Developer Experience Product Manager | SendGrid
By most accounts, a developer relations team exists to go out in the world and make people feel really good about a technical product. So good that they want to dedicate any amount of time building businesses around the product represented by the team. We give out t-shirts, stickers, technical knowledge, and hugs to our community of potential customers in the hopes that one day they have a good enough reason to use our product.
We spend so much time with our customers that we know more about what they are looking for and need than anyone else in the company because we hear it over and over again. Many times though, we don’t have the opportunity or ability for our voice to be heard inside the business. This is because we don’t have regular check ins or face time with our coworkers. The information we have goes into a black hole, only to pop out as frustration, commiseration, or carefully engineered workarounds hidden in our SDKs and docs.
A product manager spends significant amounts of time with customers. Interviewing, discussing, and validating every detail of a product in the hopes that they can find something truly worthwhile to build. It can be hard to find high-quality problems or to find trends that lend themselves to really compelling problems that are not well articulated. PMs don’t scale, because they are only one person who has to not only talk to customers, but to then compile the information and produce presentations to sell the business on what the customers are telling me.
The intersection of these two roles, dev rel and product, is significant. Dev rel can and should be a conduit for customer trends, feedback, surveys, and ideas. The product manager can train the dev rel team on how to collect this information. Together, the combination of dev rel, who spend all of their time with customers identifying and solving problems, along with the product manager who is setting the direction for features and improvements is invaluable. Tracking this information and showing the value to the business, in product enhancements and new features is much easier than tracking a multi-year touchpoint-based marketing attribution funnel.
Better products can come from better connections to the customers. We already have the people, we just need the process.