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Meet Thibault Cantegrel (aka Thibs)


Thibault Cantegrel speaking at an event wearing a suit and using hand gestures

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 Thibault Cantegrel (aka Thibs)

Thibs is a DevRel ecosystems builder and serves as a vital liaison between external developers and internal company teams such as Marketing, Sales, and Product.

What is your background. What roles were you in before becoming a DevRel practitioner, and how is it relevant to DevRel?

I started software development at the age of 12 (in Basic and Z80 asm programming on an Amstrad CPC 464 with a tape deck 😄 paid by my parents); MSC computer science university degree in AI, forms recognition & robotics; Software Developer career at the beginning both on embedded (C/C++/event-oriented programming) and high level apps (java, web app frameworks, …). After 10 years of coding, I moved into development team management, then product management, then product marketing, before convincing Sierra Wireless’ CEO that we should build up a Developer program. This would help enhance our Developer Experience, build a bottom-up sales channel, enable/nurture the ecosystem, and get better feedback to our product teams. All that before knowing it was actually “DevRel” – that name came later.

When did you first get into DevRel, how did you learn about this industry, and what attracted you?

Back in 2011 at Sierra Wireless while I was director, product marketing / product owner role for an IoT cloud platform, I realized we were completely missing the point with our top-down sales funnel approach. We were struggling with developers not knowing us, not being able to evaluate/test the technology and sales missed the point with developers who are involved in the buying process. Developers couldn't find good support and documentation, tools, updated software, etc. while trying to use the products. I then decided to build up a developer program, with the help of the senior management and the trust of my CEO – it took me 3 months to do the business case, presentation, etc. and get a budget. I did not know it was "DevRel" at that time, but it contained all the elements that any DevRel practitioner would recognize today: a developer website & a dev content publication process, a forum, a blog for developers and marketing campaigns targeting developers, a tech team to recruit in the company to energize & support the forum, an expert user group with the most experts and active people in the community that I built to get in front of the product teams, building community events, etc…

Why are you still here? With your many years of experience in DevRel, what keeps you working in this field / why do you still continue to work in this field…what makes you keep coming back to DevRel?

I immediately loved that role in between marketing, product and sales teams, and building up/energizing the community. It’s the opposite of a boring job! It’s also about learning every day (you have to put yourself in the shoes of developers and keep following innovation). And I love learning new things. Mid 2021, radical changes in Sierra Wireless management team and strategy ahead of selling the company signalled the end of my time there, but opened the door on a new opportunity to build my own consultancy business. Several former clients from the community were already reaching out to me to help with their DevRel programs, and recently I've had the opportunity to join forces with Caroline and James at DevRel.Agency.

In what part of the ecosystem do you think DevRel plays and why is it an important investment for leading edge companies?

In IoT / Embedded / HW / Edge AI domains, most sales channels focus on a top-down approach: the marketing/communication effort is focused on the executive/decision maker audience, forgetting that the first user of the technology in these domains are developers. Developers are often involved in the buying decision process to qualify a technology and evaluate its credibility and sustainability. They check the documentation, the apparent ease of use, the support, the developer community, and put their hands on the technology for a real test. Developers love to test first, and that’s why a technology, its documentation, and community must be accessible and enjoyable to use. This is all part of the buying process, and too many companies don’t see it. DevRel helps at building up a bottom-up sales funnel approach by making a brand & technology known to well-targeted developer audiences, builds credibility, and builds a great developer experience with the technology/product.

What is your favorite/most rewarding part of being a DevRel practitioner? Tell us the most interesting experience working in the DevRel / developers?

At Sierra Wireless while I was running the Developer Program that I started in 2012, I discovered by chance a very efficient way to better support developers & better reward those who were helping others, which helped to make developer community a very valuable asset to Sierra product teams: I selected the most active expert developers in the community and offered them to join an expert user group who had specific privileges: direct access to product teams and some internal tools (better support), attend specific events, access beta programs, etc. This initiative was very valuable to product teams who could get valuable feedback on previous or future products/features under NDA, and get valuable beta testers for new products, etc. This is to me the essence of DevRel: helping developers experience your product and company while providing feedback to the company for better product, better marketing, and better sales channels. And as a DevRel practitioner, this is highly rewarding.


What types of projects do you like to work on/align best with your skillset?

Due to my experience at Sierra Wireless and my studies, most of the projects I work on are in the IoT or Edge AI domain. I also enjoy working in other domains too as I love to quickly learn new technologies and connect with developers in any domain. The best experience I had was when I built the Expert User Group for Sierra Wireless products based on the most active and most talented developers in the community. Some of them became friends, and we chat every week, even several years after I quit Sierra.

What trends are you seeing in the tech community and where do you see DevRel heading in the next few years? What tip would you give for an organization just starting to build their developer community?

With no-code, low-code and AI trends, we see more diverse developer types. e.g. a Notion expert is definitely a developer. An AI engineer training ML models is a developer too. Both examples are far from C/C++ coding of low level drivers on bare metal. But all need DevRel. The size of the market in terms of technologies is growing. And this trend won’t slow down any time soon, innovation doesn't stop. AI is impacting all developers, and AI is now an efficient way to learn faster (language, domain, etc.) and write/fix code. Companies have to make sure that developers using AI will have a good experience with their technology from discovery to test, project development and maintenance. Developers are not at risk of being replaced by AI. They see AI as an opportunity to code faster and more efficiently. We can predict that AI started on the cloud to reach edge devices will find its way into smaller edge devices with less and less processing power and memory. Those devices will make better usage of bandwidth and send more intelligent data, less often. More C/C++/embedded software developers will have to integrate Edge-AI features in the future, including on small MCUs.

What hobbies/interests do you have outside of work?

I spend a decent amount of my time within the rational thinking/critical thinking/science education French community (called sometimes “zététique”). I help organize the “Rencontres de l’Esprit Critique” event (aka “REC”), the main French community event on that topic (free, 3,300 attendees in 2023 for 108 conferencers) and do the emcee when needed.

 

Thibs' journey exemplifies the impact of DevRel in empowering developers, driving innovation, and shaping the future of technology. His passion for fostering vibrant communities and enhancing developer experiences serves as an inspiration to us 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 Thibs on LinkedIn.

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