New Job, Who Dis?

I got a new job as a Senior Developer Advocate at Akamai. This post shares my thoughts on the role, company, and industry. In short, I'm excited.

Hey friends, I have a little life update I wanted to share with you. Last month, I started a new role as a Senior Developer Advocate at Akamai. I’m super excited about this because it aligns well with my interests, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share my thoughts on the role, the company, and the industry.

The Role

Until now, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a variety of development roles. I’ve worked on the frontend and the backend. I’ve done agency work and product work. I’ve been an individual contributor and I’ve been a team lead.

All of my work thus far has been at startuppy companies and I’ve never held an official “developer advocate” title, but I do have experience:

I don’t know why it took so long to realize that I really enjoy developer advocacy and that I could actually get paid to do it instead of squeezing in an hour here and there.

By doing it full time, I’ll be able to focus on providing more content, better content, and help more people learn web development. I might also have time to focus on new types of content like courses, videos, and maybe even run some hackathons.

There were some other companies I had considered, but this role in particular stood out because it’s focused on edge compute which is something I’m very excited about. It’s in its infancy at the moment, but it has huge potential. I hope you’re as excited about it as I am.

As far as downsides, developer advocacy is supposed to be a very difficult job to separate work and life. I’ve heard warnings the amount of travel involved. It may also be difficult to measure impact because it’s all about getting more eyes. Not quite the same as shipping new app features.

Nonetheless, I think it’s going to be a great fit and I’m very excited.

The Company

Akamai was founded in 1998. That’s over 20 years ago. This company may be older than some people reading this. That’s almost forever in internet years, and there’s a lot that comes with that.

First, the good stuff.

It’s a big name. I expect a lot of industry folks will recognize the name when I tell them where I work. It’s the largest player in the space and they work with the biggest clients. It’s really cool (and a bit surreal) to see such large brands as our clients.

Coming from mostly startups, this is going to be a big change for me, but it’s a welcomed one. Working in a dynamic startup can be a lot of fun, especially when you successfully exit, but it’s also very demanding.

I’ve had to wear many hats at the same time while everything is on fire. It’s so stressful. I think I’m done with early-stage companies for a while.

Akamai, on the flip side, has a lot of things figured out already. I don’t need to juggle a million things at the same time because there’s no one else to do them. I can just focus on my specific tasks. And when I have an issue, there is always someone to go to with questions.

In fact, that’s another benefit. I get to work with a lot of very smart people. My immediate team has also been very friendly and supportive about the ideas I’ve brought up.

Akamai also has really good benefits compared to some of the other companies I’ve worked for. And I don’t mean just the standard insurance, 401k, unlimited PTO, etc. Those are great, but there have been some really cool, unexpected surprises for physical health, mental health, and productivity:

  • “Mental health” days (a random Friday where no one has to work) in 2021 and 2022.
  • Home office setup budget.
  • Home gym setup budget.
  • Yearly budget for exercise, mental health, financial help, and more.
  • Access to counseling.
  • Access to premium care.com accounts.
  • Access to various Employee Resource Groups (Asian, women, LGBTQ+, disabled, and more).
  • A big network of social groups for various interests.
  • Paid leave for volunteer work.

I’m sure that’s not everything, but it definitely shows me that the company invests in its people.

As I think about the company’s values, a couple things stand out that are also pretty cool. Clients choose Akamai because of their focus on security and stability. I also don’t see the company participating in much “mud slinging”. And something I’m very excited to see is that Akamai has committed to being carbon-neutral by 2030. I wish it was not quite so far, but at least it’s something.

(If you’re looking for work, Akamai seems like a great place so far. I’d recommend checking out their careers page.)

Now let’s move on to some of the downsides because this is starting to feel like an Akamai advert.

Firstly, there was a LOT more to the on-boarding process than I’ve had to do at any other company. In addition to the overwhelming amount of information I have to learn (history, products, people, etc) there was a lot more mandatory training videos to watch. Akamai is a large company, and I’m sure it comes with the territory. Nevertheless, it was a lot.

To give you an example, part of my training was to read through all the Privacy and Policy statements. Boy, I can’t wait til next year when I get to do the same thing again because one sentence gets changed (ಥ﹏ಥ)

The fact that Akamai is a large company is a double-edge sword. While I do have more people to get answers from, it also means figuring out who does what. I find myself being redirected to different people for the answers. And it’s not just a large number of people.

Let me tell you about meetings.

I’ve had so many meetings. Several of these are pleasant, get-to-know-you meetings. Others are huge teams covering topics I am unfamiliar with, using acronyms/terms/jargon I have never heard before. They’re all good for me to catch up quickly and I’m starting to find my rhythm…but they’re still meetings.

While we’re on that subject, I can say the same about emails. I like to keep my work inbox as empty as possible, so waking up to a pile of emails every day is a bit of a challenge.

All of the above can be filed under the “information overload” folder and will become easier as I become more accustomed to the company, but there is still one thing that I’m a little anxious about. The speed at which I can get work done.

In some of my past roles I’ve been given the keys to the castle within the first week: GitHub ‘owner’ privileges, production database credentials, SSH access to the live server, etc. It was a huge risk on their part, but it also meant that I could start doing my job right away.

My experience so far has been far from that. I need special software and 2FA apps in order to access certain some work-related websites. I also had to choose between Windows or MacOS, even though my preferred OS is Ubuntu (so far WSL is just meh). And getting access to certain resources or services to do my work requires reaching out to someone, following a redirect, back-and-forth on 3 different communication channels, submitting a service request, pouring some salt on the floor in the shape of a pentagram, lighting some candles, and reciting some ancient incantation.

For the most part, these issues above are actually good things. They align with Akamai’s values of security and stability and I’m sure the same would happen at any big company. Still, it’s slower than I’m used to.

In the end, I get the impression that my team was created to be a change agent, and that’s a position I’m happy to be in. But I think we have a long road ahead. Someone told me it’s kind of like “trying to steer an aircraft carrier.”

Good things take time and energy, and even if there are difficult changes that we need to make, the company is in a good position to make them, and I’m happy to be part of it.

The Industry

This is also going to be my favorite part.

Cloud computing was a major innovation to application infrastructure with the ability to quickly provision as many servers as you wanted. After that, cloud functions were the next major milestone in my opinion because you no longer had to worry about environments and only paid for the resources you used. I think edge compute is the next big step.

Edge compute takes a lot of the same principles of cloud functions and puts it as close as possible to the end user, ultimately resulting in faster performance due to lower latency and less ‘cold start’ time.

It’s exciting, it’s interesting, it’s challenging, it’s effective, and it’s just getting started. I mean, look at this list of services, frameworks, and conversations from some of the biggest players about edge compute:

Edge compute will not completely replace cloud functions or servers. It will work in addition to those and only improve certain functionality.

As I learn more and more about the fascinating use cases for edge compute and the innovations to come, I’m also becoming more aware of the limitations.

Regardless of the company, the goal of an edge compute platform is to provide the minimal amount of resources but enough functionality to be useful. That’s why you see edge platforms that support custom JavaScript runtimes, but not full-blown Node.js. You also tend to see very short timeouts and low memory.

These limitations will greatly impact what can actually be done at the edge. It probably means we won’t be seeing server-side rendered Astro websites running on the edge. But that may also just be a limitation of today. Tomorrow, who knows?

And that’s the exiting part.

Closing Thoughts

At the risk of sounding repetitive I’ll say it one more time for the folks in the back. I’m super exited for this opportunity. But it also comes with some legitimate concerns. It’s a totally different role at a totally different company focusing on a totally different industry.

Some of the innovators in the space are moving incredibly fast and it’s fun to see, but I’ve also experienced getting bit in the butt because things moved too quickly and some breaking change was introduced. I think Akamai has been more focused on stability, which I appreciate.

We’ve got a lot of work to do, but I feel good and I hope you stick around to watch how things play out.

Thank you so much for reading. If you liked this article, please share it, and if you want to know when I publish more articles, sign up for my newsletter or follow me on Twitter. Cheers!


Originally published on austingil.com.