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Developer ambassador programs are all the rage nowadays. After all, what’s not to love? Getting a team of experts in your dev product that can teach others how to build with it and increase awareness of it to the ends of the earth can only really bring good things to your company. With the way the internet in general and social media in particular shape the way products live and die in the current landscape, it’s a pretty safe bet that developer ambassadors are here to stay for a good while.
Still, the decision to set up an ambassador program in your company is just the first step. Many businesses that take this step are met with a roadblock right away. The big question that there’s no way you can get around is this: how do I know which members of my developer community will actually make the best developer ambassadors?
In order to face this challenge early on and be prepared, you need to come up with an effective application and onboarding process for all your developer ambassadors. The best type of process is one that lets you not only swiftly choose the best candidates for the roles, but it will also save you a lot of time.
The biggest thing to keep in mind when dealing with an application process is a good workflow. Making sure that it can easily be automated and repeated is the key factor that will make all your work in searching and onboarding developer ambassadors quicker, more efficient, and reliable.
While this guide is absolutely ideal for complete beginners, you’re bound to find something useful even if you are a seasoned program manager already. You may already be aware of the challenges we’re discussing and handling them boldly using spreadsheets. We’re here to show you there’s a few alternative ways you could be doing that and who knows—some might end up working out better for you.
Why should I even bother setting up an application process for my Developer Ambassador program?
The reason why a good application process lies within the role of the ambassador program itself. It’s a premium position that you, the program manager, need to hand pick the person for so that they may best serve as the face of your product. This may be quite easy to achieve when your dev community is small and you have a personal connection with any potential candidates, but things get trickier when the community in question is larger and submissions keep flooding in from all directions.
At this point, you may be asking yourself: “well, why not just let them all become ambassadors? The more people are talking about my product, the better, right?” This might seem logical at first glance, but there are a few problems with that assessment. First of all, that’s what your community is for in general. You already have a big group excited for your product that will put in a good word for it, share feedback, and exchange knowledge.
Whereas an ambassador is supposed to be someone selected out of that community to be a more direct representative. The exclusivity of the deal is the entire point of the position, so being among the handful of your developer ambassadors - or perhaps even the sole ambassador - is meant to be a reward for the passion they’re already giving you, which further incentivizes them to do their best.
Granted, it’s very likely that at the very beginning you won’t have the need to create an entire application process. Odds are that your first ambassador will just emerge out of the community naturally, and your program will only develop from there. Your ambassadors will be reaping some tangible benefits from their position and it’s at this point that other members of the community might start getting interested.
Before long, you’ll be receiving a lot of inquiries. People will see how well the ambassador program is working out for everyone involved and they’ll want a piece of that. Of course, at this point it’s not really reasonable to expect that you’ll be able to personally handle every single one of those people and decide who gets to be an ambassador by personally interviewing everyone. You need a system in place that will help you parse the deluge of the emails and form responses you’ll be you’ll be flooded with. We’re talking about hundreds of spreadsheets here. If you don’t want to waste any time, you’ll need help with managing the flow.
Check out the example from Auth0 Ambassadors below to see what we’re talking about. Anyone interested in becoming their ambassador need only fill the form on the page to apply. This gives the program managers all the info they need to filter out any submissions that don’t meet their requirement, making the entire process smooth.
Must-have elements of a good application process
We’ve established that a good developer ambassador application process can save you a lot of time and make it easier for you to find the candidates you’re looking for. We’ve shown you a sample form, but other than that, we haven’t really talked about what makes an application process work yet. Here’s where we go into more detail about just that.
The Application Form
The form is the first thing your potential ambassadors will see. It’s also the first thing you will see as the program manager. It’s a first in many ways, and first impressions matter most. You also can’t make a first impression twice, so make the first time really matter. Here are three simple steps to making your form really do its job.
- While questions regarding personal data are obviously crucial, that’s not all you need to ask about. Make sure you ask about the applicant's technical experience with your product and community, as well as any open-source experience and links to their social media.
- Don’t just ask closed questions about specifics. Leave room for them to express themselves, leave their biographies, ask questions of their own, etc. This will help you more easily gauge what kind of person you’re talking to from word go.
- Finally, make sure you also leave room for them to list any contributions or accomplishments they’ve made in their past. A list of accolades can give you an even clearer picture of their skillset and temperament.
A structured process for growing developer program
While the form itself is where you get started, what’s even more important is what you do with it. Before you even start making ambassador submissions an option and post your form online, you should know where you’re going to go once the emails start pouring in. For that, you need to establish the following things before you start:
- What are the application process steps?
- What are the criteria for each step?
- What communication and notifications will you be sending to future members?
- Who will be responsible for reviewing, making decisions, sending notifications, etc?
It’s hard to overstress just how important it is to have all of these established ahead of time. Good organization and preparation can come a long way in making the application process run smoothly. The form itself is, of course, incredibly important, but if you don’t have a step-by-step process for what to do with that form established from the outset, you might just get lost in it all along the way anyway. Don’t underestimate the amount of applications you’ll receive and be sure you’re prepared for what’s potentially coming.
Application process example
All of that theory is important, but it may seem a bit abstract if taken on its own. To make sure that you know what we’re talking about, we’ve provided a sample of a step-by-step process for you. This is, of course, only an example, so make sure you only use it as a basis to come up with something that’s perfect for you.
- A potential ambassador fills out the application form.
- They receive an email notification confirming that their form has been filled out properly, as well as providing them with the next steps.
- Your team performs an initial screening, checking the application for experience, social media links, etc.
- You make a preliminary decision based on the initial screening. All approved applications move on to the next step, while rejected applicants receive a rejection email.
- Time to schedule an interview with the potential ambassador. The goal here is to check their community and product skills, motivation, and communication skills.
- Your team performs the interview and share their feedback.
- You make the final decision based on the feedback.
- If necessary, sign an NDA with the ambassador.
- Onboard the ambassador, provide them with access to all internal communicators, and send an onboarding email.
How to create an effective process and save your DevRel team's time?
Once you have your process in place, your place should already be running smoothly. At this point, new ambassadors are coming in almost automatically, all thanks to your preparations. Still, it’s not like there aren’t people involved who need to be on top of things to make it happen. This means that there will always be some work time that your team will need to be devoting to the ambassador application process.
However, that’s another thing you don’t need to worry about, as we’ve got you covered. While we can’t completely eliminate time that gets devoted to screening applicants, here are some reliable tips on saving time during the process.
- Create templates ahead of time to speed up communication. Make sure that all the emails, notifications, and feedback you’ll be sending out are prepared before you even announce that you’re recruiting. Keep them all in one document that’s available to all team members, so that all they have to do is paste it in and fill in some gaps.
- Prepare a roles and responsibilities matrix. This will help you monitor the process by seeing who has done what and what milestones still need to be achieved. An RACI matrix can be helpful here.
- Streamline the scheduling process. Apps like Calendly can help your interviewers set up new interviews much more easily.
Set your Developer Ambassadors up for success through effective onboarding
So you’ve received a truckload of applications, conducted dozens of interviews, and finally ended up with a new developer ambassador or two to help ensure that your product has a bright future ahead of it. Congratulations! There’s no time to rest yet, though, as they can only do so much without you telling them what it is you need from them. It’s time to set up an efficient onboarding process.
Your ambassador may already know a lot about your product, but they’re still strangers in a strange land, so kick off the onboarding process by making them feel at home. Send them a nice welcoming message (click to read article about onboarding emails), make them part of your chat on Slack or Discord, or come up with some other simple gesture that will showcase the pleasant vibes you’re cultivating within your company.
Now that they’re all nice and comfortable, it’s time to have them meet the gang. Create an introduction thread or group email, ensuring that every member of the team gets to say hello to the newcomer. Let the bonds form naturally, allowing your new ambassador to not only feel even more comfortable, but also for information to flow more easily. It might be a good idea to set up a buddy system, so that your new ambassador has a more experienced person to learn the ropes from, as well as get their roots even more firmly planted.
As a final point, it’s important to mention the onboarding checklist. Give the new ambassador a list of goals for them to tick off after they’ve made themselves comfortable. Whether it’s adding a profile picture to slack or using a hashtag on social media to let the world know they’re a new ambassador on board, it’s a good way to get that momentum going right from the outset.
Advocu: the best tool for setting up an ambassador application and onboarding process
So we’ve told you about some processes and insisted that they’re all useful, but it may appear that it’s a bit much to take in from the sidelines. While we’ll definitely always stand by our words, there’s no denying that a truly effective development ambassador application and onboarding process can be quite a complicated affair. But don’t worry, we’re here to help.
At Advocu, we offer some of the best help when it comes to setting up ambassador application and onboarding processes. Check how easy, and globally automated, this process can be.
Developer ambassadors can play a huge role in raising awareness of your product. While at the beginning stages it might be easy for you to personally hand-pick your ambassadors, things get more complicated the bigger you get.
Thankfully, nowadays it’s quite easy to set up a process that will help you get ambassadors on your team more efficiently. It’s the human aspect of any company that really connects with your clients in the end, so rest assured knowing there are effective ways of getting the best people for the job with little hassle.