After a busy January, we’re zooming out to explore the developer community through the eyes of our Dev Advocates: how do they perceive the community, what is the motivation behind their vocation, and what are the projects they cannot wait for in 2022?
Hi, everyone! I’m Viktoria Kuzmanova. I’ve been part of Progress for a few months now, looking for opportunities to chat with our dev folks online as an intern for the Developer Relations Social Media team. Always curious about other people’s stories, I figured out my way of diving into this new community was by hearing the stories of the developers I knew best—our Developer Advocates—so I grabbed the chance to chat with them as soon as it came!
Join me in chatting with Sam, Alyssa, Kathryn and Eve on how the developer community helped them grow and develop in all spheres of their lives and how they plan to contribute to it in 2022!
When trying to define a broad term to get the conversation going, playing associations really helps! That’s why I asked the Developer Advocates how they would describe the dev community.
Eve Turzillo, Developer Advocate for Telerik Fiddler: You have to experience the dev community for yourself, yet once you find the tribe you belong with, you will never want to be without them. Seeing familiar faces, exchanging ideas and learning from others with similar interests compares to no other. It means feeling like you belong; it confirms your purpose and offers hope and compassion when you need it. The personalities I have interacted with throughout my journey have given me perspectives that I otherwise may not have considered. Everyone has a unique story, and the collective experiences from the community are enlightening. Whether you are sharing or listening, you get to be a part of one another’s accomplishments along with struggles. Being supported matters.
Sam Basu, Dev Advocate for Telerik: When tightly specializing in a particular technology, we often get into our little bubble, working with one stack and going deep into it. From a professional standpoint, it’s difficult for one person to know everything about the technology stack, not to mention the rest of the industry. That’s why interacting with the community in lots of different ways plays a key role. It’s not only about the knowledge you gain from being part of the whole—the community is also a safety net of friends to fall back on—if something bad happens to someone, we all step up and try to help.
Kathryn Grayson Nanz, Dev Advocate for KendoReact: Picking up a new technology for the first time can be challenging, and people from the community who have experience with it can provide interesting details or contexts that bridge the gap between you and the technology and make it more relevant. Peer developers can also be innovators that show you experimental or not yet fully supported features that might become best practices. This nurtures innovation and curiosity—two very important factors for our vocation, as being a developer means you constantly have to learn.
Alyssa Nicoll, Sr. Dev Advocate for Kendo UI & Angular GDE: The community has helped me get into programming, then to get into speaking and conferences, all while enabling me not to feel alone on that journey. Being part of the different dev communities has made my career and has helped me reach the place where I currently am.
Kathryn Grayson Nanz, Dev Advocate for KendoReact: In most cases when I try to learn a new framework or simply implement a new technology, I do it with the help of other people—reaching out to those who have experience with it. It does not necessarily have to be the people who created it but also those who are blogging and speaking about it, people who might not necessarily be considered official authorities on the subject. While official documentation is really great, when you’re looking for a broad overview, people are the ones who will help you find the answer to a specific question.
Sam Basu, Dev Advocate for Telerik: The community has helped me see other viewpoints, ones that have the power to inspire developers, including me, to dive into new pieces of technology that we find interesting or exciting. One of my favorite things to do at a tech conference is to go into a session that explores a topic I know nothing about. It just kind of opens your mind and helps you find the next big challenge.
Alyssa Nicoll, Sr. Dev Advocate for Kendo UI & Angular GDE: A big struggle is the internal monologue that people are constantly having—the voice of self-doubt that is tearing them down and holding them back for one reason or another. In 2021, a big theme for me was working with women developers, designers and project managers who really struggle with being confident in their roles and in their day-to-day lives. This is an underlying theme that I see with everyone, especially when being on Twitch, putting myself out there and chatting with people. It has been therapeutic not only for myself, but I think for people who watch to see me making mistakes, learning on the go and moving on from the trauma of making mistakes because we all experience this. I hope it makes people a little bit less lonely when they realize they are not the only ones.
Sam Basu, Developer Advocate for Telerik: The gap between programmers who are just starting their career and experienced developers. The language many seniors use on a day-to-day basis when discussing major concepts and terms does not necessarily resonate with those who have recently taken up programming. This creates a big gap between generations that we must bridge to speed up the process of integrating juniors into the community. That is something I strive for. Whenever I write or speak, even if I get into advanced topics, I try to break down some of the complex things into simpler chunks so all people can follow along. This path can be risky as you might appear to be oversimplifying things for the folks who already know a particular concept, but I feel like it’s our duty to make things a little more inviting and inclusive. One of the best things about our industry is the low entry barrier—you can become an amazing professional if you can think logically and have a desire to develop.
Eve Turzillo, Developer Advocate for Telerik Fiddler: Right now, the lack of time and a lack of resources. Being asked to do more with less is a tricky spot, and burnout is real for many. I hope to reach those who may not know there are out-of-the-box solutions to the problems they are facing.
Kathryn Grayson Nanz, Developer Advocate for KendoReact: Learning to think in advance about the unintended consequences of the code we write. Every time we build a piece of software, there is a risk that it might not behave in the way we intended it to. In UX, for example, we have the notion of the “happy path”—when people use the application you’ve created exactly how you thought they would—but there also is the “unhappy path” when people use it in a way you did not anticipate them to. In these cases, it is important for software engineers to be thoughtful and prepare mentally in advance that they will have to respond to that and to consider as many misuse scenarios as they can, even before shipping the new software tech out into the world.
Alyssa Nicoll, Sr. Dev Advocate for Kendo UI & Angular GDE: There are so many brilliant developers out there who get completely baffled by UI or CSS, or even when it comes to styling something. It bends my mind, because they are incredible developers and I admire their work, but then suddenly, they appear to be stumped by styling. For me, being able to alleviate some of that pain and make it less scary is exciting. I find the UI side of life easier to understand and to grok, so I want to help people with that.
I also want to emphasize that learning on the go, as you work on your projects, does not make you a fool but teaches you to be adaptable. That is a big part of the reason I stream live, constantly reading, learning and making mistakes in front of everyone—I want to promote the mindset that this is part of the life of every developer, and they should be OK with that.
Kathryn Grayson Nanz, Developer Advocate for KendoReact: I am looking to help developers understand the basics of design better for several reasons. For one, I think that designers have historically been expected to learn a lot about development to do their job, especially if they work in tech. To be able to create designs for the web or for applications, they must know some CSS basics, how responsive design works, how responsive code works, etc. I think it is time we extended the same courtesy in the other direction. We are aware of the handoff problem—when the miscommunication between devs and designers leads to design that is not translated or prioritized correctly. If both sides had that basic knowledge of what the opposite’s work consists of, I think this problem would have ceased to exist a long time ago.
Another reason I started Dev by Design was to empower developers by providing them with design basics that could be critical in situations when they do not have a designer to help them out as this happens quite often. My goal is to prevent devs from feeling uncomfortable for not having design skills—these are totally learnable and definitely not a big mystery.
Sam Basu, Developer Advocate for Telerik: One of my favorite ones has been the .NET MAUI newsletter. I like writing a lot and I enjoy the excitement that prevails in the community when a new technology comes out. The newsletter was an attempt to capture what the community is doing and put it out as a simple, easy-to-read thing for anyone excited that wants to hear more about this technology, all in one place. It’s been a lot of fun; we had 38 episodes of that newsletter in 2021 and developers find it exciting. We have also done some cool things around it, such as having a full day of streaming on Twitch about .NET MAUI—we invited a lot of folks from Microsoft and from the community just to discuss the future of this technology.
Apart from the projects connected to my passion for .NET MAUI, I also enjoy a lot all the seasonal projects we take part in as dev advocates. A recent example is our Thankmas stream in December 2021 in which we created an advent calendar app while also celebrating the holidays with fun games, costumes and casual conversations. Another example, for Valentine’s Day last year, we borrowed a concept from Love Connection, that old-school show on TV where you picked your partner blindly, and transformed it into a streaming format. We had two teams who competed to see which duo could build the best Valentine’s Day–inspired apps in React and Blazor. Alyssa and Ed were team one—the romantics who built beautiful things, inspired by the spirit of love; me and TJ, on the other hand, were on the team that hated Valentine’s Day. So, we built a flower shop and when you tried to buy flowers, we sent you weapons. These seasonal streams are super fun for the team and, hopefully, for the community to tune in to as well.
Eve Turzillo, Developer Advocate for Telerik Fiddler: Freedom from constraints. The dev community is passionate about what they do, yet many face constraints that keep them from doing everything they’d like to accomplish. My gift would remove the obstacles that come with having insufficient time, work/life integration obstacles and other barriers that can potentially hold any individual back from reaching their pinnacle.
Kathryn Grayson Nanz, Developer Advocate for KendoReact: To highlight the diversity of the dev community and help empower every developer. We have some sort of a stereotype of what programmers look like and what their experience with programming is. I, for example, do not fit into this stereotype, and it was a big part of the reason I did not pursue programming in college. I could not see myself doing that job. But as it turns out, I could have, and I did so later, so I want my example to be visible and to encourage everyone who feels pressured by the opinion of others. I wish there had been more “out-of-the-stereotype” people who I could have looked at when I was in high school making the decision about what to study (I chose design back then).
Sam Basu, Developer Advocate for Telerik: To educate and inspire through sharing my own experiences. I believe that anybody can learn a new technology—there is documentation and ways in which you can go learn by yourself. One does not need somebody else to teach them, but learning becomes much easier if someone can excite them. In the dev community, one of the most exciting things is when somebody shares their story about their personal experience with solving the problem and what new tools or technology have helped them.
Eve Turzillo, Developer Advocate for Telerik Fiddler: To be the eyes and ears for the developers we support. To be that liaison between the developers who rely on productivity solutions to make their jobs more manageable and our internal developers who work tirelessly to deliver a world-class product.
Alyssa Nicoll, Sr. Dev Advocate for Kendo UI & Angular GDE: To spread joy.
Sam Basu, Developer Advocate for Telerik: .NET MAUI will be out sometime in April or May, so a top priority of mine will be to help our customers modernize their apps and transition to .NET 6. I also want to help them do more cross-platform collaborations with .NET MAUI.
Kathryn Grayson Nanz, Developer Advocate for KendoReact: Recurring shows! I already set off with the Dev by Design show, where we look at design basics and fundamentals, but from a developer’s point of view to help them understand the concepts behind and be able to make user interfaces. I am also partnering with Alyssa for another weekly chat show—UI Mondays—where we look at frontend tools and techniques, things like CSS and HTML, UI code, etc., and we discuss the hottest frontend trends out there. Another thing that is coming up soon and I am super excited about is the Accessibility stream Alyssa and I are going to do on February 14. Expect some great accessibility content—we have four experts joining, and the talks will cover everything from deep dives on coding accessible forms and SVGs to high-level discussions on the importance of accessibility and using inclusive language.
Zooming out from the project perspective, I want all my work to focus on the human aspect of development. That is the part that appeals to me—helping people gain empathy for their users. I also hope to lift other voices in the development community to reflect the diversity that we have and break the stereotype.
Alyssa Nicoll, Sr. Dev Advocate for Kendo UI & Angular GDE: I want to find that work/life balance and help others figure it out for themselves by working within the community. With COVID, we learned how to adapt and become 100% virtual with everything. Coming out of this state and starting to have international conferences again requires finding a balance, establishing a hybrid world of sorts. This does not only have to do with work but also with one’s personal life—how do we become our best version in this new world?
Eve Turzillo, Developer Advocate for Telerik Fiddler: Lots of traveling, I hope! My calendar is shaping up pretty well right now. Expect to see me at KCDC, That Conference in Wisconsin and TechBash.
Viktoria Kuzmanova was a social media intern, part of the Developer Relations team here at Progress.
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