This has been an article I wanted to write for quite a while now. Let me explain.

In recent decade, we have seen the proliferation of tech communities. Tech communities for programming languages like Python and GO, or certain enterprise software like Tableau, Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services, or certain tech-related topics, like Artificial Intelligence, Cybersecurity, Web3.0.

Tech companies, in recent years, created job positions to engage the relevant and targeted tech communities. These job positions usually carry in their title, "Developer Relationship". And as the title goes, their main role is engagement, ensure that the relevant communities are engaged, increase the brand's mindshare and more importantly, have a marketing channel to share the latest development.

The former body of tech communities are actually special interest groups like knitting, chess clubs, book clubs, cycling clubs etc. But in this day and age, with social media and accessible mass media, these interest groups can be huge i.e. higher participation level. However, tech communities and the developer relations are pretty early stages right now and given there are no precedents, developer relationship managers are working "blindly" to engage tech communities.

As a tech community lead, I wanted to use this blog post to help more people understand the on goings within tech communities, what are the considerations that tech community leads has to build successful communities and hopefully gain more supportive action from members of the tech communities and developer relationship managers. Here goes! :)


What a lot tech community lead are concern with is engagement. What is engagement? I see engagement as the following:

  • Large crowds coming in to the talks/gathering
  • Good questions are asked after the speaker sharing
  • Continued social engagement after the talk with the speakers or between participants i.e. networking, sharing of job opportunities, discussing collaboration to join competition.

There are several dimensions to engagement but I will start off with the most obvious.


Content is king! This is especially true for tech communities. Each and every talk is an opportunity to learn, NEVER and opportunity to sell. Technical content is the most important. Let us think from a potential participant's angle. To them it is a tradeoff between an opportunity to learn VS an opportunity to take a break from work and be with family. Having good technical content is needed to tip the scale in favor of the opportunity to learn.  This is the reason, as far as possible, I will not compromise on content.

However, having good technical content is not easy. As this a growing field, technical experts are far and few, followed by how many of these technical experts are willing to share. So for DataScience SG, what we do is encourage hiring managers to get their team members to share, in turn an opportunity to brand their company as data- or Machine Learning-driven and be able to attract the necessary talents.

What about enterprise software who wants to engage with the community? Surely, they want to do sales pitching? If that is the case, please do not engage with the community. The enterprise software firm needs to work out their content strategy instead. Think from the angle of education/training rather. For instance, sharing of use cases, why the product was much better for the particular use case and what were the subsequent challenges later on, and how were they resolved. Look, all tools has its strengths and weaknesses. There is no such thing as the PERFECT tool. If there is, given the intelligence of humans, we will have created it a long long time ago. Thus it is best that enterprise software comes clean and mentioned where it falls short and gives the participants ample warning when using its tools.

As a tech community lead, there is a responsibility to update the community on the latest. So DataScience SG is always looking to provide content that may not be the mainstream but still something that is useful. One example will be federated learning and differential privacy. These two tech/algorithms has been in the US for 7+ years before I heard about it, and given the rise in privacy awareness, it is a topic that need to be shared but finding a good speaker on it was not easy since its development was not that mature here in Singapore and DataScience SG does not have the resource to fly speakers in. Thank goodness we manage to find speakers to share. But the point is, as a tech community lead, we have responsibility to educate and update the community with the latest, hottest and topics of growing interest.

So the key "product" from tech communities is really content and a good tech community lead will keep a very tight leash on content.


Tech community leaders want to give speakers the largest audience possible. This is the basic respect community leads want to give to speakers, as good speakers are very difficult to find. Let's think from the speaker's perspective. Any speaker will want to speak to a large audience. It is more fulfilling to speak to a large audience. A large showing can attract the speakers to come back again with another good technical talk.

Speakers, in spite of the busy schedule, if you can plan and send the necessary details to the tech community lead as soon as possible, that will be great. The longer the marketing period for the event, the more audience it can attract. For DataScience SG, we usually aim to start the publicity of the talk TWO weeks before the talk. It seems to be a sweet spot because most people plan their schedule one week in advance, so two weeks give the talk an opportunity for a spot in the weekly schedule that has not been planned yet.

Participants? Well, vote for the content with your time. That is a precious vote that is in your hands! If through the synopsis, and schedule permits, the content is something you like, then please come! Through your presence, you can show the community lead you value such content and will hope the community lead to find similar content to support your learning!

Frequency of Similar Tech Community Events

Professionals working in tech are busy people. As a community lead, I am always looking not to cannibalized participation. What does that translate? As much as possible, tech communities with similar content should not have their talks held very close to each other, preferably two weeks and minimally one week apart.

Participants may agree with this, because from their perspectives, some "freshness" is always good unless the participant is very motivated to learn which from my experience that is seldom the case. But I do want to share with the participants, although tech community lead understand the need to provide that "space", but in execution, challenges abound because each and every meetup is a coordination between venue sponsor, speakers' schedule and work load, and the schedule of the community lead. Please do not forget that most community lead are doing it pro-bono and surviving on passion, while arranging and coordinating all the different moving parts for the talks to happen. :)

Developer Relationship

I will be realistic here. There is a very big gap between developer relationship manager VS tech community lead. What are the gaps?

Developer relationship managers are mostly full-time employees. Tech community leads and their participants are "part-timers" driven by their passion to learn, network and discuss with the like-minded. What this translate is that for the developer relationship manager to perform well and engage tech communities, they need to work during the evenings and weekends. Why? Because this is when most of the events are held! Supervisors of developer relationship manager should provide some leeway or flexible working arrangements for their subordinates and not be too sticky about the need to work during working hours AND non-working hours!

However a note to any developer relationship managers out there. Almost all the tech community leads I know of are doing their "jobs" pro-bono. So during the engagement, do keep that in mind and respect their time! I've come across situations where the "relationship manager" does not assist in logistics of the talk, for instance chasing the speakers for details and just threw everything to the tech community lead to do all the coordination. It is irresponsible and disrespectful of the time put in by the tech community lead. Needless to say, the company is NEVER invited back to share anymore.

Secondly, tech community leads are always looking to differentiate themselves away from the other tech community. Not only that, they are always looking for resources that they can provide their community. As a developer relationship manager, if you can provide resources to help tech community lead with the differentiation effort, that will be fantastic. For instance, exclusive discount for the specific tech community participants/members. :)

Be Respectful!

Community is definitely a great channel to do any marketing on relevant products or events. To increase engagement, DataScience SG does allow some amount of marketing but we have very strict rules about it. WE respect the time of our community members and thus need to maintain a strong stand against spam.

Here is the fun part! During the decade of running DataScience SG, we have come across multiple situations where organization's marketing managers raised their "voices" at us because we did not publish their ads. They proceed to private message the admin and DEMANDED that their ads be published and some are atrocious enough to make accusation on the tech community leads playing favoritism and DEMANDED for an explanation. (Sorry, ranting here!) Ok firstly, we do play favoritism here BUT we favor organizations that has supported DataScience SG events continuously for instance, providing venue, speakers or refreshments. And tech community leads work for the community, not for the demanding marketing managers. Needless to say, to protect ourselves and our time from being abused, we usually proceed to ban these "demanding" marketing managers from the group. :)

My point is please be respectful, especially to the tech community leads because these folks are doing it pro bono and are only answerable to the community. Come in with an intention to collaborate and equal partnership, not a condescending bastard. :)


The purpose of writing this article is I hope to let participants and developer relationship manager understand how tech community leads think, to build successful tech community. I will definitely be keen to hear the other side of the story too so that together we can build a successful community that provides lots of opportunities to learn, grow and build a career. It is a collective effort and never the sole responsibility of anyone. :)

For a start, participants can approach the tech community lead and share their feedback or maybe a quick gesture of appreciation like saying "Thank you!" It can really help the tech community to feel appreciated and know the content strategy to take going forward, so as to continue to provide value to the community.

For developer relationship manager is to assist tech community lead in engaging the community. It could be through exclusive swags, discount to events, providing and engaging (especially overseas) speakers, arrange logistics, etc.

Thanks for reading till here! **pat on the  back** You've made it very far (2K words!) on this article! :D

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