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Nov 03, 2021 • Issue #69 by Aron Korenblit

The rise of the no-code (developer) advocate

I wanted to talk about a trend I've been seeing: the rise of what I'm calling the no-code (developer) advocate. The best manifestation of this trend is at Webflow where Pixelgeek came back to the main Webflow channel and they poached Lacey Kesler from Adalo's education team. You may have also noticed that my face appearing much more on Airtable's Youtube channel.

I'm no David Peterson so I won't say that the next big job in tech is no-code advocate but here's why I think you'll see more of us in the future.

What is dev advocacy?

Developer relations where dev advocacy sits is an umbrella term that includes technical documentation, developer community, developer relations and much more depending on the company (here's a good primer from Shawn Wang aka Swyx). Regardless of how they measure or define it, dev rel's objective is to grow the number of developers that actively use their product. That might sound like a marketing function—getting people to use your product—but how they come about it is very different. First and foremost, advocates specifically are experts in a domain. That could be running tests, a specific language, payments etc. That expertise provides credibility with that space which a company can leverage into more developers. It requires an ability to speak to more than just the company that pays your bills. It's a tricky line however: the community must feel that you're not purely a member to promote your company's product. With that mind, you also have to answer—in some form or fashion—to your company's bottom line. Here's a good piece on Demystifying Dev Advocacy from Angie Jones.

No-code (visual?) advocates

Before I get into it, I'm going to just say that yes, this title is a whole new level of oxymoron. It's bad enough that we still use no-code for tools that increasingly leverage code (and at their core are purely code abstractions) but now we're also borrowing their job titles. I can't untie this knot.

There's a clear parallel between dev advocacy and what Pixelgeek/Lacey/myself do. We have an established credibility in the visual developer/no-code space. Furthermore (and here I speak for myself), my goal is to advocate on behalf of no-code generally first and foremost (Airtable second or not at all). I want non-technical folks to be able to create beautiful workflows in the tools that they prefer, making their teams more efficient and productive. It just so happens that often I strongly believe the tool they need is Airtable. If I feel like that's not the case, I don't feel the need to recommend Airtable and am more than happy to guide them elsewhere! My goal is to grow the pie before asking myself what size of the pie each tool should get (that's marketing's job)!

One of the canonical article on what is a developer advocate outlines a few key requirements:

  • Community first mindset
  • Technical expertise in their company's product and an understanding of adjacent products (!)
  • Communication skills
  • Creative mindset

What a great summary to the skillsets of folks like Nelson, Lacey, Marie-Poulin (from notion—although notion does not employ Marie, but they should!) and others!

If no-code is simply a layer of abstraction above coding, why wouldn't companies adopt similar roles in approaching and growing the community (and their respective communities)?

Why invest in advocates

No-code grow bottoms-up: a creator sees a problem and decides to create their own tool to solve it. That is not unlike the way a developer approaches solving issues and is very much the opposite of how tools were adopted historically via decision makers. The aforementioned David Peterson wrote a great piece on customer built growth. Creators, just like developers, care about features not benefits. They care about whether they can connect a multi reference field from Airtable to Webflow more than whether their team can be "fast" or "nimble" with the tools they're using. Marketing-speak doesn't cut it when the decider is also the builder! They care about functionality. And that's precisely where advocates can make a difference—guiding them to the right tools, creating content enabling their journey as no-coders, helping them navigate a new career as a "no-coder" and growing the community of folks building their own tools.

An interesting question will be where do we fit in the org? Are they a product function taking and giving feedback from the community? Do they sit within marketing and get tasked with generating leads? Is there a separate "place" for them far away from lead generation but not quite in product? Or do they all eventually break off and start their own thing on top of the tools they love?

Who knows? All I know is that the rise of no-code also means the necessity for companies to supercharge their advocates. And I'm here for it.

Until next week, keep building!

Aron

PS Now that you've read the whole thing, tell me how I can make this newsletter 10% better? I'd appreciate it.

Thanks to Zoelle (@zoelle) and David (@edavidpeterson) for reviewing this newsletter before it reached your inbox!

Special thanks to Ben Parker (@rileyrichter) from the Visual dev FM team for letting me rummage through his links to share some with y'all.

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