Posted in September 2012

On hiring developer evangelists and community managers

I’ve been talking to a number of small, technology focused companies about developer outreach. Many are beginning to realize that they need staff dedicated to marketing and developer outreach, but they aren’t sure where to start in terms of finding someone to do this type of work. It’s a challenging role to hire for, as you need someone with a skill set at the intersection of technology and marketing. In addition to profiling a few of my colleagues in the space, I thought I’d provide some insight into places that companies can explore to find candidates for these roles.

Look at your community

Leaders naturally emerge in technical communities. The people within your community who are excited about your technology, who are answering questions on the forum and in IRC, and who are organizing local meetups are the ones that are likely to be effective in a developer evangelism or community management role. And if there isn’t anyone engaged with your product at that level, consider looking at similar communities.

Nathen Harvey strikes me as an excellent example of this approach. While web ops manager at CustomInk, he organized the DC MongoDB and DevOps meetups. As he became more involved in the community, specifically around evangelism of Chef, it was no surprise when OpsCode hired him as their community manager.

Look at your existing staff

Sometimes it’s helpful to look within the company to see if there is someone on the staff that might be well-suited for an evangelism role. There are some engineers that naturally gravitate towards community outreach, but may not realize that this type of position can be a career path for them. Look at the team and see who enjoys interacting with the open source community, attending meetups, and speaking at conferences already.

Some developers may be apprehensive about giving up their engineering responsibilities in order to focus on marketing. In approaching them about a change in their role, I recommend sharing these great blog posts from developer evangelists that I respect tremendously:

Poach

Another approach is to find someone who’s just done it before. There are more technology companies than ever employing engineers in technical evangelism roles. Think about the companies that do amazing work with developer outreach, and find out who is behind that. Participate in events like Community Leadership Summit, local user groups, and technical conferences where technical leaders congregate.

More Resources

I’m not aware of many lists or job boards for these types of roles, but here are a few places to start:

If you have other suggestions, please post in the comments section!

Community Manager Profile: Ana Hevesi of Nodejitsu

Over the past few months, several people have asked me how to find and hire people to do community management and developer outreach. I decided to profile the community managers that I respect the most on my blog in order to provide some insight into the types of people that do this work, as well as their day-to-day activities.

To kick things off, I conducted a short interview with Ana Hevesi, the head of community at Nodejitsu, a company that provides node.js cloud products and services. I met Ana through the Union Square Ventures network when she was working at Shapeways. She has always impressed me with her insights on community, so I’m pleased to share her story here.

Tell me about the community that you manage.

I work with the node.js developer community; these are the people who are pushing the boundaries of server-side Javascript. The community is driven by open source, and it’s attracting a lot of industry veterans as well as hackers who are new to the game. People are passionate about this technology and in many cases they’re coming together across different companies and disciplines to help it succeed.

Describe your role and day-to-day activities.

One of the best things about Nodejitsu is that our company was built out of the node.js community itself. My role is to expand the greater node ecosystem and to build out the people-facing side of Nodejitsu. Specifically, this means I handle all of our sponsorships, our engagement at events (hackathons, conferences, meetups), collaboration with friends and partners on community initiatives, our user feedback pipeline, and keep a watchful eye on engagement with our open source projects. Most recently, I’ve been on a mission to connect to organizers of independently run node meetups around the US (and soon, the world!).

How did you become community manager at nodejitsu?

I’d been working as a community manager for a few years, most recently at Shapeways, but had always found myself drawn to hanging with and working with developers. At the beginning of this year, I decided to start learning Javascript. I’d known HTML and CSS for years, but was frustrated that my front-end development skills stopped there, so I hunkered down and realized that I really loved it. The Nodejitsu team actually found me online, met with me in person, and convinced me to come on board. It was kind of the luckiest thing ever.

You can find Ana on Twitter at @anoemi. Get Ana’s perspective on community by following her awesome blog, Enemy Gate Down.

HOW TO RUN A TECH CONFERENCE PART 5: EVENT LOGISTICS & TIMELINE

This is the fifth post in my series on running a tech conference. In today’s post, I’ll outline a basic timeline for event logistics.

  1. Getting Started: Goals and Vision
  2. Choosing a Venue
  3. Budget and Sponsors
  4. Finding Speakers
  5. Event Logistics & Timeline
  6. Promotion of your Event
  7. The Day Of!
  8. Fun Tips & Tricks

To get organized for a conference, you probably need about four months. We’ve pulled off conferences at 10gen in some cases in 6-8 weeks, but that is an extremely tight timeline. The more time that you can give yourself to line up speakers and get the word out, the better! Just bear in mind, no matter how much planning you do, there will always be a crunch period the few weeks leading up to an event. The best that you can do is be prepared for that by clearing your schedule of other obligations and lining up volunteers to help manage the last-minute details.

T – 120 days

An event isn’t real until the venue has been booked and registration page is live. Working on a four month timeline, you want to get these basic items completed 120 days in advance of the event.

  • Outline the budget
  • Book venue
  • Place tentative catering orders, with the expectation that details may change based on registration
  • Set up website and registration (for simplest registration I recommend using Eventbrite)
  • Create speaker guidelines and talk submission form; open call for speakers
  • Create sponsorship package; open call for sponsors

T – 90 days

Once the basic logistics are in place, it’s time to start getting the word out.

  • Send “save the date” and call for speakers / sponsors announcements to your mailing list, relevant forums and user groups, and via social media
  • List on any relevant tech event calendars
  • Contact any high profile speakers that you want to invite to submit talks or keynote your event
  • Begin outreach to potential sponsors of the event
  • Identify any promotional opportunities for your event (e.g. media sponsorships, mailing list rental, online advertisements, cross-promotional swaps with other events, etc.)

T – 75 days

With the event two and a half months away, you should start confirming the content of the conference.

  • CFP closes
  • Submissions reviewed and draft agenda created
  • Outreach to any speakers to fill in gaps in subject matter

In addition, you should continue promotion and start executing on any promotional opportunities that you’ve identified.

T – 60 days

As we get closer to the event, it’s time to get some of the peripheral logistics sorted out

  • Book any social events around the conference (e.g. reception, after-party, speaker dinner)
  • Design and order any promotional items (e.g. t-shirts and stickers)
  • Do the final round of sponsorship outreach

In addition to the logistical items above, you should of course continue promoting the event!

  • Announce the agenda of speakers
  • Start promoting the content on your website and in your email marketing
  • Get the speakers and sponsors to spread the word through their networks

T – 45 days

This is a good time to work ahead, so that you limit the inevitable last-minute scrambling. In particular, you’ll want to set and communicate expectations for the speakers and sponsors on deadlines for logistical items.

  • Put together staff, sponsor, and speaker information guides with all of the information that they need about the event (speaking expectations, location, etc.) – we put these on a wiki page for easy reference by the participants
  • Prepare email templates for future communication (e.g. reminders about deliverables such as slides)
  • Outline the schedule of shifts for the various staff members
  • Send an email to registered attendees with instructions for preparing for the event, and encourage them to spread the word and invite friends
  • Reach out to reporters or analysts to discuss the event and how they’d benefit from attending or reporting on the activity

T – 30 days

About a month prior to the conference is when you want to start finalizing the basic content, sponsors, and logistics so that you can focus on refining.

  • Final promotional push related to early bird pricing; expect to have 65% of the tickets sold once early bird ends
  • Deadline for sponsors to sign on (any later than this and they may miss the opportunity to be included in print materials)
  • Remind sponsors that they must provide any materials (e.g. logo, short description) for website, email marketing, conference program, etc.
  • Deadline for speakers draft talks and make any final tweaks to talk titles, abstracts, and bios for inclusion in print materials

T – 21 days

With three weeks to spare, it’s time to get as much of the print work completed as possible. This is why it’s so important to get your speakers and sponsors confirmed with 30 days to spare!

  • Design any collateral (signage, agendas, conference program, swag, etc.)
  • Send all design work to printer
  • Design a name tag template, but do not print as you will likely have people registering up until the last week

This is also a good time to send a first round of feedback to speakers on their slides.

T – 14 days

Hopefully if you’ve been planning well, you should be well organized for the final two weeks before the event.

  • Finalize staff schedule and send calendar invites for shifts
  • Schedule a logistical call for all staff and volunteers to review roles and responsibilities

T – 7 days

With one week to go, your main job is communication with the various participants.

  • Hold staff logistics meeting to review roles and responsibilites
  • Send final speaker and sponsor logistical reminders
  • Make the final push for registration
  • Confirm all bookings and contracts
  • Mail and freight items should be shipped to the venue, along with return shipping labels for any items that will be shipped back

T – 2 days

With two days to spare, you will mostly be putting out fires: a speaker with a last minute conflict, last-minute registrants with questions, and volunteers with questions. In addition, there are a few final items to get done before the big day:

  • Final reminder to attendees with logistical information
  • Track any packages to make sure that everything arrives on time
  • Pack your conference survival kit, including Mac adaptors, slide clickers, scissors, tape, sharpies, and power bars
  • Print name tags

The event

I will cover all of the “day of!” logistics in part 7 of this series!

After the event

Once the event is over, there is a considerable amount of follow up work to be done.

  • Send thank you emails and gifts to speakers and sponsors
  • Send thank you email to attendees with a survey for feedback
  • Gather and post slides and videos in central place and promote via social media, conference newsletter, etc.

This post should give you a sense of the complexity of organizing a large scale conference. In the next post in the series, we’ll talk about best practices for promoting your conference.

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