Kim Maida - Zoologist Becomes a Developer Advocate (#32)


Kim is the Head of Developer Relations at Auth0 and is a Google Developer Expert in Angular and Web Technologies. She’s passionate about identity, authentication, constant learning, and developer communities. As a developer advocate, engineer, and international speaker, she loves learning from and sharing with other inhabitants of the tech space. She also enjoys mentoring engineers who are interested in leadership.

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Episode Summary

“I basically want to come up with ways that the company can interact with developers through us to get the developers the best experience that we can give them and also sort of bring their feedback back into the company in an effective way”

—Kim Maida

In this episode we’ll cover:

  1. How Kim got into tech after studying biology, zoology, neurobiology and animal behavior in college.
  2. Strategies for dealing with burnout. How do you move forward when you are feeling exhausted?
  3. How Kim got her first speaking opportunity. What are some strategies for practicing?

Key Milestones


Intro (00:13):

Grant Ingersoll (00:19):

Welcome back to all our listeners, new and old. You’re listening to the Develomentor podcast, your source for interviews and content on careers in technology and I’m your host grant Ingersoll or some 30 episodes in and we’ve learned so much already from people in a wide variety of roles. We’ve met self-taught programmers, convicted felons who’ve turned their life around in a psych major who went on to become a CIO. Today’s guest once again fits the role of someone who didn’t start off their college career focused on tech, but somehow ended up there anyways. In fact, if my notes are right, she was our first guest to start her career in zoology before getting involved in web design and development. From there, she’s landed her current role, which is the head of developer relations for a leading identity management company. She also happens to be one of the few guests of the show I’ve actually met in real life as we just so happen to have run into each other at All Things Open a few weeks back. Please welcome to the show Kim Maida. Kim, great to have you here.

Kim Maida (01:20):

Thank you. Great to be here.

Grant Ingersoll (01:21):

Yeah. And thanks so much for joining me. I, you know, I’ve, I mentioned in that lead in, you know, you’ve turned the zoo ology degree into a developer role and then developer relationships. Why don’t you just fill us in on the blanks between that, you know, share your career path with us.

Kim Maida (01:40):

Sure. okay. So basically I started learning HTML when I was in I think like fifth grade at a summer camp science summer camp for girls at the university where I live. And I went on to sort of do little websites on as a hobby, like dozens of sites on geocities, things like that. And then when I actually went to college though, it never really occurred to me that I could get a job doing web development. So I went to school for mechanical engineering in fact, and then sort of a little ways into that, switched my major to biology, zoology neurobiology and animal behavior. And I got my degree and then I sort of went to work in the field a little bit. I did some field research and as I was doing that, I was thinking about where I wanted to go from there.

Kim Maida (02:36):

And I sort of decided that I didn’t really want to pursue a PhD and become a professor. That’s sort of the logical path for a lot of people who get their degrees in that particular field. So essentially I decided to go back to school and when I went back to school I was going to do dietetics and try to become a dietician. And while I was in school again for Dietetics I actually got a job with university doing web development for the university. And as I was doing that, I sort of realized there is a sort of like career future in this that I would really like. And so I ended up switching my degree again to web and digital media. And in fact I was working mostly full time at a digital agency before I finished that degree. And I was sort of taking classes intermittently during that and then sort of graduated with that degree, went onto another digital agency, did some work for universities and eventually sort of came into my role where I worked at, worked at Osseo, essentially writing like blog posts, technical tutorials for the, the [inaudible] blog and sort of in between there I had a stint working at a digital agency where I sort of worked my way up to be an engineering manager.

Kim Maida (04:07):

And during that time I got burned out pretty badly. I was working probably like a hundred dollars a week. I had a, I’d had a baby recently and so I wasn’t seeing my baby. I was working just exhaustedly and, and I was, I was sort of done. I had enough at that point. So I left that company and went and started writing blog articles for for us, zero. And then through some times spent at osteo, working more and more closely with some of the community of developers can use the product and who read the blog articles and try and follow tutorials and talking to them. I discovered, I really like talking to and working with developers and helping them to succeed. So I eventually came into a role where I was managing the technical content team and the community team. And then from there I landed in developer relations.

Kim Maida (05:08):

I had started speaking at conferences and events and really enjoyed that aspect of not only interacting with developers online but also being able to talk to them face to face, both from the stage and then doing sort of speaking with them after talks in between talks and, and sort of helping them out with any problems that they may have or things, things that they wanted to learn. And I started getting more into mentorship also. I really wanted to see other people succeed who didn’t necessarily come from a traditional CS background. Because I had had a lot of experience sort of riding that career roller coaster to get to the place that I am now.

Grant Ingersoll (05:50):

That’s fantastic. And I think on that last note, I, you perhaps you’re my next guest host because that’s, this show is all about I don’t know you know, it’s, it’s some of my own need to give back there I guess too. But the, the mentorship side of it is, is really fulfilling. I want to come back to that, but, but first, you know, before we go any further, you know, because I really did my research here is a LinkedIn stalker and if, if, if I did my research right, I believe your second gig was doing bee research and specifically your profile says you did wiggle dance analysis, please tell me that is as awesome as it sounds.

Kim Maida (06:32):

It’s, excuse me, it’s probably not quite as glamorous as it sounds, but so essentially honey bees, when they go out and they forage for food and they find something like you know, a passionate, really good flower or something, they’d fly back to the hive. And once they’re in the hive, they essentially do what’s called a waggle dance where they will sort of wiggle their abdomen and spin in circles. And the other bees will call them and they will sort of touch the bee with their antenna. That’s, that’s dancing. And from that waggle dance, it’s actually like a navigation pattern. So they can learn how to get to that resource from the dance behavior of the bee that’s returning to the hive. And essentially the, the analysis thing isn’t really as glamorous as it probably sounds. We basically sit there and the, we have a hive that has a glass glass over it so that we can see everything that’s going on. And then we just sort of mark down every time they waggle and every time they turn and how long do the ans last and things like that.

Grant Ingersoll (07:37):

Nice. And then I imagine little cameras and GPS trackers embedded so you can follow them all. Just kidding.

Kim Maida (07:45):

That would be great. But it was a little more manual than that.

Grant Ingersoll (07:50):

You know, well these days you probably could do machine learning, video analysis on it. And I think just for the sake of our listeners on such a, a good topic, you know, we’ll be sure to link up some videos in the show notes here. So let’s get back on target here. Because you know, you mentioned you kind of have this meandering path. I mean, you went from learning on geo cities, which, you know, God bless geo cities back in the day, right? Like so many, I think you’re the second guest I’ve had on who got started there. We went to mechanical engineering and then dietetics and then web development. You know, I mean, I think one of the things that really interests me from this show is what are some of those key transitions in there? And what was, what were you going through in terms of really figuring those kinds of things out? Because you know, in many ways you’ve committed to do this thing and changing is a big deal. Right. what, what was your thought process during that time? And perhaps like what kind of support did you seek to get better advice to get or to get help in terms of making those, those changes?

Kim Maida (08:59):

Um to be completely honest, a lot of the changes happened sort of serendipitously as I was going through this. Most of the mentorship and advice that I got was sort of after I had entered the field of tech. Um, it probably would’ve helped me a lot to have more mentorship and sponsorship while I was trying to sort of figure out what I wanted to do with my career. But a lot of the changes sort of like, like I mentioned as a kid, I didn’t, it didn’t necessarily occur to me that I could go out and make a living sort of doing web development. I came from a family where it was sort of more, it was traditionally expected that because I had expressed all of this interest in science as a kid, that I was going to go into a science related career or potentially, you know, maybe human medicine or something like that.

Kim Maida (09:51):

Because I had, I just always expressed that as, as a young child. The web thing was kind of this thing that was really fun and neat, but it was, it was always on the back burner of, well, I’m, you know, I’m going to go into science. That’s, that’s really my, my path has been since I was like five years old or something like that. So essentially I was, I was basically doing web development on the side during college, freelance and studying science. And even through all of that, it still didn’t really occur to me to, to switch my degree and go into a development. And I don’t, I don’t really know why it didn’t occur to me. I think it was just that I had this goal my whole life of I’m going to be a scientist. And anything else that was sort of coming across my path was like, well, yes, but that’s tangential to my, my ultimate goal.

Kim Maida (10:46):

So it wasn’t until I actually landed that job with the university. I was basically just looking at part time jobs that you know, were on the university job board to sort of help, help pay for rent and things like that. And once I actually got a job doing it that was the, I think sort of where I started coming around to the realization that there’s, there’s careers. It was sort of in a time when these tech careers hadn’t quite taken off the way they have now. Now it’s, it’s sort of very well known that you can have very successful careers doing this. At the time that I was in college, it was, it was sort of more like web development itself wasn’t as big of a thing. It was more sort of the software engineering backend side building programs and I didn’t necessarily feel like I was that interested in that. So I didn’t consider that as a career until, until I’d actually gotten a job in web dev.

Grant Ingersoll (11:45):

Yeah. It’s interesting. I mean I think that in many ways that’s how the tech industry has evolved, right? Front ends were used to be kind of the, Oh, that’s the thing you do after you do everything else.

Kim Maida (11:56):

Right. Right, right.

Grant Ingersoll (11:57):

And then these days, of course, like the game is completely flipped, right? I mean not, not entirely, or it’s at least even out in the sense that you know, the, the front ends are so complex. Right. And, and there’s so many different moving parts because, you know, at the end of the day, we, we care so deeply about the user experience or at least good, good sites and good applications to you know, you mentioned you worked at the university. I, it’s actually something I’ve done as well. And it’s, it’s a particularly interesting, especially to not be a professor at a university. And can you perhaps like delve in a little bit of like what is it, what was it actually like working at a university? Cause I think, you know, probably many of our listeners don’t necessarily think that there’s jobs outside of a professorships at universities. And yet that’s how I got a lot of my start as well as working just as a engineer, software engineer. How to in a university lab.

Kim Maida (12:56):

Yeah. So probably honestly one of the biggest percs was the benefits are phenomenal. I’ll just say that like out of the gate, like I’ve, I’ve never had as good of benefits again in my career as I, as I did at the university. I do like the, the four Oh three B with, with matching for retirement and you, there’s just some unparalleled benefits. But yeah, so aside from that, I actually worked for the university doing in both biology and then also in web development. And when I did the web development for the university, it was in agriculture, natural resources. So I was trying to stay sort of closer to the science field. It wasn’t really the field of science that I had worked in, but there were some interesting parallels and a lot of it as far as web development for the university was based on a lot of sort of getting everything up to standards.

Kim Maida (13:56):

So universities have you know, strong requirements about accessibility and things like that. So I actually learned a lot about that, which I felt was really valuable and I was able to take that away into my career and we were trying to standardize branding across all of the university websites and universities are sort of notorious for having a million different websites and everybody just does sort of their own thing and trying to sort of wrangle all of these departments and all of these groups into one branding umbrella and making sure they’re all sort of compliant with WCG and things like that. Is it, it’s interesting and challenging to be responsible for. We are responsible for hundreds of websites. Well that’s not something that I’ve experienced in any other sort of career path that I’ve taken since then or, or before then. But a lot of, a lot of the universities sort of for web stuff or for technology is not based in grants, which is nice.

Kim Maida (15:07):

You just sort of more or less to, I don’t want to say have unlimited resources, but you have a lot of resources. And not being beholden to sort of client funding or sort of venture capital or anything like that can be, can be nice. The university pace is a little bit slower. As far as sort of what technologies are using they were, they were sort of on the back end it was a very like, cold fusion shop, which, you know, I don’t know how popular that is now. I don’t know if they’re still using ColdFusion, but we had several ColdFusion programmers on the team and it, so it was a little more leisurely I guess I would say, but, but the benefits were awesome and when we wanted to try something out we could and, and I think that was really great too.

Kim Maida (15:58):

We were sort of in a department where the CIO was very supportive of us saying, well, here’s, you know, the content management system we want to try out. So we’re going to experiment with it on a few sites and see how it works out. Because when you have two or 300 sites, you’ve always got somebody who’s well, who wants to redo their site and say, okay, we have this new platform, we’re going to try this out with you, see how it goes for you, give us feedback. And, and it was nice to have that freedom.

Grant Ingersoll (16:26):

Yeah, no, I mean I think that’s great. I that mirrors my experience there too. There, there was, you know, I think the code word is good work life balance you know, but there was also this love of learning built in and a lot of ways. And so you that that experimentation mindset, especially like I worked in a research lab, so that really helped. And then I’ll tell you, I was at a private university and the benefits there were insane. I’m like, I think, you know, public universities have a little more scrutiny. The private ones, if you can get a good role you know, you’re talking tuition benefits, you’re talking good for a three plans. All of those kinds of things were really nice. And then, like you said, the work life balance. And, and in many ways, you’re often working with people who are doing cutting edge things. So there’s this a nice narrative to it if you can get it. So I think if our listeners haven’t thought about university life, maybe they don’t have to go do the full professor thing. Well, so let’s, let’s shift gears because I mean, I think, you know, you spent a lot of time on web web development. You know, you’ve gotten your credentials around building front end systems, you know, you were managing hundreds of sites. But then you went and made this leap again into developer advocacy and developer relations. And you know, you hinted to add it in your, your

Grant Ingersoll (17:50):

Your intro there, but like, how did you really dig in and realize like, Hey, I actually like this speaking thing. I like the, the relationships, you know, building relationships and helping people figure out how to use things. Like, was that again, serendipitous and organic or did, were you at a point now where you’re like, Hey, I’m gonna, I’m looking for something new?

Kim Maida (18:12):

Yeah. So it kind of came about because after, after I’d worked at the university, I went to work for a digital agency and I was there for a while doing client work and leading engineering teams and doing that, you basically have no insight into the people who are actually using the sites. Like a lot of that the all of the user stuff was done by a sort of the user user experience team. And I was sort of very cut off from products and relationships that consumers have with products. And, and by that I’m not just talking about users who buy a product and use it, but also the developers who are sort of working on a product because we didn’t do products. Mm. So there was, when I, when it came time that I was, I was just feeling all of that pressure of leaving, needing to leave because I was burnt out and overworked.

Kim Maida (19:12):

I thought I would like to go to a product company somewhere where there is a relationship with the people who developed the product that people who use the product and sort of get out of the client mentality of we’re, we’re selling to other companies who then have products and users. So essentially I was also looking for that work life balance. So when I went and joined Auth0 and was writing articles for the blog, I’d never done anything like this before. I’d never sort of produced learning content and then put it out on a platform that’s widely read. And then have developers sort of try the things that I’m telling them, here’s, you know, an idea for how you might do this. And they come back with feedback and questions and things like that. And I remember being quite nervous at first.

Kim Maida (20:06):

Like, you know, my first article was published and I was anxious about what people would think, what they would say. The feedback was overwhelmingly very positive and people had really great questions and it made me think harder about how I present content. And so I was already sort of getting very connected to how developers consume the content that’s written. And then essentially what happened was, again, it was pretty serendipitous, but I was already starting to make my way into this area, but I wanted to go to a conference. And as, so the conference that I was NG Atlanta and I basically [inaudible] it was like, Oh well Auth0 has, you know, a presence at this conference. Ryan turnkey was going to be speaking there. And the organizers at chapel said, Hey, would you like to get on stage and speak like with Ryan? And, and I had never done this before in my life.

Kim Maida (21:09):

I was terrified to do it. I said yes, because it seemed like a really good opportunity. I, it was definitely something that was so vastly outside of my comfort zone though. So I went and I, I did this thanks to this opportunity and it turned out that I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the experience of preparing. I enjoy the experience of delivering the talk and then also talking to people afterwards, seeing what questions they had and how the talk helped them. And after doing that I sort of, I started applying to speak at conferences. I started getting accepted and I started doing it more and more. And I was lucky in the respect that Auth0 has an internal ambassadors program. So we have an external ambassadors program. And then also there’s an internal version where people within the company who aren’t in dev developer relations can still get sort of financial support and training to go and speak at events if they want to. So I got involved with being an internal ambassador even though I was a writer and then sort of continued to do that as I transitioned to other roles within the company. And so we sort of came, came to the realization that this is the thing that I want to do. I don’t just want to do this, like on the side, I want this to be my full time job. And, and now here I am.

Grant Ingersoll (22:34):

Here you are. Well, so there’s, there’s a really interesting inflection point in there, right, of like, okay, so you commit. And that’s awesome. Right? And, and I think you hinted at as you know, is the, the anticipation of the thing is often way stronger emotionally than the actual thing. And it sounds like that was your experience too, but I’m curious like, you know, for those people who are on the cusp of saying, Hey, I want to go talk at, you know, like I want to give it a try. Like what are, what are some of the practical things you did to prepare for that first talk or, or maybe how do you prepare now in terms of getting ready for these kinds of things?

Kim Maida (23:12):

Well there’s definitely been a change in how I prepare over time as has gotten sort of a lot more comfortable with it. Initially I would, I would just say practice, practice, practice. Like practicing in front of a mirror really helped me practicing to somebody who doesn’t isn’t even in the tech field was actually tremendously helpful for me as a presenter and still is. So my husband doesn’t work in tech but he’s, he’s good at giving very honest feedback. So when I practice my talks to him, he’s watching for my presentation style and the way that I explain things and the little weird things that I do, you know, if I have sort of weird habits or ticks that I exhibit on stage or something and he will point those things out and give me feedback on my delivery. And I think having somebody do that is really, really important.

Kim Maida (24:04):

Also recording yourself, doing it and then watching yourself do it afterwards can be interesting and somewhat painful to do at first if you’re not used to it. But it can be really, really helpful. And also I was just say like, having, taking that first step to doing it is the hardest part. And for me I was, I was lucky in that I was essentially given this opportunity where I didn’t have to like apply to do it or sort of think that hard about, Oh, how is this going to go? It was this, this thing sort of packaged deal landed in my lap and was like, do you take it or leave it? And I took it. So I, and I would really encourage people to share their experiences. A lot of times what I, what I think holds people back is the idea that they, they think that, Oh well I don’t have anything new to share. You know, everything that I would talk about with somebody probably has already done or somebody knows about it. But that’s, that’s not really that big of an issue. It shouldn’t hold people back because your perspectives are going to be different from other people. The things, the way that you’ve learned or the things that you’ve learned, your learning journey, your style is going to be different from other peoples and everybody has something valuable to share.

Grant Ingersoll (25:29):

Yeah, for sure. I mean, I think you hit on so many key things there. One is, you know, just get started, right? I mean, and that’s such an easy thing to say in some ways because you know, it’s like, Oh, we’ll just get started. But people don’t often know how. And I think you hit on some practical things there of, you know, like, just reach out to people and say, Hey, you know, I’m interested in this and you never know what might happen. Hey, I want to go to this conference. And you reach out to the organizers. Believe it or not. You know, like Todd Lewis said this on, I think episode eight is like, you know, he gets all kinds of questions and he’s always, you know, these conference producers are eager to help, especially new people who are coming into the show because that’s their future customer in many ways, but, but, or their future speaker. What you said resonates with me a lot. I mean, I, it took me so long, Kim, to even just watch myself give a talk, believe it or not. Even with those podcasts, I struggled for a long time with listening to it because I don’t know, I’ve just always had this narrative in my head that I hate the sound of my voice. And then I got comfortable with it. And then here we are. Right.

Grant Ingersoll (26:37):

I want to, I want to delve in a little bit, and I realize this may be picking out a wound a little bit, but you know, you mentioned the burnout. And you know, I think many of us in our careers, we have these moments where, where we’re particularly challenged with what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, why we’re doing it. And I’m curious if you could perhaps give some tips as to how you work through it. I don’t want you to, you know, barrier. You don’t have to bury your soul here. You don’t want to, but just like what were some of the ways you dealt with it and how did you, how did you ultimately get out of it?

Kim Maida (27:15):

Well, to be completely honest, I got out of it by switching jobs. And I think that that is something that is totally a viable solution. It can be really, really hard to switch jobs when you’re burnt out though. And you know, part of that is if you’re already exhausted and you’re already getting very little sleep and you’re working super long hours, what time do you have to sort of go out and apply for other jobs? Right? This is the, the biggest challenge to sort of digging yourself out of a situation. So the, I tried many things first. So like I, I approached, you know, my manager and said, Hey, you know, this is, is there any way that I can get more help here? Like, I’m really getting Oh, I’m overworked, I have too much. Is there anything that I can delegate? Things like that.

Kim Maida (28:05):

And sometimes you know, it, it just doesn’t work out that way. Sometimes it does though. So it’s very important to talk to your managers, talk to people on your team talk to the people that you work with, especially if you really like your job. And, and I did. But with client deadlines and things, it just didn’t, like the stars didn’t align for that to be possible in that scenario for me and for my role in my team. But essentially what, what I ended up doing sort of was relying on connections a lot. So the, the connections that you make, I had, I sort of, I knew two people who worked at Auth0 and when I had sort of expressed to them, I’m just getting so burnt out at my current job, they said, why don’t you apply at Auth0? And so they, they give me this, you know, they were able to tell me about the company.

Kim Maida (29:03):

They were able to tell me some stuff about how the process works to apply. I was able to connect with them and ask them questions like during the process and just having those people come and sort of give me this opportunity so that I didn’t have to go looking everywhere frantically and, and trying to figure out where the opportunities were. That was really helpful. So I would, I would honestly, like if you’re burnt out and you want to look for something else try leveraging your connections and your network and people, you know, to, to see if they have suggestions for, for places that you can go. Because that was, that was basically how I was able to do that without extending a ton of time and effort looking around frantically for something else.

Grant Ingersoll (29:52):

Yeah. That I, that I think you hit on one of the themes of this show that consistently shows up, which is, you know, you do have to take the time to develop relationships. I mean, I think, you know, when I first got into computers, it’s like, Oh, I get to work on computers all day. And then it’s like, yeah, that’s great. But then you also realize, I think one of our earlier guests said, you know, this is a team sport, right? So develop the relationships. That’s what’s gonna keep you sane that’s what’s gonna move you forward. You know, I do like too that you hit on, like, you know, a good boss will try to help you. I think we often have this antagonistic view of, of management, but it’s not always that way. Right. And so going there first I think makes a lot of sense. Well, so let’s shift gears then because like, you know, you’re, you’re at all zero now. You’re, you’re in this developer advocacy developer relations role. What is, what is kind of the day to day of that? Like, cause I think actually maybe our first or second guest on who’s actually had that kind of title would tell us, tell us a little bit more about like what’s the day to day like for this role?

Kim Maida (30:56):

Sure. Well, so for me specifically, I’m the head of dev rel. So a lot of my work is around strategy. I basically want to come up with ways that the company can interact with developers through us to get the developers the best experience that we can give them and also to sort of bring their feedback back into the company in an effective way. So we go and when we go to events and things like that, we have sort of a couple of things that we specifically look for. Like who is going to be at the event, who are the people who are interested in coming to this event and how can we do things that can help them in some way or bring back like useful, productive feedback into the company from them. So we’ll, we’re looking at doing more sort of developer focused sponsorships for developer events.

Kim Maida (32:02):

Historically the company is on a lot of sort of trade shows, fosters and that type of thing. But we want to do that in a way now from developer relations where we can sort of have an exhibiting booth where we can talk to people at the conference more because there’s, there’s one side of it where you talk to people or you talk at people. I hate to say that, but when you get on stage and you give a talk and then people take that information and do with that as they will. Many people who have questions won’t necessarily come and ask you those questions. But having sort of just candid conversations at a booth, the nice thing about being, having a booth is everybody knows where to find you. And if they have, if they just see the booth and they say, Oh, I had a question about Auth0 cause I was trying to implement it and you know, this thing wasn’t working, I can just go up to the booth and talk to the, you know, the developer advocates that are at the booth and basically just get an answer and have a conversation or give product feedback even.

Kim Maida (33:07):

So that’s a really helpful. So I’m working on strategies on how we can be more effective with forging relationships with developers who might never have heard of us, who have heard of us but haven’t used it, and then who are currently using us. And then also just essentially like thinking of good ways that we can help bring information to the community. So when we go and speak at events, we often don’t speak about Auth0. We’ll speak about things that are useful to the people who are at the event. And this could be in the, the general field that author operates in. So I talk a lot about authentication and authorization and identity and access management. But it’s not necessarily specific to the company itself. We want to make sure that what we’re telling people is useful, actionable, it’s broad enough that it’s relevant to a lot of people. Sometimes we talk about things that aren’t related to identity at all in any way. But it’s helpful things on the technology that the conferences about or something like that. And essentially we’re just forging relationships I guess.

Grant Ingersoll (34:24):

Yeah. And sometimes you talk on podcasts about your career as part of a developer advocate. So you mentioned you, you focus a lot on strategy and I, and I know for like me and for many people who when you make that leap from individual contributor to manager or this is one of the things that comes with the territory, not that you don’t think about strategy per se as a, especially as a tech lead or a senior software engineer, but you know, drilling on that topic for me a little bit more of what, what was that like making that shift, you know, the realization and then the transition and then in anything particularly different in terms of mindset or was this something that came fairly naturally to you just as you thought and understood business?

Kim Maida (35:14):

So the, the role of the developer relations wasn’t my first role as a strategic manager. I, my first sort of like strategic managerial role was actually probably in community. And it was interesting doing that in this particular area because I as a person likes to form strategies anyway. So it’s, it’s something that I kind of do on my own for myself. Like make, make plans and do plans. And I like to plan trips and vacations, stuff like that. So figuring that type of thing out. It’s something that I enjoy. What was really new for me was doing it in areas that I was not familiar with at all. So coming into the community team, for example the community team did a lot of sort of the same type of developer relations stuff, but less in person and more online, like through forums and things like that.

Kim Maida (36:19):

And coming into that team, one of the things that I had to strategize is, is sort of how do I champion this team? And it, it was an interesting thing for me because I came from, you know, the engineering background and typically you don’t need to champion engineering teams and companies, the company understands the value of an engineering team and they know that they need it. But when it came, when it comes to things that are more about building relationships, a lot of times at companies it comes to where do, how does do these teams that build relationships, how, what kind of value do they provide and how do we measure that value? And a lot of the strategy is around how do we grow our sort of relationship with the people who use the product and, and then how, how can we say that it’s been effective and how do I tell other people at the company that this is a valuable thing to do? Here’s how we measure it. Here’s, here’s our KPIs. This is what success means. And coming up with that type of strategy was completely new for me. And it was, it was a very interesting and exciting thing to do because it made me think differently. It wasn’t sort of about features getting launched or teams engineering teams hitting deadlines or anything like that. So it was a lot more nebulous and organic.

Grant Ingersoll (37:50):

Yeah. It’s that leap to the big picture and, and living you know, your whole life or your whole career or perhaps the job, I should speak more eloquently here. The job becomes more, you live in a constant state of ambiguity. I think when you, when you step into that role because it’s all forward thinking and the forward and you know, the future of course is undefined until you make it right. You know, so abstract in a way, maybe to the best you can from your current employer. You know, one of the things I like to highlight with the show is like what are the pros and cons of this job or what you know. So maybe the question here is, what are the two best things about being a developer advocate and maybe what are the two toughest things about the role? Yeah,

Kim Maida (38:34):

So the, the best thing to me is interacting with people who are using the things that your company is making. I think that it’s really exciting to go out there and teach people the, the learning thing because not only am I teaching but I’m learning so much just from other people by going out and talking to people all the time. And this is something that for one thing was interesting for me because I’m actually an introvert. But being a, being given the opportunity to go and interface with a lot of different people who have a lot of different views and a lot of are working through different issues and having different successes. That’s probably the biggest most valuable thing about this job is just being out in the developer community and talking to people who work in tech and are solving real world problems.

Kim Maida (39:32):

And I think that that is very exciting. The other sort of perk is in developer advocacy, you do get to travel a lot that that can be, it’s expands horizons to travel and see how other people think and work and, and not just like in a sort of nebulous generalized way that that is true obviously. But different developers, there’s like different developer cultures to throughout the world in how their teams work, how, how they interact at events and things like that. And just being able to experience that type of thing is really, it’s very horizon broadening. It’s very mind like view widening or however you sort of want to.

Grant Ingersoll (40:24):


Kim Maida (40:26):

The, the biggest drawback is probably the potential for burnout. This developer advocacy because of all of the travel that is involved, it can be physically and mentally exhausting to be on the road that often to be traveling so much should be changing time zones to sort of being exposed to large, large crowds of people and, and getting sick and things like that. It’s basically just things of that nature. Like I have a cough right now and I had to sort of present it a meetup while I had bronchitis and it was very challenging for me to do that.

Grant Ingersoll (41:09):

Yeah, for sure. You definitely learn having gone through many of the things you’re describing. I both loved the travel, but you know, at times, you know, it gets to you for sure. And, and you know, you learn to take care of your voice first and foremost. I think probably like a lot of professional speakers or singers, et cetera, you, you know, know you always have cough drops at the handy or throat lozenges. You have tea with you all the time. So you definitely learn to learn to deal with it. Yeah, no, I, I that’s, that’s super interesting that it mirrors a lot of what I would say about being out on the front lines there is you get to, you get so much feedback. It made me such a better developer. Right? Cause you see the way people use your software, you get the questions that you never really get when you’re deep down in the trenches, if you will, of being a software engineer. So I love that. Before we finish up, you know, Kim, one of the things I love whenever I have a leader or a manager on the show is, you know, perhaps shift gears a little bit from your own personal career and look at how do you think about team building? How do you, what do you look for when you’re hiring and, and so, you know, there’s, that’s the question for you is, you know, what, what do you look for in hiring? What do you look for and, and building your teams.

Kim Maida (42:33):

So culture fit I think is really, really important. And I don’t necessarily just mean like culture fit with the company, but culture fit with the other people on the team. I look for people who are team players. The thing about developer advocacy too though, is that it’s very independent. People go off and and sort of do their own thing. They travel alone. Oftentimes we’re separated by expansive time zone differences, but people who sort of want to help other people is probably the, the core of developer advocacy. And in general, I think it’s just a good mentality in any role really. So I look for people who, you know, are compassionate and want to help basically. Like if, if somebody gives off the impression that they, they want, they’re there to make things better. They’re there to help other people and they’re open to also receiving feedback and being helped by other people. I think that this is, these are really good qualities to look for in, in any team. Yeah.

Grant Ingersoll (43:41):

Yeah. I think it’s, it’s not just about being a thought leader then. You’re not just looking for thought leaders. You’re actually looking for people who can you know, in many ways they’re teachers, right? They’re mentors. They’re people who have patience for answering the, the hello world question for the thousandth time. Right?

Kim Maida (44:01):

Yeah. Yeah. So I, yeah, I’m well thought leaders ship is great and I, it’s also a skill that can be developed and grown. I don’t necessarily feel like being compassionate and being a team player is something that if somebody is just really not that type of person, I don’t always feel like they can easily become those in person. People can learn thought leadership easily.

Kim Maida (44:27):

Yeah. Well, and you can yeah, I mean for, you know, part of what

Grant Ingersoll (44:32):

I’m after here too is helping people realize these soft skills are super important. It’s, it’s something I struggled with for a long time. I still do at times, but I’ve through coaching, through just like, like what you said, this broadening of your horizons, you, you figure out that you’ve got to develop these soft skills and so that can be really useful. You know, Kim, this has been awesome. I mean, so many great things in here, this winding path. You’ve taken the wiggle dance, you know all the way up through these, these career transitions, talking, burnout, et cetera. You know, if we kind of bring these things all together and as you look back on your career, what advice would you give for anybody who’s it’s almost hard to say like following that same path because I’m pretty sure it’s pretty unique, but for somebody in that same kind of struggle of like, Oh, should I change? Should I not like, Hey, I think I’m burnt out. I’m not sure. Like kind of if you sum all of this up, what’s your best career advice?

Kim Maida (45:33):

I think that relationships in your career are just vitally important. Not only like professional relationships, but relationships with people around you. Part of what I do with my best friend it was just talk about here’s my situation, what do you think of this? And we sort of give each other advice on, well, it might be time to make a switch or I think you should go out more in the evenings or something like that. But also sharing your wins. I think sharing wins has been something that for me in my career has honestly gotten me the farthest. As far as just advancement and things like that. Sharing your wins with your manager, sharing wins with yourself just taking the time to recognize how far you’ve come I think is really, really important. And it’s something that a lot of people forget to do. So if you compare yourself to the person that you were yesterday or a week ago or a month ago or a year ago, then you can, you can see how much more you’ve accomplish and it, it brings you just more personal fulfillment, I think.

Grant Ingersoll (46:51):

Yeah, that’s fantastic. I mean, and something I think we so often lose in the hustle and bustle of, you know careers and family and personal commitments that you just sometimes need to take a step back and say, wow, yeah, come along. Here we are. That’s fantastic. And no, you know, shifting that into like, is there any particular resources like any books or podcasts or like, Oh, Hey, you know, develomentor listeners out there, I’ve found this thing so useful in my career. Any of those come to mind. And if not, that’s fine too. But I always to ask because, you know, sometimes there’s some actionable things or like, Oh, go read this book. Right. I can speak to a number of books that really helped me along the way. Any that stand out for you?

Kim Maida (47:39):

I received most of the advice from human beings and not that books aren’t written by humans. They told her it’s sure. But like in sort of in person conversations from people who, who had mentored me. But one thing that I did do was I sort of distilled a lot of the advice that I got from other people into a blog post. So I can you sort of share the link afterwards or something. But it, it was sort of a culmination of a lot of the mentorship advice that was given to me that I found very valuable for I wanted to share with other people.

Grant Ingersoll (48:17):

Yeah, we would love that. If you can share that. Well we’ll be sure to link that up. And then in the show notes and, and with that Camino, one last question for you, which is, you know, Hey, this is a great conversation. There’s that zoologist out there thinking about getting into web development. W you know, where we’re kind of listeners, hear from you, learn from you, find out more about your career path. Maybe just follow you on Twitter.

Kim Maida (48:40):

Yeah. So I’m just @Kimmaida Twitter, no spaces, just my name and and I, I bought sometimes on dev too as well, under the same, just Kim Maida [inaudible].

Grant Ingersoll (48:54):

Awesome. We’ll be sure to link that up as well. And you know, Kim, thank you again for joining us today. Thank you for having me. This is great. And as always, for our listeners, if you’d like to show, we’d love for you to subscribe on iTunes or whatever your favorite podcast app, you can also of course, visit us at our website to hear older episodes as well as find other content on careers in tech. Most importantly, if you liked the show, please tell your friends. Referrals are the lifeblood of any podcast. I say that almost every episode, but it’s so important. And of course, if you have any feedback for me or on this episode, or really any episode, or you’d like to be a guest or you know, somebody who should be a guest, please drop us an email at [email protected] otherwise, thank you once again for joining us. We look forward to talking in the future.

Outro (50:07):

Additional Resources

Selected Links from the episode:
Kim’s blogpost about career advancement -

All Things Open - Open Source Conference mentioned in the episode

Todd Lewis on Develomentor - Ep. 7 Generating Revenue Through Open Source, with Todd Lewis