Hello, you're listening to the streaming audio podcast. And this week's episode is a fun one, possibly too much fun. I might get into some trouble for not working hard enough, but in a rare alignment of our travel schedules, I actually got to be physically in the same room as a colleague of mine, Danica Fine. And we realized we have something interesting in common. We're both developers who relatively recently got tempted into this world of developer relations. So now we don't just build things, we build things and we talk about building things and it's a weird job.
And as we sat down to chat about it, we just thought it was a story worth telling. What actually is a developer advocate, how do we get to this life? And how does all that relate to the cooking habits of the duck-billed Platypus? Well, before we get into it, let me tell you that streaming audio is brought to you by developer.confluent.io, which is our education site for Apache Kafka. It's filled with free information about how to build, maintain, and monitor a successful event system. And when you need to get Kafka up and running, then take a look at our cloud Kafka service, Confluent Cloud. You can get a free account and a Kafka cluster up and running in minutes, and it will scale all the way up to production sizes. Add the promo code PODCAST100 to your account, and you'll get $100 of extra free credit. And with that, let's go on location for a change and get a view on the fun world of developer relations.
On the podcast today and live with me, if you're watching this on YouTube, we have Danica Fine. Hello, Danica.
Hello, Kris. Thanks for having me.
It's good to have you back in this glamorous location. Danica, you and I, we both have a curious job of being developer advocates for Confluent.
I'd call it curious.
Yeah. Sorry, curious. And we've both relatively recently come to this life.
Yeah. How long have you been a developer advocate?
I've been for a year. I've been a DevRel person for a year. Before that, it was always like a hobby that I did on the side of being a full-time programmer.
When is your DA anniversary?
Do you know it came and went and no one brought me a cake.
You have to tell people, Kris.
See, you are good at this DevRel thing. You know when to advertise upcoming event.
So I'm still getting used to that.
Advertise everything you do because...
Yeah, it was like last week I hit a year last week.
And no, Kris, we were all together two weeks ago. We could have bought you a cake.
Well, it was... Yeah. Okay. So we need to move on.
I'll get him a cupcake later. Okay?
Okay. Or something stronger.
You deserve one of those boozy ones where they put, like they put a shot in the cupcake.
You have better cupcake shops in California clearly.
But let's try and get to the main point.
Yes, yes, yes.
Right. So the question on the table is how did you actually get into this life? So before we get to that, tell me what you were doing before you got to this life.
Yeah. I just had a normal career as a software engineer, just... Actually, I loved it. Actually really, really loved my time as a software engineer. So I probably could have kept doing that indefinitely, honestly. So I was in business intelligence and data visualization for a little bit at Bloomberg. I actually really loved that. I love playing around with visualizations for data. And I think it's really cool to show people who don't really think about data visualizations, like what you can do with it and to represent data better. And then after that, well, during that role, I need to let you know, I would build out courses to help people internally figure out how to build visualizations on their own.
You're teaching people how to do visualization?
I was, which is like the precursor too.
Slipping down the slope.
Exactly. So I got my taste of being a DA.
When I was building those. So I loved it way too much, building out the courses and talking to people. Yeah, so from there I decided to get into more backend focused software engineering. And I ended up using this little technology called the Kafka. They were like, "Hey, do you want to use Kafka?" I don't know what that is, sure, I'll learn it. And yeah, the rest is history.
Don't think you can skip over all of that.
Maybe you could piece it together.
What were you using Kafka for?
Oh, it was really cool. I have a couple talks on that actually from Kaka summit.
Pitch your own product.
Hey, why not? Kris, you have to learn.
Okay, that's fair enough.
Pitch your product. Yeah. So I was part of a group at Bloomberg where we were the, you know, Kafka existed in the company, but we were the first team really to try to use it at scale for mission critical applications to produce market data. So we took this monolith and I think it was like 10 or 20,000 lines of code that people hadn't touched in a little while. And we're like, hey, yeah, let's move it over to Kafka streams and see what happens. And it made the system more robust and it was great. Everyone loved it. Took a while to get there.
But it was a really fun project and I fell in love with Kafka streams at the time. And yeah, I really liked talking about Kafka at that point because after we made that project work, other groups in the company were like, oh, how do we use Kafka? So again, I was like, oh I like talking about technology. Sure. I'm going to share our use case with others and now the rest is history, right? I could say that?
I think you could say that.
Okay. Okay. Good.
Was that the first exposure to Kafka?
Yeah, it was.
Oh cool. And then event streaming in general?
Yeah, that was... Yeah, because prior to that I was, like I said, I was doing some BI stuff mostly and yeah. So that was almost four years ago. Maybe? Three or four years ago. Yeah. So, but that was like a hefty application that we were building. So we got like every auxiliary Kafka related technology. We touched it all in that process and we were really pushing the limits of what you can do with Kafka stream. So it was really fun, kind of really difficult, but it was great.
Yeah. On how large team?
There were seven or eight of us. But I think only like four or five of us were working on that at that time. So it was really cool. I enjoyed it.
I can imagine. What is Bloomberg? I've not worked for a company quite like Bloomberg, but I've worked for a lot of finance companies and I imagine they're in the same huge, generally slow moving internally companies.
I think they, you know, I always hear that about financial organizations, but I think where Bloomberg's very different from other similar organizations in that they position themselves mostly as a technology company. Because they're like outside of the market, right, so they make the run market run, but they're not held to, I don't know, maybe all the same constraints as other financial organizations, kind of, and they're using a lot of really cool technologies. So the team that I was on, we were in San Francisco and it was kind of cool. Like the office that we had there was more of a startup feel where it's like, hey, what cool technologies can we use? And we were given sort of the freedom to play around with it and see what would work for the company. So yeah.
So you decided to leave them.
How does that work?
Well, I had the great opportunity to come work for Confluent full-time and talk about Kafka as my job. Which like I said, I love being a software engineer. I didn't actually want to leave that life, but I thought it was a really cool opportunity to come and be a developer advocate and see what it was like, so.
How's it been going? I mean, were you right? Was it cool? I mean, have you been enjoying DevRel life?
I think so. Yeah. No, I love how varied it is. I love that there are so many different aspects to the job. I think we talked about this before, about you don't really know what's coming up next with your job and it's like always kind of surprising. There are things that you know that developer advocates do, and then that's really only the tip of the iceberg. And then there are so many other things that go on behind the scenes, other cool things. And it's just been fun. What do you think?
I found like if I go back to my life as a programmer, you've got... You could pretty much look at my calendar every day and it would stay stand up 9 to 9:15, programming rest of day. And that's pretty much every single calendar day of my programming career, by and large.
What does it look like now?
Now it looks like a Jackson Pollock painting.
I love that.
Yeah, it's all over the place.
But in a good way?
But in a good way, yeah. It's like super varied and it's all either technology or about technology, which is exactly up my alley.
And it's fun too. All of it's fun. Like it can be very heavy technically, but it's still a fun thing. You know, that's kind of our job, I guess? Or we should talk about this, but I think I view this as making technology as accessible and as fun as possible, as interesting as possible.
Yeah. I think, I agree, but to me it's like, because I'm just such a complete geek, to me the technology already is fun and interesting.
And it's like not hiding that. It's... As a programmer, as a geek in society, you feel like you can't be too enthusiastic because you'll be seen as a nerd, right.
That's fair. But it's our job to do that now.
Now you get free past to just say, this is brilliant.
I love leaning into it. It's so much fun. I've got like a whole laundry list of projects and things that I want to implement now.
And really just build the fun things that I've been wanting to build.
You can raise your nerd flag and everyone is happy.
I think... I already kind of think I'm a nerd, but I'm worried that it's actually so much worse than I think it is. Like, there's potential there. So watch this space.
But yeah. How did you fall into it though? What were you doing prior to being a DA?
Well, I was, before this, I was a contract software developer. For about 10 years I had had a company that was mostly a Java shop before then. And I left that for reasons that we can get into...
Was it Java? Was that the reason you left?
No, no, no. There is a sliver of Java in that and at the end of that period, I felt a little bit burnt out and I felt I reached the point where if you'd asked me at the time, I thought I could do anything I needed to with Java, but I couldn't really be bothered, you know?
Java can feel a bit heavy a bit for [inaudible 00:11:06].
I felt like a Java expert who had run out of enthusiasm to get programs written.
Have you tried scholar?
There's a separate rant.
That'll be the next episode.
But I start experimenting with other languages, all right.
And through various things, I found Clojure, which is a list on the JVM.
I wanted to make a little joke in there about you finally found closure in your life, like metaphorically, or like emotionally Clojure,
Such a typical California, all your jokes eventually come back to therapy.
I just want to make sure we're okay. Everybody, all the time.
All the time.
Are we good? Yes.
Just checking where I'm a little...
Sort it out.
So I did a lot of work in Clojure for a while. And to my great surprise, started getting contract work for Clojure.
Is that really baffling?
It was because I thought it was a super niche language and it kind of is.
Oh, so you thought you were being hipster and then it was like, oh this is actually mainstream. Was that?
No, no, no, no, no, no. Thanks for accusing me. I thought this is so interesting that even though it's probably going to harm my career, I want to do this for it.
But then it worked out.
And it turns out that whilst there are far fewer jobs for Clojure, there's more demand than supply.
There are more employers looking for good Clojure people than there are good Clojure people looking for a job. So it worked out quite well for me.
And I did Clojure for a while and then I got a job working at a company that was half Clojure, half HASCO.
And that's when I was really seduced to the dark side.
Yeah. Because it's like stop being A-S-M-R or A-M-S-R or whatever that is.
You like that too much. But yeah. I just found that I'm spinning out this story of how I become a DA.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's what we do.
You're you're supposed to do that.
Yeah. Tell me, Kris.
I'm trying to get to the point. So there I am. I'm working with these HASCO people. It's like, they've got nearly everything I like about Clojure, but they have a really type system. And that's when I really went all the way down the rabbit hole functional program.
And I spent about five or six years, mostly doing functional programming as a contractor building event-driven systems.
Which is really interesting. And I loved that model of doing things. In all that time, I never found a good data store.
For event driven stuff.
That whole time.
All that whole time. Yeah. And I know for a fact that I had Kafka on my must checkout list.
Oh. So it was just there waiting.
Yeah. And it never quite percolated to the top of the list.
Okay, so how...
How? I'm on the edge of my seat, how did this happen? How did it all come together?
Because of... So meanwhile...
Up at another chapter so we can get to the point. Meanwhile, I really got interested in just generally doing like programming community stuff. So I was talking at conferences, I was trying to write more blog posts, I was organizing a meetup in a local pub in Chiswick, which is where I live. It was a monthly meetup. Any language we would just hack on something and drink beer for an evening.
That sounds pretty good.
It was great.
Is that still happening?
No, no, sad. I ran that for four and a half years and then I had to draw a line under it.
Okay. It's sad.
Yeah. But it was great fun. And one of the things that made it great fun was everybody in the room would split into teams and everyone would solve the same problem.
But in different languages. So you get to the end of the night and you get to see an [inaudible 00:14:46] team and you'd never looked at, but you saw an [inaudible 00:14:49] team solving the same problem you'd solved in a completely different way.
Okay. That's really cool. That's awesome.
That was good times.
Should do that. That should be new meet up.
As you know, I'd happily start a new one now if London was actually open for meetup, which is starting to be.
Okay, so soon. By the end of the year. So do it again. That would be fine.
So I've been doing all this, basically, DevRel stuff on the side in a way. And one of the regulars at my meetup was Ben Stopford.
Celebrity alert, man. He was just casually showing up to those.
That's pretty cool.
Ben Stopford, he's just like you.
He's just an ordinary guy, famous author of the book, Designing Event-Driven Systems.
It's a great book.
Yeah. And yeah, so I knew him when he worked back in the banking world. And I remember him moving to some Kafka-esque company in those early days and I thought, oh yeah, I'll bump Kafka a few points up my to do list. I still never got round to it.
Where was it on the list now? Like 10 down.
It's a very long list filled with conferences over the years. I never... It was sort of... You could feel, looking back, you could feel the narrative percolation to the top of the list. And then I had one contract was working for a blockchain company.
Which I still to this day I find technically very interesting and business wise, really a solution looking for a problem.
Yeah. I agree.
Yeah. I think some people will find that controversial. Some people will not find it, but yeah. I like the people I work with. I love the technology we're working on. After a couple of years I absolutely couldn't see the point of why we were doing it.
And out the blue who should phone me up saying the infamous words in our industry, would you like to meet for a coffee? None other than Ben Stopford.
Oh man. And the rest was history?
And the rest was history.
I love, love that. [inaudible 00:16:56] Yeah. Yeah. I was just looking for the right place. Awesome. But, and you became a developer advocate.
Yeah. Basically he said, do you want to... I feel like, okay, so this is praising the interview, but he said, do you want to do like coding and talking about coding and going to conferences?
And the answer is always yes, I feel.
And I said, yes, but what's the catch? And he said, all the stuff you build has to be built with a database. And I'm like, okay, that doesn't seem like a big ask. Which database? He's like Kafka and I'm like okay.
Kafka's a database?
Kafka is a database. Yeah. Controversial.
He opened with that.
No, he didn't. I'm priceying what Ben said.
Okay. First off I love... That's a verb? Priceying?
Yeah. It's pricey something.
I mean, I know that a pricey is a... That's a noun.
See, I always think of Americans as people who will verb anything.
But you've just verb a noun.
[inaudible 00:17:51] I think we use the nation of verb now.
Now you're verbing verb. Is that a verb?
I think we can verb verb.
I haven't flipped through the dictionary recently enough.
Do you know it's a very mutable language.
Okay. Take a look later and see. All words are made up, so.
All words made up like [inaudible 00:18:12] and words like that.
Kookaburra. No, that one's real.
Yeah. It's a real made up word.
They're weird looking birds.
They are weird looking birds. They look fatter than they should.
They don't, it's not, they just, they look like something out of a studio Ghibli film.
But in real life. It's moderately concerning to me because they're just everywhere in Australia.
Is this... Great thing about Australia is it's clearly from the same planet, but at some point their species just diversified off and you get things like that. Platypus...
And it's incredible.
What's going on with that?
And also, I think, echidnas there too?
Like why do these things all just exist there?
Do you know?
I love it.
Would you like my... I'll give you my Platypus trivia because I like the duck-billed platypus.
I got it. I'm so ready for this.
Two bits of Platypus trivia. The first is when they first brought platypli back to the Royal Academy of Sciences in London or whatever, they thought it was a hoax. They thought someone had surgically stitched a Duck's bill onto a rat.
Oh no. Okay.
It was ages before they realized actually this is a creature that's ruining all our [inaudible 00:19:22]
What? Rooting it. Well, echidna kind of does the same thing, right?
Doesn't it also lay eggs or something?
It lay eggs. It's a mammal. It suckles it's young. It's like, what is it? Is it a mammal? Is it a bird? I don't know.
Does it have wings? No. Okay. Well the platypus, I guess, kind of [inaudible 00:19:38] anyway. Okay.
Anyway so there is the first fact and the other great fact, right? So it lays eggs.
It suckles its young so it produces milk.
It is therefore the only creature in the world that can make its own custard. Eggs and milk. It can make custard. Theoretically.
Has anyone done that?
Somebody must have done.
I imagine it's a protected species. So maybe we can't do that.
Probably, yeah. It seems a bit cruel. But even the theory they could make our own custard would be wonderful.
That is fascinating.
Yeah. So you're joining us here on the Australian animal podcast.
So reeling this back into Kafka.
Yes. Okay. How do we recover that?
How do we recover? You, I believe, are visiting Australia soon as part of your DevRel life.
So I've been told.
Yeah. Taking anyone with you?
Yeah. Just this weird canyon, Kris. So sir Kris Jenkins, he's coming with me. You may have heard of him.
Thank you for... I don't think your vote counts, but I like that you're fishing for my knighthood.
Sir Kris, I love that it's a palindrome. I want that for you.
I think history needs a palindromic knight and I'm the only person able to step up.
Absolutely. If we can start the vote on that, I don't know if that's definitely not a crowd source thing.
But it's a could be in the future.
If there are any politicians listening, we could...
Phone in now or [inaudible 00:21:08], let's get this. Secure this for you. But yeah, we are going.
We're going to Australia and Singapore.
We're really excited.
It's going to be great fun.
Oh man. It's going to be so much fun. I mean, now that I'm chalked full of trivia.
Yeah, share with the locals.
They're going to be like, yeah, we know. Yeah, no.
So what are we doing while we're out there?
What are we doing? Entirely too much, but also not enough. So I think it might be the perfect amount, hopefully, hopefully, but it'll all be interesting. I promise.
Well, this is DevRel life, right? So we are, we're speaking a conference. We're talking to customers.
Yes. Some meetups.
We're doing hackathon work out there.
Yes. Like a hackathon workshop.
It's all about code in the end.
It is. It is. But also we're going to have fun along the way. So we are speaking at what? NDC Melbourne?
NCD Melbourne, yeah.
That's going to be incredible. I look forward to that. I think we both speak on the final day of that, the 25th, right?
We do. So here's a little bit of DevRel trivia. If you are in this life, you will know it. And if you are not in this life, you won't so share, you must have found this. So if you speak at a conference, there are two conferences you are at. There's the conference before you give your talk and there's the conference after your talk.
Yes. I agree.
They are two different beasts.
Unfortunately, I think we're both speaking on the final day. And I think I speak on the final time slot as well. So I only get one conference out of this conference.
But you get a little bit more.
But yes, I absolutely agree. I agree.
It's different. Right? When you've... It's hard to let go of pairing the talk in your mind before you give it.
Absolutely. I mean, I'm here with you today because I'm in London for Devoxx UK. And thankfully my talk is like right in the middle of the conference.
So I was able to see a couple things beforehand while I was frantically preparing. And it was really nice to see a bunch of really great talks afterwards, so. For my second conference. Conference number two. But yeah, no, Australia's going to be great. We have a lot of great meetups planned and more in the works.
So I think I know I use this phrase too much, but watch this space, seriously. There's going to be a lot of cool things.
You're going to saying much this space until you say, and the rest was history.
Absolutely. Yeah. Why not? I only have a couple go to phrases and...
I do believe when we're out there, I'm being cameraman for your... You're going to really record some release notes.
I believe so. Yeah. We're going to see the stars align with all the upcoming release dates, but yeah, there will be a camera. I'm hoping that we have some really good social media moments, live tweeting and running around NDC Melbourne as well, so.
We'll put it on TikTok.
No, you first.
We'll try and figure out TikTok, and then if we figure it out, we'll put some stuff.
It's not really a goal at the top of my list. So we'll see if that comes together, but regardless, we will have a lot of really great moments. We will have a camera with us and I think we'll get a lot of good podcast out of it as well.
I hope so. Some more field recording for the podcast.
Yeah, that'll be great. We'll do it. Like, run around like The Office style, like have some really good... Anyway. No, that's a US thing. I think that the US Office was better than the UK office.
Jeez, I never saw the office, the UK or the American one. I never saw it. It's just, I think I was traveling at the time and the whole series just passed me by.
You were traveling the entire time?
I think so.
Kris, that has multiple years of your life.
It's a busy life. It was all, you know, if you can remember it, you weren't there. Yeah.
So you're okay. Right? Coming full circle here.
Well, I think, okay. I think the takeaway from today is that we both settled into the DA life and it is incredible.
Yes. It's great fun. And it's a great way to... You know how so many people are in this industry get promoted out of programming, into management and you end up managing the thing you love instead of doing the thing you love. And this is brilliant because we get to stay doing the thing we love, but we're so much around it to fill out the variety.
Yeah. I do love it. I do.
It's a good times.
I do. I almost feel bad when I talk to people I know. And you know, we're talking about work and I just love my job too much, I think. So I want everyone to experience this, you know.
For my wife and my mother, I'd just like to remind everybody that it's really hard work too.
It's super hard work.
We're incredibly busy all the time, but I don't think I would have it any other way.
No, it's a roller coaster. Sometimes it's incredibly busy, but it's huge fun.
And I get to talk to lovely people like you.
Kris, but yeah. So what, if you could sum it up? What does being a DA mean to you in one sentence or two or three? However many sentences you need.
There's... Let's see. It's about building stuff and talking about it. Often I think our job is two things. We build stuff, right, and then if it goes well, we talk to people who might want to build their own kind of stuff like that. If it goes badly, we go and talk to the product teams and say, we've got some rough edges.
Either way. We get to build things and talk to people.
Yeah, so if you like that life, geeking out and then talking to people, it's a great life.
It works out.
But how about you? What's your summary?
That's my summary. Well, I think in my previous two roles, like I said, I kind of fall into that... I want people to know what they can do with the technology, because most of the time I feel like the pain points that people hit with any sort of tech is just not knowing what they don't know, right?
Yeah. [inaudible 00:27:03].
And even if the docs are great there's always people out there who just miss something. Right? So, yeah. I just I love having the ability to help point those things out to people and so that they can have that aha moment or finally get over that blocker. Right? So, yeah. I guess, I don't know, this probably is a negative connotation, but I love being an enabler. Like helping people get what they need out of, out of Kafka, out of the technologies here so it's been great. I think that's what it means for me.
Being an enabler. That's a nice note to end on.
I'm going to add that to my resume.
Thanks for being on the podcast again.
Thank you for having me, this was incredible fun.
Cool. I will see you in Australia.
Yeah. That's probably the next time I'll see you.
Cheers, peace out.
And there we leave it. The next time Danica and I cross paths in the real world will be in Singapore and Australia towards the end of June, we're going to be doing some conference talks, some meetups, some podcasts, meeting as many people as we can, talking about Kafka. And I can already tell it's going to be a lot of fun, fairly chaotic, and hopefully very enabling as Danica would say. At the risk of encouraging us, if you enjoyed that, now is the perfect time to click like or thumbs up or leave us a review or whatever your podcast user interface offers by way of feedback. We'd love to hear from you. And if you want to get in touch, you'll find our Twitter handles in the show notes. So drop us a line directly. We are currently hiring for another member of our team. So if that sounded like something you'd like to be a part of, send me a message. I would love to talk to you about it
For more information on Kafka itself, heads to developer.confluent.io, where you'll find everything from high level overviews of what Kafka does well, to deep dives into this technology that makes it work. And when you need to get Kafka up and running, take a look at Confluent Cloud, which is our fully managed Apache Kafka service. You can get started in minutes and if you add the promo code PODCAST100 to your account, you'll get $100 of extra free credit to use. And with that, it just remains for me to thank Danica Fine for joining us and you for listening. I've been your host, Kris Jenkins, and I'll catch you next time.
What is a developer advocate and how do you become one? In this episode, we have seasoned developer advocates, Kris Jenkins (Senior Developer Advocate, Confluent) and Danica Fine (Senior Developer Advocate, Confluent) answer the question by diving into how they got into the world of developer relations, what they enjoyed the most about their roles, and how you can become one.
Developer advocacy is at the heart of a developer community—helping developers and software engineers to get the most out of a given technology by providing support in form of blog posts, podcasts, conference talks, video tutorials, meetups, and other mediums.
Before stepping into the world of developer relations, both Danica and Kris were hands-on developers. While dedicating professional time, Kris also devoted personal time to supporting fellow developers, such as running local meetups, writing blogs, and organizing hackathons.
While Danica found her calling after learning more about Apache Kafka® and successfully implemented a mission-critical application for a financial services company—transforming 2,000 lines of codes into Kafka Streams. She enjoys building and sharing her knowledge with the community to make technology as accessible and as fun as possible.
Additionally, the duo previews their developer advocacy trip to Singapore and Australia in mid-June, where they will attend local conferences and host in-person meetups on Kafka and event streaming.
If there's something you want to know about Apache Kafka, Confluent or event streaming, please send us an email with your question and we'll hope to answer it on the next episode of Ask Confluent.Email Us