A Career Homecoming: Returning to Identity

December 12, 2022: I am joining Okta as the Group Manager of Developer Content. In this role, I will oversee the content strategy developer experience under the Workforce Identity product unit.

The Road So Far…

In order to talk about the significance of this particular upcoming role, I’d like to share what the last 6+ years have entailed in my tech career.

Auth0

In 2016, I joined Auth0 as a content engineer. This was my first role in Identity and Access Management. I’d implemented authentication and authorization in previous engineering roles, but didn’t have experience working directly for an identity company. In my time at Auth0, I held several different roles, all public developer-facing. I fell in love with distilling complex identity topics effectively to teach authentication, authorization, and security to developers.

At Auth0, I won a coveted Auziro award for impactful contributions to the company. I had the opportunity to manage and lead each different team in the Developer Relations discipline: Developer Content, Community, and Global Developer Advocacy. I collaborated heavily with many different teams at Auth0, pioneered programs to teach identity internally to company employees as well as developer users, and more.

However, I parted ways with Auth0 in 2020 due to a desire to advance my career. At that time, doing so in Developer Relations at Auth0 wasn’t possible. I had considered moving to a different part of the organization (such as Engineering), but I specifically wanted to continue to grow my Developer Relations career. We parted amicably, and I set out on my journey toward executive DevRel.

Developer Relations Leadership: Manager to Director to Vice President

When I left Auth0, I led global Developer Advocacy, which meant I was responsible for leadership of Developer Advocates worldwide in EMEA, AMER, APAC, and JPN. I partnered and collaborated with Senior Directors of Product Marketing and Customer Success, regional General Managers of Sales, Principal Architects and the CTO in the Office of the CTO, Developer Experience Engineering, and more.

At the time, I wanted to further my skills and career in Developer Relations executive strategy and developer growth and engagement. In the following years, I held progressively more strategic leadership roles: Director of Developer Relations, VP of Developer Marketing, and multiple VP of Developer Relations positions at different sizes and stages of companies with different technology focus and products (open source, SaaS, product-led, etc.).

With each role, I significantly grew my understanding, strategic approach, and executive business value expertise in Developer Relations and Developer Experience…

Frequent Job Transitions

…But there was always something missing. I transitioned between jobs several times during the next few years — more frequently than I ever had previously in my career, and honestly, more frequently than I was comfortable with. Most of the time it was due to poaching: being contacted by recruiters for roles with increased scope, ownership, and leadership responsibilities. Some of the time I wasn’t actually open to new roles, but folks at other companies made strong cases for their roles being “the right one.”

The thing was, they still weren’t the right long-term role for me.

But why was that? I had thought what I wanted was more Developer Relations leadership scope and experience, and I now had that in abundance. In addition, I now had experience leading DevRel at significantly different types, stages, and sizes of companies. I built several DevRel teams essentially from the ground up. I taught different types of companies the value of DevRel. I mentored and sponsored the careers of community managers and advocates, setting them up for success and advancement. I built DevEx strategies and philosophies. I introduced and implemented DevRel career ladders. I measured DevRel and shared its business value. I worked DevRel in Marketing. I worked DevRel in Product and Developer Experience. I worked DevRel reporting directly to the CEO.

The Missing Piece

The Developer Relations part had fallen into place, but I eventually came to realize the piece that was still missing was the technology. Some folks in DevRel are able to easily move between representing vastly different types of tech, equally comfortable anywhere. DevRel has become a bit mercenary in this respect. In many cases, companies are hiring Developer Relations leaders and Developer Advocates based on personal brand and reputation — not their specific technology expertise.

What I learned over the last three years was: mercenary DevRel is not for me.

After leaving Auth0, I found myself still writing and speaking about — and repeatedly being invited to speak about — identity. In my time leading DevRel teams for products in significantly different spaces, I always missed identity and security. I remained an Identity Google Developer Expert. I continued to contribute to the Auth0 Ambassador program. In fact, I just won Auth0 Ambassador of the Month in November 2022 for public speaking in identity.

A Homecoming: Joining Okta and Returning to Identity

Throughout my time away from identity, for the most part, I wasn’t actively looking for other jobs. However, I always kept a very casual ear out for roles in identity.

I’m happy to say that I’m now joining Okta — which is the identity company that acquired Auth0 in 2021. (I left Auth0 almost exactly a year before the acquisition. Suffice to say the timing worked out very well for my stock options.)

Not only am I returning to a technology space that I care about deeply, I am also (re)joining many of my friends. I look forward to working with several former Auth0 coworkers (special shout out to my good friend Sam Julien), as well as friends I’ve made post-Auth0, who worked DevRel at Okta (shout out to Heather Downing especially).

Personal Reasons for “Leaving” Developer Advocacy

I am not going to be joining Developer Advocacy at Okta. Instead, I am taking on the strategic role of Group Manager of Developer Content — a product management position. Honestly, I was relieved when the Content role became available, as opposed to Developer Advocacy. I led Developer Content previously (one of my roles at Auth0), but spent several years in the interim leading all of Developer Relations. These roles sometimes included Developer Content, but advocacy was always the first-class citizen.

The truth is: I’m currently burned out on Developer Advocacy. And so is my family.

I love traveling and public speaking and interacting with developers face-to-face. However, this has taken an increasingly unacceptable toll on my family. I have a husband, an eight year-old son, two dogs, and two cats. The frequency of travel both before the surging pandemic (pre-2020) and then over the past year (2022) has had significant negative impacts on my family and mental health.

Family Values

The last time I left for an international trip (in November this year), my son wrote me a heartbreaking letter as he rode the bus to school the morning of my departure. The letter said he missed me already (and had already forgotten where I was going because I go so many different places so often). It said he would try to be better behaved. He wrote that he loves me very much, and he always misses me so much when I’m gone.

When I returned from that trip, he sadly told me all I ever do is work, and travel for work. I also had a realization: I haven’t taken a flight that didn’t somehow involve work in over ten years. Family trip to Disney: I flew there to speak at a conference, and brought my family. Tenth wedding anniversary: my husband and I flew to Tulum, then he flew home and I flew straight to Cabo for a work offsite. I very much look forward to taking a flight somewhere nice purely for leisure, entirely unrelated to work.

There are other reasons that I didn’t want another Advocacy role besides the constant travel (for a future blog post, perhaps), but the impact on my family is the most significant one.

Conclusion

I very much look forward to: a) spending more time at home with my family with just the occasional speaking / traveling, and b) working in identity again.

I’ll still be working closely with developers and advocating for the developer experience. But I look forward to doing something a little different than what I’ve been doing over the past several years. And doing it in identity is the icing on the cake.

Thanks so much for reading! If you’re struggling to manage competing priorities, constant context-switching, proving business value, or burnout in Developer Relations — chat with me. (I have a little newsletter on well-being in DevRel that you can subscribe to, too!)

Cheers!