As part of our Women In Tech Q&A series we recently caught up with Principle Solutions Architect and Developer Relations Lead at Banked, Jane Usoskina.
Jane talks about the some of the benefits of being a woman in a Developer Relations role, and discusses what businesses should be doing to support more women into careers in tech. Jane also highlights why community is so important, particularly within the tech industry.
You can listen to the full interview as part of our podcast series below!
W.I.T. Republic (WR): What would you say are some of your biggest challenges as a Developer Relations expert? Do you think being a woman in the role has additional challenges?
Jane Usoskina (JU) : Generally, the challenge is that you are constantly put in situations where you don’t know how something works. The job is to understand systems, and you need to ask for help and to have things explained to you.
I’ll be honest – from my experience, your gender doesn’t matter in this role. This role is about enjoying solving problems, enjoying learning new technical things, and being able to build relationships both internally and externally. When I’m hiring for the role, I look for these qualities, and there are LOTS of women who have those traits. Unfortunately, I’ve had a few women over the years say they don’t feel confident enough to go for this role. If you are considering it – go for it! At its core, this role is literally about finding things out and solving problems and asking questions .
Early on, I sometimes felt that it takes a little more to establish yourself, but especially when working with clients, you are brought in as an expert and you are there to help them, and you DO know your system better than them. I think I’m better at that now – I don’t know whether that’s age or if I’m getting a bit more confident in myself
WR: What are some of the benefits of being a woman in a Developer Relations role? Would you say that people need a technical background to get into the position?
JU: From what I’ve seen, these roles are very heavily male-dominated, so being a woman certainly makes you memorable. And you already don’t quite fit in with the stereotype, so you might as well just be yourself!
In terms of a technical background, yes and no. I’ve seen people get into this role both after years and years of software development experience, as well as from less technical positions like Customer Success, Tech Support, Project Management, Sales… What you do need is the ability and a willingness to understand systems and technologies. I love this role, because it’s so incredibly wide in terms of technology, that there is constantly something new to learn. You’ll never know all of the technologies your customers are using, but if you enjoy problem-solving, aren’t afraid of asking questions, and are genuinely interested in learning, you’ll do great, whether you have a technical background or not. But on the other hand, after doing this role for a while, you get more and more exposure to cool technologies, and so I suppose become more and more “technical”.
WR: Where do you see Developer Relationships evolving? Do you think that the role will be more prominent in companies in the future and play a part in improving the diversity in tech?
JU: Again, Developer Relations is such a wide area that means something different at every company. In general, I think companies have been realising the value of having an excellent developer experience more and more recently. If your product is easy to implement and use, it makes sales easier, it makes customer onboarding and customer success easier, and lightens your load on support, you get positive word of mouth in the market. It’s great!
I think companies will be investing more and more in Dev Rel. Stripe for example, created great developer documentation, and since then that’s become the gold standard. Freemium models with 5 minute implementations are gaining popularity. You see Developer Advocates speaking at conferences – it can be a full time job, speaking about technology. It also leads to having dedicated people who are advocating on behalf of Developers internally, and you end up with a better product that way.
In terms of Solutions Architecture, I’ve seen the “Professional Services” model get used less and less, at least in start-ups. Now, instead of customers having to pay £1.5k a day to have a Solutions Architect help them troubleshoot issues, companies are actually incentivising SAs to make their customer’s implementations as good as possible – even if that means optimising the implementation to the extent where the company may be making less money! I hope this is the way things will move. It just results in a much better customer experience and a better product.
Developer Evangelism actually already has much better diversity, in my experience, than, for example software development roles. It seems to be the expectation in the industry – maybe because the role is so public, that it will look terrible for a company if they have 10 Dev Evangelists, who are all white men. Which is great.
WR: Is there anything you think businesses and the wider community should be doing to support more women into careers in tech?
JU: I think it needs to come from the hiring pipeline – when working with recruiters, demand that X% of CVs come from more diverse backgrounds. I’m really hoping that with more companies becoming remote/hybrid/flexible, this will help get a more diverse pool of candidates.
I think the conversion programmes are also a great way to create new junior developers from diverse backgrounds.
And of course, in some cases we are seeing a lot more diversity in junior roles, but not in the top positions, so businesses need to make sure that this is considered throughout. I think managers have a lot of responsibility here to encourage all of their employees to live up to their full potential, and to not be afraid to go for things and ask for promotions.
WR: Community seems to have become almost a buzz word in the business world recently. So, what does community mean to you and why is it important, particularly in tech roles?
JU: I think having a supporting community is incredibly important. When you’ve been in tech for a while, you likely will have developed your own community through colleagues, events etc. But when you are entering a new space, or are thinking about it having access to a community can be so helpful. If a community is welcoming, you are going to be a lot more likely to stick with something.
WR: Finally, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve received that has stayed with you, throughout your career?
JU: To do what you want. I’m very prone to deliberating over decisions, and worrying about disappointing someone. The number of times I’ve been told by friends to just “do what I want” is so high, but it’s taken time for me to internalise this.
Once I’ve embraced it, it’s made such a bit difference to me, both personally and professionally.
I don’t mean to go to your manager and tell them “I don’t want to do that Jira ticket”. But I mean putting in more effort into understanding what makes you happy professionally, and slowly adjusting your work to that. Trust me, when you like your work and are enthusiastic, it shows, and when it shows, you are going to be given opportunities and responsibilities. If there is a project you are really keen to try out – get enthusiastic about it, try getting buy-in from other people. Ask, ask again, if you want to do something. If it works out, that’ll be great for you. If it doesn’t work out, you will have gained experience, and you will have shown initiative at work regardless.
And same goes for not doing what you don’t want. If for a long time you’re not happy with your role or job, maybe it’s time to look for something else. Ultimately, when you are happy, you are a much better and productive employee, and a more pleasant human being to be around.
If you would like to join Jane as part of our Q&A series, get in touch today!