Managing a Google Developer Relations Community: Interview With Laurence Moroney

March 27, 2017

Laurence Moroney, an engineer-turned-developer-relations-sensation, started his career as a developer advocate when he brought his two beloved hobbies together: content and coding. After writing a handful of programming books, Moroney found himself at Google—by way of Microsoft–as the Staff Developer Advocate.

His day-to-day is always different, but one aspect remains the same: learning from a very talented, and robust, developer relations community. In an effort to share Google developer intelligence with programmers around the globe, and help them build better products, Moroney launched the successful YouTube channel Coffee With a Googler. He sits down with a developer at Google for 10-15 minutes and discusses anything from augmented reality to Firebase Cloud Messaging.

We connected with Moroney to learn more about how to manage a developer relations community and the importance of listening.

Managing a Developer Relations Community

Mobilize: Tell us a little more about your early career.

Moroney: I worked as a developer for many years and built security and driver systems. Then I moved on to financial securities. Then, I went into developer management. I started writing a lot of programming books, so many I’ve lost count, and that naturally led to developer advocacy. I was hired by Microsoft and worked on the Silverlight team. In 2013, I went to Google, and here I am.

Mobilize: What’s an average day at Google like for you?

Moroney: There are no average days for me, and that’s part of the magic with this role. On any given day, there’s a variety of things I’m doing and they’re all different. Today, I’m working on a talk for a conference. I always want to show something real in my talks, so I spend a lot of time preparing for them. I also spent a lot of time writing and preparing segments for Coffee With a Googler.

When I write blog posts, it can be a very involved process. First, I draft something. Then I send it to stakeholders to review. We spend a lot of time preparing it for our social channels too.

Mobilize: What’s the community like that you manage?

Moroney: The GDG (Google Developer Groups) is a group of local enthusiasts who receive support from Google. These developers are interested in Google’s developer technology. I grew up in Dublin, and I’m really involved in the Dublin chapter. I’ll speak with them in our offices there.

Google Developer is the primary group, but there are a lot of informal communities centered around specific technology. For example, the Firebase community that I work on, has been really successful. We hosted a conference in Berlin, and it was amazing. It’s infectious how enthusiastic people were about the technology.

Mobilize: What, in your opinion, makes a developer relations community successful?

Moroney: There are three things that make a developer relations community successful. First, it needs a very active support team from whoever the vendor is—the developer community for Google technology needs support from Google. Second, it needs technology people can be enthusiastic about, and finally, it needs technology people can be successful at using.

Mobilize: How do you continue to keep people engaged?

Moroney: Events are a big part of it. That’s part of the magic with Google Developer Groups, we hold regular meetups. Face-to-face time, peer-to-peer time, it’s invaluable. It’s also important to have support from the mothership. Getting together for pizza and a drink in different cities is big part of keeping our community engaged.

Mobilize: How do you choose the content for Coffee with a Googler?

Moroney: More times than not they select me. I’m usually approached by a Googler asking if they can come on the show and talk about a specific product they’re working on. I’ve put some restrictions on it though. It’s not a marketing thing. We do these primarily to educate developers. We show a clear CTA: we’ve released this feature, and here’s how you get started.

Mobilize: What continues to surprise you the most about the developer community?

Moroney: First thing that comes to mind is the sheer diversity. There are so many different voices in a rapidly shrinking world. The second is the coding that’s happening all around the world. It’s fascinating to see what they’re doing.


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