Introducing Twilio Developer Evangelist Rachel Black

September 09, 2020
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Introducing Twilio Developer Evangelist Rachel Black

Ahoy there!

Ex-teacher turned developer turned developer evangelist checking in. It’s been a winding road to my destination at Twilio, via meetups, bootcamps and hackathons. This is my journey from classroom to (online) conferences.

From teaching to coding

In my twenties, I worked as a Geography, my undergrad subject, and graphics teacher, slightly more tenuous, I had a product design A-level. Although there were some very rewarding aspects to teaching, the stack-loads of marking, and bureaucratic paperwork left me looking for other options.

Brushing up on my Graphic Design knowledge, I purchased a HTML & CSS textbook. I really enjoyed the process of making things. My highlights were those ‘Aha’ moments and small wins when it all finally worked. I started to consider web development as a career option.

Meetup magic

Around this time I began to dip my toes into the London tech meetup scene. From my outsider's perspective, I was impressed by the openness of these events. Going to places like Codebar and being able to sit with another developer and program for a couple of hours was mind-blowing to me.

At one such meetup, I found out about a free bootcamp, Founders & Coders. Battling through a number of online code katas, and the obligatory fizz buzz challenge, I accepted a place on the course.

A deep dive into web development, the bootcamp was certainly challenging, but ultimately an amazing experience. Working in groups, we banded together to learn the basics of web development, jumping from CSS, APIs to databases.

Although mentorship was available, the focus was very much on self-directed learning and peer collaboration, mimicking the life of a developer in the wild.

During the bootcamp, to earn some extra cash, with a couple of other students we ran a series of paid weekend workshops. It felt good to be in front of a class again, helping students to build their first static sites.

Winning a hackathon with fellow bootcamp students

Dev to developer relations

On completion of the bootcamp, I worked as a JavaScript developer, first at an ad tech company then an identity startup in London. Programming React and Node.js I was learning lots. Although working with legacy code was probably the steepest learning curve!

Meetups were still a regular part of my life, helping out at NodeGirls which offers free workshops for underrepresented groups in tech, and attending some of the many JS meetups and hackathons in London.

In 2017, I started to become more heavily involved and inviting meetups to make use of the event space at my company. This began to open up speaking opportunities for me, at both meetups and then conferences. After a while, I moved to Berlin to join a blockchain company full time in a developer relations role. Helping onboard community developers, and meeting them in person at events was great.

Switching to dev rel felt like the perfect combo of my development and teaching experience. Furthermore, my long-suffering friends were glad I had found a professional outlet for my blockchain based conversations.

Presenting at a local meetup


And now to Twilio

Once again I owe it to a meetup. Back in autumn 2018 when I was new to developer relations, I attended a Twilio event. I didn’t know it then, but this was the first time meeting some of my new colleagues. We had fun eating kebabs and talking about developer communities.

Earlier this summer when I was laid off due to COVID, Layla reached out to me about a role at Twilio. Fast forward a few months and I’m now sitting writing my intro blog.

In many obvious ways, this is a strange time to be joining a company. But although I miss being part of the tech meetup circuit, I am excited for the opportunities this ‘new normal’ brings. Now we can organise events which are open to a global audience.

The benefits meetups afforded me are now no longer restricted to those in big cities. We can live code with programmers from other cities on Twitch, and create video content which has a reach much greater than your average event. Most importantly I am pumped to be joining such a talented team, and engaging with the wider developer community here in Berlin.

Meeting fellow Twilion Greg, and previous Twilion  Stefan at a meetup

So that’s me, and the story of my route to developer relations at Twilio. Hit me up on twitter, or twitch (I’m sure I'll get the hang of this streaming thing soon). Always happy to talk JavaScript, identity, blockchain and non-traditional routes into tech.