in public, and sharing the process you take to solve complex problems. It also provides you with the opportunity to receive feedback or mentorship from experienced contributors or maintainers. All of these collaborative open source experiences demonstrate your ability to work effectively within a team and learn from others.

Building a Portfolio

In the realm of DevRel, having a portfolio of your work is crucial. Open source projects can serve as a source of content for your portfolio, showcasing your coding skills, problem-solving abilities, and community involvement. After you’ve contributed to a project consider using that as content to develop to share with an audience who wants to learn more about the project. For example, @Ahmed worked on a feature for OpenSauced and then wrote a blog post called Personalized Social Images: Enhancing User Profiles with Opengraph about how he did that. Other options would be to record a video about the process, write a talk about the experience, create a presentation, or any other option for engaging with an audience. The point is, teaching an audience through content is a key skill for Developer Advocates. If you’re not ready to create a larger piece of content, start by creating a highlight to share with others or use the highlight to share your larger creations.

Describe your contributions, and link to the repositories, pull requests, or documentation you worked on. This not only adds credibility but also allows potential employers to see what you’ve done firsthand.

Organize an Open Source Event

Talk to a maintainer and see if you can help organize open source events, hackathons, or initiatives that bring contributors together. This could be as simple as a coffee chat or a more in-depth meetup, a workshop, or a virtual event. Organizing events, showcases your leadership, community-building skills, and passion for connecting code and community.

Create and Maintain Your Own Open Source Projects

Starting your own open source projects is another great way to demonstrate your initiative, leadership, and problem-solving abilities. It also gives you the opportunity to showcase your communication skills, organizational management, and support of contributors.

Practical Application Storytime

Meet Alex, a passionate software developer who enjoys creating innovative apps. As Alex grew in their first role as a developer, they discovered they loved sharing what they learned about in tech, especially when they're able to build a project. With this realization, they started considering becoming a Developer Advocate to blend their technical expertise with their love for public speaking.

So Alex comes up with a game plan to make this career shift. They start looking at how to showcase their foundation, practical skills, and portfolio. Because they were pretty limited in their day-to-day job, they decided that utilizing open source projects would be a great path for inspiration and growth.

Alex started by getting involved in the open source community. They explored popular projects relevant to their interests. They work with JavaScript and want to learn more about machine learning libraries. By checking out these projects, Alex gained insights into the inner projects, how to use them, and best practices.

After understanding how they can combine some of his favorite libraries, Alex started actively contributing, starting by helping to triage, then adding to docs and then moving on to bug fixes. Through their contributions, Alex sharpened their coding skills and became a well-known member of the open source community.

As part of the process, Alex starts to incorporate their open source contributions into their demos and presentations. They share how they solved complex challenges, improved efficiency, and how they implemented unique features using open source libraries. By sharing their real-life examples in their talks, Alex builds their credibility and authenticity.

Alex's open source journey didn't stop there. They actively engaged with the open source community, participating in discussions, seeking feedback, and collaborating with other contributors. Through this experience, they expanded their network, deepened their understanding of the challenges faced by developers, and demonstrated their ability to community and advocate for the open source community.

As part of this journey, Alex's portfolio grew with demos built on open source technologies, submitted talks to share at conferences and meetups, and built their reputation.

When Alex stepped on stage, they shared their experiences, insights, and practical solutions derived from their open source journey. They inspired developers with their experience and shared the value of community collaboration. Alex's portfolio reflected a strong candidate for a DevRel role.

Each of our journeys will be different. They'll have different focuses, they'll be different lengths of time, and we'll learn and grow in different ways. What's important to remember is that the opportunities are out there. Sometimes, you'll find them on your own. Sometimes, you'll need to ask for help. Sometimes, you'll create them yourself. And if you want help, we're always here to support you in your open source journey.