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Employee Spotlight: Tamas Piros on His Path to DevRel and His Passion for Developer Advocacy

Recently, I sat down with our Director of Developer Advocacy, Tamas Piros, to learn more about his background, his work here at Cloudinary, and what he thinks about the world of DevRel and how it has changed over the last 10 years. 

Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Where you’re based, your background, and what led you to Cloudinary?

Absolutely. My name is Tamas and I am based in Singapore. My journey in tech started in the late 90s (yes, I am that old) and I clearly remember that what put me on this journey was when I found a book on HTML 3. I was fascinated by the fact that I could type some characters in a notepad, save it as HTML, and a browser would transform those characters into tables and other elements. There was no turning back from there.

Over the years I have worked in the web ecosystem, I did consultancy for a firm creating a web-based satellite management system, did technical training for a NoSQL company, and then I ended up at Cloudinary. Time flies by as this was six years ago. I have used Cloudinary before in a few projects and when I saw the opening for a developer advocate role, I thought I’d try my chances. 

Today at Cloudinary I wear multiple hats. I am responsible for our Ambassador program and I also actively participate at events around the world delivering talks or workshops to curious attendees. There’s more of course, but let’s not bore our readers.

You’re celebrating 10 years in DevRel this year, congrats! Can you tell us what this means to you and how much the role has shifted and evolved over the last decade?

Thank you! Spending 10 years in DevRel means that I have seen a lot — the good, the bad, and the ugly. If I’m honest, DevRel is really my cup of tea. I am technical, I love to code (in moderation), and I love to talk about coding and share my knowledge. What I especially like is when I learn a new language or framework, I fall into a lot of pitfalls. I make a lot of mistakes but this means that when I talk about it, others will not have to go through the same because I can provide them with the right path. Having done this for 10 years is something that I am incredibly grateful for.

DevRel has also changed significantly over time. Ten years ago, we knew it was important for organizations to have a presence at events and meet with developers, but we didn’t know how to track this or how to show the value. It’s important for a developer-first company to be visible and in close contact with their developer base (both current and future).

Today, due to the changes (and challenges) in the IT industry and the market as a whole, it is increasingly important to demonstrate what value DevRel brings to the organization by making sure that the DevRel initiatives and (quarterly) objectives highly match those of the organization. The DevRel community collectively has done a lot to make sure that tracking activities and value that DevRel brings is accounted for appropriately. I’m not saying that attribution is easy as during a decade of having this role, I have only two stories to share where a talk or workshop has directly influenced someone becoming a paid customer.

I have always followed the approach of “educate first.” What I mean by this is that I focus on the issues that developers face and I provide them with educational material by way of a conference talk for example that explores the issue, offers solutions — and as part of the solution I show what the business can offer. This has worked really well over the years.

If you think about getting into DevRel, understand that there are multiple aspects for this role. There are some DevRel folks who run communities, some who produce content, and some who deliver talks at conferences and meetups (and some who do a mix of these, of course). Each and every company will have their own flavor of the DevRel role, so make sure to do your research first and have work to showcase when you land that interview!

What dev trends are top of mind these days? What should developers early in their career be thinking about and focusing on? 

This is a tricky question. The developer landscape, especially web development, is changing at a rapid pace. Sometimes by the time you finish watching an educational YouTube video about a framework, you can watch another one where they announce breaking changes. Jokes aside, the web ecosystem is progressing at the speed of light. There are a vast number of frameworks, libraries, technologies, and service providers to choose from. Even though the development pace seems too fast, there has never been a better time to work on something for the web. Finally, browser vendors are collaborating with each other, framework authors are sharing their knowledge, and something that took a lot of work and development effort five to 10 years ago can be done much easier today.

My advice for newcomers in the web development industry is: no matter what, start from the basics. I often work with coding bootcamps where I deliver workshops to current students or alumni, and get questions about a specific framework, but the question is really about JavaScript. So, if you are new to all of this, make sure that you focus on HTML, CSS, and JavaScript first. Get really good at it. Understand the intricacies of JavaScript, especially. Everything else on the web runs on top of these three technologies. Once you’re comfortable with them, you can then start exploring the larger ecosystem. And, while it can be intimidating at first, very soon you will realize that once you know how two to three frameworks work, the next 10 work mostly the same.

Another piece of advice would be to start building. Write code, debug it, investigate how things work, be curious. That is how you will learn and get better at what you do.

Fun fact time. Your LinkedIn profile says Watch Enthusiast. Can you tell us more about that?

Absolutely. I am also a certified watchmaker and a collector of fine timepieces. I am intrigued by the mechanisms found in mechanical watches: how miniscule screws, gears, and springs can power a device that accurately tells the time, often for days and weeks. The engineering, history, and craftsmanship of the watch industry is truly inspiring as well. And, tinkering with watches relaxes me when I’m not on my knees searching for a 0.03 mm screw that I dropped on the floor.

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