Meet Rob Lauer, Senior Manager, Developer Relations at Progress

Meet Rob Lauer, Senior Manager, Developer Relations at Progress

Posted on March 06, 2019 0 Comments

We’d like to introduce you to some of the people from around the world who make us what we are. In this post, meet Rob Lauer, part of the DevRel team at Progress and a passionate mobile app and open web developer.

Rob is a Senior Manager on the Progress Mobility Developer Relations team. Currently focused on the Progress Kinvey high productivity platform and NativeScript, he has held different positions since he joined the company in 2013. “A couple of years ago though, I was presented the opportunity to get back into a management role on the DevRel team, and I jumped at the chance to work with Burke Holland and Todd Anglin again,” says Rob. Read our interview with him to learn more about his professional journey, his passion for technology and what the most unexpected sides of the DevRel job are.

Q: Developer Relations seems to be quite a glamorous job—many people from the industry think that DevRel people spend their time speaking at events and tweeting. What does the unknown side of the DevRel job look like?

Ah, the glamour of flight delays, airport food, and pre-talk anxiety. As with most roles at this company, it’s hard to nail down DevRel as having any one or two primary duties. While prepping for traveling and speaking at events is a part of the job, I would estimate it only takes up about 5-10% of our time. Otherwise I’ve found DevRel to have a lot of overlap with Product Management, which makes sense considering PM is a natural evolution of the experienced Developer Advocate.

Internally, DevRel sits at the nexus of Product, Engineering, Sales, and Marketing. We need to be 100% up to speed on the current state of our products, along with what is coming up in subsequent releases. Folks from all over the company use us as technical references, as they should.

Likewise, externally, we are often the public face of the product. This could mean interfacing with our growing community of open source users and customers, troubleshooting technical issues, writing articles and docs, building sample apps, running our own events, like {N} Developer Day and jsMobileConf, putting on webinars, running awareness or adoption initiatives, assisting on sales calls. This is why DevRel is well known as “jack of all trades” in many ways.

Q: How did you actually start your career in DevRel? It’s interesting that in university you majored in a totally different field, Behavioral Science and Law.

In college I was 100% convinced I would end up with a career in the FBI. Then it became law school. Then I had no idea what I was going to do. Luckily, I attended one of the largest universities in the world, University of Wisconsin-Madison, which provided me a wide range of course options, nurturing both the technical and creative interests that I held. During my senior year, I got a job as a Mac computer support lackey and met a fantastic mentor, who showed me the wonders of updating an Access database with Microsoft’s Active Server Pages. From there I worked at the University of Wisconsin in a variety of engineering and management roles, focused mostly on web development with ASP.NET, and later mobile development. That is, until the stars aligned and I met Burke and Todd at a conference in Las Vegas. Soon after I had an offer in-hand to become the next Developer Advocate for Telerik, which was later acquired by Progress. It was an easy decision in the end.

In short, I absolutely attribute my liberal arts degree, combined with an innate interest in technology, with my position in Developer Relations. It’s a unique role, and very hard to hire for, as you need a strong technical background combined with equally strong writing and communication skills.

Q: What is the most valuable thing you have learned at Progress?

I have to pick just one!? Patience, loyalty, and usefulness. When I first started at Telerik six years ago, I lacked patience. I wanted to accomplish so much and impress so many in a very short amount of time, I quickly became frustrated. I’ve since learned that it’s a marathon and not a sprint. Loyalty, because I’ve worked with some great people here and can call many of them friends. And usefulness, because I’ve found regardless of your title or role at this company, the best thing you can do is make yourself useful to others, regardless of the task at hand.

Q: Tell us more about the experiences/moments that have made you who you are today as a professional?

In the nearly 15 years I spent at the University of Wisconsin in engineering and consulting, I learned that customer satisfaction is your number one priority. Sometimes this meant going against your “developer instincts” and throwing band-aids on code that maybe should have been refactored. At the end of the day, the customer needs their requests met, and perfection is almost always the enemy of good. This has helped to shape me into somewhat of a “people pleaser” I suppose.

And in my DevRel career, I’ve been privileged to work with and report to many experts like Todd, Burke, and Brandon Satrom. I’ve had my moments though, like the abysmal talk I gave at some not-to-be-named conference. But these are learning opportunities in the end and have all accumulated to bring me to this point in my career, for which I’m certainly thankful.

Q: What activities do you enjoy the most once the working day is over?

The first thing you need to know is that for DevRel folks who work remotely, the working day is never over. I say this slightly tongue-in-cheek, but the reality is that while most work gets done 9 to 5, or 7 to 5 as it were, if you love your job enough, some parts become almost a hobby. In my “free time” I do enjoy building apps, writing articles, and creating tools for the community.

However, I am also very good at setting technology aside. That’s when I play with my kids, make awesome food with my wife, listen to good music, and watch as much TV as my guilty conscience will allow. As it’s winter time now, we have all been enjoying both nordic and alpine skiing here in Wisconsin. And we also just got two kittens...

Magdalena Nonova

Magdalena Nonova

Magdalena Nonova is part of the Global Communications team at Progress. She is focused on external communications and organizing events. Passionate about technology and writing, she loves bringing out the best news and stories about Progress.


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