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How to build a developer community? with Jana Iris (Employee #10, HashiCorp)
The first episode of Developer-led with Jana Iris - OG of developer community building and employee #10 at HashiCorp.

How to build a developer community? with Jana Iris (Employee #10, HashiCorp)

Jonathan Reimer
Jonathan Reimer
CEO & Co-Founder, crowd.dev

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Welcome to the first episode of Developer-led - the show where we explore how modern companies build and distribute developer products. We’re honored to have Jana Iris joining us for the very first episode.

Jana is one of the OGs in developer community building. As employee number 10 at HashiCorp, she has scaled one of the most iconic developer communities from 0 to millions of developers. Furthermore, she was involved in building developer communities at companies like Engine Yard, New Relic, and Sourcegraph. Starting in 2022, she angel invested in over 10 early stage startups - mostly in the open-source and DevTool space - until she turned her side project into a full-time profession and joined TQ Ventures, a small but mighty firm that raised $500m.

In this interview, Jana shares her journey into the world of developer communities, the importance of education, empathy, and consistent efforts in building a thriving community. She also talks about the future of developer communities and the potential role of AI.

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You can listen to this episode of Developer-led on all regular podcast platforms.

Entering the World of Developer Communities

Jana's journey into community building began when she started working at Engine Yard in 2008. Back then, there wasn't a playbook on how to build developer communities, so they started by sponsoring open source projects and contributors, hiring open source contributors full time, and hosting meetups. These naturally occurring actions laid the groundwork for what is nowadays considered “community building”.

The Evolution of Developer Communities

Over the past 10 years, the role of developer communities has changed significantly. Companies have embraced a bottom-up marketing approach focusing on developers adopting and loving a tool, product, or service. This shift has resulted in a rise in community-led and product-led growth strategies.

Building a Developer Community: The Playbook

When founders ask Jana how to build a developer community, she emphasizes that there is no single answer. Instead, it's important to be consistent and focus on the core pillars of community building, such as education, peer-to-peer validation, and empathy. These principles, combined with strategic programs like ambassador programs and user feedback initiatives, help foster a community-building mindset within a team. Learn more about the Five Pillars of Building a Developer Community on Jana’s blog.

The Importance of Metrics in Community Building

Jana wishes she had focused more on tracking metrics and aligning community-building efforts with company goals earlier in her career. By measuring and tracking from the beginning, community leaders can better demonstrate the value of their work and contribute to the overall success of the company.

The Future of Developer Communities

While it's difficult to predict the future of developer communities, Jana believes that embracing emerging tools and technologies, such as AI, will be crucial for community builders. AI could help simplify tasks, curate content, and facilitate introductions within the community, but human involvement will still be essential in designing and implementing these programs.

As the landscape of developer communities continues to evolve, it's essential for companies and community leaders to adapt and explore new ways to engage and support their audiences. By staying true to the core principles of education, validation, and empathy, community builders can continue to create meaningful connections and drive success for their organizations.

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