top of page

Developer Relations in a downturn

Wall Street
Image from Unsplash by Patrick Weissenberger

The Tech industry is experiencing challenging times. After nearly a decade of growth, many working in Developer Relations may be experiencing their first downturn.

For example, 15% of respondents to the 2023 State of Developer Relations Survey identified as ‘looking for work’, the first time that data point has been captured in a decade of running the survey, and there has been a noticeable increase in job hunting threads in online DevRel communities.

Even if Developer Relations teams are not directly affected by layoffs, the reduction in engineering staff across many companies impacts the total addressable audience for their Developer Relations efforts and community building, making engagement that much harder.

According to data from, 226,117 Tech roles have gone in the first eight months of 2023, compared to 164,744 in the whole of 2022. Media commentary on the layoffs identifies that engineering roles have been particularly hard hit.

Tech Layoffs 2022 - 2023 from
Tech Layoffs 2022 - 2023 from

Layoffs in venture backed companies are inextricably linked to sentiment in the venture funding world, and so it comes as no surprise that the data is also showing a decrease in available global venture funding.

Global Funding By Stage Through July 2023 from Crunchbase
Global Funding By Stage Through July 2023 from Crunchbase

But it’s not all bad news. Analysis of laid-off workers conducted by Revelio Labs found 72% have found new jobs within three months, and Lucy Jones, Director of International Headhunter Lawson Brooke said:

I have spent considerable time advising DevRel’s since the Autumn of 2022 on how to achieve their next adventure. When looking back over the last three quarters, 80% of those actively approaching us for new opportunities were no longer ‘open to work’ 3 months later.

However, there is no question that there are currently increased levels of scrutiny on activity within Tech business.

During a downturn, you are under pressure to demonstrate impact and results, whilst having to deal with cuts to your budget and headcount. Positive results are expected, but simultaneously your target audience is shrinking, and their openness to try new things contracts. Like you, your potential customers are under increased pressure. This means their willingness to bring in new vendors, experiment with new technologies, and dedicate time to non-core tasks, like attending events, is reduced.

So how do you plot a successful course through all this?

The key word is alignment.

Understanding your company’s direction and then setting program goals that directly link your activities to the things that are important to your company are vital to your success.

Understanding your company goals is essential. If you work in a Developer First business, your company’s sole mission is to provide great tools to developers. Therefore, it is usually fairly easy to draw a line between how your developer program activities positively contribute to growing the company’s market share and bottom line. However, in a Developer Plus business, because developers are not the core focus of the business, it might be less obvious how your Developer activities are beneficial to growing the bottom line.

Problems arise when DevRel programs:

  • Don’t know what to measure

  • Don’t know how to measure

  • Aren’t measuring the right things

  • Aren’t making effective use of the metrics they do collect.

Being able to articulate the impact of your work is vital. It’s something you want to own rather than have imposed on you.

Run towards metrics and crave accountability.

When properly aligned and clarified, metrics allow you to:

  • Clearly communicate priorities and motivate your teams

  • Measure progress toward your goals and objectives

  • Forecast if those goals and objectives can be reached

  • Make improvements to your strategy and tactics

  • Demonstrate to the team and company as a whole how Developer Relations contributes to the overall business

  • Negotiate resources for next year

To really understand your company goals, it is vital you put yourself in the shoes of your internal stakeholders. Consider how the goals influence their attitude toward your program and how they set their own priorities. For example, if they have a challenging revenue target to hit, they will likely be asking you questions about the contribution your program will be making to achieve that target.

The Metrics Hierarchy from Developer Relations, How to Build and Grow a Successful Developer Program. Apress 2021.
The Metrics Hierarchy from Developer Relations, How to Build and Grow a Successful Developer Program. Apress 2021.

Every company, regardless of size, has intense internal competition for how to deploy its people and where to spend its money. Everyone’s job security rests on placing the right bets to grow your company’s profit - connect the dots and make the case that a dollar spent on your program provides a better return than a dollar spent elsewhere.

For a much deeper discussion of corporate alignment and setting metrics, we recommend you read Developer Relations, How to Build and Grow a Successful Developer Program.

Have you been affected by the Tech downturn? Let us know your experiences. If you are looking for DevRel work, check out our DevRel Job resources blog post, and do get in touch - we will try to help as much as we can.


bottom of page