Jarek Jarzębowski
7 minutes
November 22, 2023

Developer Engagement Strategies: Behind the Scenes with PayPal's DevRel Expert, Christina Monti

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The world of Developer Relations (DevRel) is as varied as the professionals who populate it. From community managers and developer advocates to educators and content creators, DevRel has quickly become an indispensable aspect of the tech industry. But what are the challenges and rewards that come with such a multifaceted role? How does one juggle the demands of community engagement, technical content creation, and constant learning?

To get a closer look at the life inside DevRel, we sat down with Christina Monti, a seasoned professional who has a passion for community engagement and believes in doing what makes her happy. My candid conversation with Christina touches on the various aspects of DevRel, the emotional toll it can take, and the transformative plans Christina has for PayPal's DevRel program in the coming year.

So if you've ever wondered what DevRel really entails or if you're considering diving into this dynamic field, read on for invaluable insights.

Key Takeaways from the Conversation

The Multifaceted Role of DevRel

  • DevRel involves wearing multiple hats—from community management and content creation to code contributions and public speaking.

Emotional Labor in DevRel

  • The role demands emotional intelligence and can sometimes be emotionally draining, requiring individuals to be cognizant of their own well-being.

The Importance of Authenticity

  • Christina emphasizes that being genuine is vital in building and maintaining relationships with developers and stakeholders.

Community-Centric Approach

  • The focus should be on what the community wants and needs, rather than solely what the company aims to push out.

Skill Diversification

  • DevRel professionals need to be constantly learning, both to keep up with technological advancements and to stay engaged with their communities.

Strategic Vision for PayPal's DevRel

  • Christina reveals her plans for revamping PayPal's DevRel program, aiming for a more integrated, community-focused approach.

Work-Life Balance in DevRel

  • Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is crucial, given the diverse and sometimes demanding nature of the role.

Conversation with Christina Monti

In this section, you'll find the key insights and takeaways from our engaging discussion with Christina Monti on the role of developer relations in today's tech landscape. We touch on everything from fostering community engagement to the evolving responsibilities of DevRel professionals. For a comprehensive understanding and to catch every detail, don't miss the full conversation available as original podcast audio on Advocu Podcast.

Jarek Jarzębowski: Hello and welcome to Advocu Podcast, where we dig deep into developer relations and ambassador programs. Each episode is packed with insights and actionable tips from experienced dev roles and program managers. If you like what we do, don't forget to hit subscribe and leave us a five-star review on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

If you want to reach us, you can always do so at advocu.com/podcast. Without further ado, let's get into today's episode. Hello, Christina. Thank you for joining me and thank you for accepting the invitation to our podcast. Before we start, please introduce yourself to our listeners.

Christina Monti: Absolutely. I'm Christina Monti, and I work as a Developer Relations Product Manager at PayPal. I've been at PayPal for seven years. My role and responsibilities have evolved over time, but I've landed in developer relations and I absolutely love it to death!

Jarek Jarzębowski: That may sound a bit dramatic, but what exactly is developer relations at PayPal? I ask because when it comes to developer relations, everyone seems to have their own definition. What does it mean for you and PayPal?

Christina Monti: It's interesting because I've been in developer relations for just one year. What I've realized is that most people who get into this field have been doing it their entire lives; they just didn't know it. At PayPal, we define developer relations as a way to provide alternative content for developers and actively listen to their needs within their communities. We aim to ensure that the experience we're building at PayPal considers them fully, as they play a vital role in our ecosystem.

Jarek Jarzębowski: So what does all this translate to in terms of day-to-day work? What are you actually doing to focus on their experience?

Christina Monti: Every dev rel role is unique, but in my case, I don't write code or create content. Instead, my focus is on strategy. I enable our developer advocates to work on projects that matter both to the business and the developers. I provide them with resources to engage effectively with the community, such as software for videos or platforms for blog posts.

Jarek Jarzębowski: And how do you gauge the impact of your work?

Christina Monti: Measuring impact can be tricky. My primary focus is on quality over quantity. I believe that if we offer quality experiences, the numbers will follow naturally. Developers are community-oriented; they try out new technologies because their community is talking about it, not necessarily because they want to. So my metrics might include increased followers on social platforms, more videos produced, or higher engagement rates, but my main aim is to ensure a quality experience for every developer who interacts with us.

Jarek Jarzębowski: That makes a lot of sense. We know that the business aspect is there, but it shouldn't be the only measure.

Christina Monti: Absolutely, I don't want my success to be tied solely to quantitative metrics. I'm more concerned with offering a great experience, providing useful content, and offering robust support. That's where I want my focus to be.

Jarek Jarzębowski: Your approach reminds me of Stephen Covey's "Speed of Trust." It seems like what you’re doing is essentially building trust, which eventually leads to more organic and impactful business outcomes.

Christina Monti: Exactly. Trust is crucial. And that trust becomes even more crucial in times like these, where the world has had to adapt quickly due to COVID. If you're not a developer-first company, you risk losing a large part of your business. Developers don't care about brand names; they care about good experiences.

Jarek Jarzębowski: It's true, COVID has been a wake-up call for many organizations. The focus should be on delivering a good experience to keep the community engaged and loyal. So what are the challenges of DevRel in your opinion?

Christina Monti: You know, it's interesting because maybe I'm beating a dead horse on this one, but I don't think I'm the same as everyone else regarding how things work. In my mind, there are things that you do in DevRel. I have a job. My job is to manage the community, make videos, create sample apps, and write blog posts. It could be that all of that is my job, or just one of those things is my job. In my ideal DevRel world, everyone would be doing what they want. I don't think that one person has to do it all.

I believe that you can do what makes you happy and thrive. If I go to work and I hate my job, am I going to be good at it? Absolutely not. Will I want to come back? Absolutely not. Why, as a society, do we force people to do things they don't want to do?

Let's say I'm a community manager. I hate how much time is spent context-switching. That, in my mind, is the downfall of DevRel. The constant context-switching, the feeling that I'm letting people down if I don't respond or attend a conference.

I had to leave San Jose while my husband was at home with a broken ankle. I almost cried on the plane because I missed a meetup. That's a real problem in DevRel.

Jarek Jarzębowski: I can relate to that. Whenever I leave home for a conference or meetup, I always think of my daughters and my wife, who also has a full-time job. I think we shouldn't treat DevRel roles as Swiss Army knives because different activities require different skill sets.

Christina Monti: I can switch contexts like a ninja, but I know what that does to my mental health. I don't think it's healthy or fair to ask someone to juggle so many different tasks, especially within a short time frame.

Jarek Jarzębowski: I've read the book "Essentialism" by Greg McKeown, and the need for constant context switching seems like the antithesis of his approach. So what are your plans for DevRel at PayPal for the next year?

Christina Monti: My biggest goal is for us to mature as a program. I want us to influence our product teams and offer various types of content to support different learning styles.

Jarek Jarzębowski: Those seem like worthy goals. I hope you achieve them and even more. Do you have any last thoughts for our listeners?

Christina Monti: If you want to get into DevRel, just do it. Be vulnerable, learn in public, and just start putting your work out there. Most of us are already doing DevRel in some form.

Jarek Jarzębowski: Great, thank you. One last quick question, where can people find you?

Christina Monti: I'm on Twitter, my handle is dev_Christina. You can also find my website through my Twitter profile.

Jarek Jarzębowski: We'll put links to your Twitter and website in the show notes. Thank you very much, and hopefully, we'll talk again soon.

Christina Monti: Absolutely, I would love to.

PayPal Champions Program Overview 

A PayPal Champion is an expert who goes above and beyond to advocate for PayPal. As PayPal ambassadors, Champions provide content and thought leadership across communities and solutions. They help influence and mentor others to make the most of their PayPal experience.

PayPal Champions

Key Components

Contribution Mechanics: To become a PayPal Champion, experts apply by showcasing their involvement and advocacy for PayPal. This includes creating content such as blogs, videos, white papers, advocating on social media, participating in community forums, and engaging in speaking engagements. Champions are selected for their ability to influence, mentor, and enhance the PayPal experience for others, demonstrating a broad spectrum of contributions rather than just technical mastery.

Awards & Recognition: PayPal Champions enjoy a range of rewards and recognitions, including profiles in the Champions gallery, access to exclusive networking events, invitations to PayPal events with speaking opportunities, and custom swag. Furthermore, they receive expert support from PayPal's product and engineering teams and timely access to new products and features, acknowledging their status as key advocates in the PayPal community.

Resources: As PayPal Champions, participants are encouraged to continue their advocacy in at least two key areas annually, such as content creation, social outreach, community support, events and speaking engagements, customer references, and feedback & product development support. This role involves a commitment to sharing their expertise, engaging with the global community, and contributing to the evolution of PayPal's products and services. The program is designed for those who are eager to learn, grow, and positively impact PayPal's global developer experience.

Closing Thoughts

The insights shared by Christina Monti are invaluable not just for those directly involved in Developer Relations but also for anyone looking to understand the broader tech ecosystem. DevRel is a field that is constantly evolving, shaped by the needs of both developers and organizations. As such, ongoing conversations and shared experiences like these are integral to the community’s collective growth.

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