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Meet James Parton



Welcome to our Q&A-style blog, where we introduce you to the bright minds behind DevRel.Agency. Our team has nearly a century of collective DevRel experience, and we're excited to share our stories with you.

Let’s Meet James Parton

James started his career working at BT in second-line technical support. There he was part of a small team, answering 50,000 support calls per month and providing trend analysis for quality improvement initiatives, as well as representing technical support requirements on new project boards.


Having been exposed to BT’s large compute systems and IT infrastructure, James caught the bug for technical work. He moved into a UNIX system administration role, where he designed and built Sequent and Sun Solaris-based UNIX systems like payroll, marketing, and billing. After three years of roaming the air-conditioned halls of data centers across the UK, James wanted to gain more exposure to the business side of building products. This led to a move into Product Management, first in web services, where he ran BT’s web hosting business. He then transitioned into mobile data services, where he product managed the launch of multiple services, including picture messaging and video streaming for O2.


In 2007, after 10 years of launching and managing products, James had an epiphany. He saw that large organizations were too slow moving to successfully bring services to market after seeing them consistently out-executed by smaller, more nimble software-led startups. James pivoted and began to champion open innovation and the empowerment of developers to build their own products on top of O2’s infrastructure. At the time, this was diametrically opposed to the mindset of the mobile carrier controlling everything. Thus his journey in Developer Relations began. The first program he created was O2 Litmus in 2008, which led to BlueVia, an international DevRel program for Telefonica in 2011.

Why is DevRel Exciting? I’d point to four things for me personally:

  1. I’m motivated by a diversity of tasks. To be successful in DevRel, you need to be skilled in many areas, including technical, marketing, support, community building, and internal stakeholder management. In my experience, there are few roles that provide an opportunity to work across so many areas simultaneously.

  2. I’ve always been inspired by creative people - be that art, music, or in this case, code. I love any creative process and seeing creators in action.

  3. I love anything new, and I love being into things early. I feed off the excitement of working with new startups and nascent technologies and the thought that it might be the next big thing.

  4. I started my career in support, and that desire to identify and solve problems, clearly communicate complex things, optimize processes, and help people to be successful is just baked into my DNA. So much of that applies in DevRel.

What’s Trending in the DevRel Industry? We are in interesting times. I feel the DevRel community is starting to organize more effectively, sharing best practices and looking to codify its working practices. Caroline and I have long advocated that DevRel should be seen as its own practice, equal to marketing, product, sales, and engineering. We are seeing positive signs of this movement.


Part of this momentum is the increasing awareness and reach of Developer Relations. We now see DevRel springing up in a variety of companies, for example our DevRel Program Directory has data on more than 700 programs - add yours if you haven’t already!


Encouragingly, we are seeing more conversation around the need to link DevRel to the revenue generation side of the business. Again, we have long advocated for partnerships between DevRel and Sales, and for DevRel leaders to align their objectives with the high-level objectives of their companies. Outside of DevRel? I’m entrepreneurial by nature, so I have a few other things happening in parallel to co-founding DevRel.agency. I’m the Managing Director of The Bradfield Centre, which is a co-working space in Cambridge supporting more than 120 startups, hosting loads of community events, and it enjoys close ties to The University of Cambridge. I have certainly taken inspiration from the DevRel playbook whilst building the physical community there! Speaking of Cambridge, I also co-host Cambridge Tech Podcast, where we talk to the founders and players in the local Tech ecosystem, with new shows published every week.


If I get any downtime, I love music, and I’m eternally thankful that I never sold my vinyl collection, even though I had nothing to play it on for 20 years! That is now solved and I’m collecting again - vinyl is back! I’ve been to more live shows than I care to remember, certainly over 1,000. Whilst I fully appreciate this highlights my obsessive personality, I’ve seen a dozen bands more than 25 times each, and one band  - which will remain nameless -  more than 100 times. I love finding and supporting new artists, but I typically move on once they threaten to reach the mainstream. My wife calls me a music snob, which is fair! Finally, I’m an avid Xbox gamer, mostly in the looter shooter genre.

 

James Parton's career trajectory is a prime example of the impact of Developer Relations in the tech industry. From his early days in technical support at BT to his role in championing open innovation at O2, James has consistently sought to empower developers and drive innovation. His diverse skill set and entrepreneurial spirit have made him a driving force in the DevRel community, and his passion for fostering vibrant communities and enhancing developer experiences is a source of motivation for all.



Need help identifying friction in your Developers’ Journey or smoothing out your Documentation so you can better communicate with your developer audience? Connect with James on LinkedIn.

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