Meet Jesse James, Our New Developer Advocate

Jesse James
Feb. 17, 2017 by Jesse James

“Well the choice seems obvious… what are you waiting for?”

In hindsight, those words from a good friend of mine still make me laugh when I think about them. I had just finished telling him about the job offer from SparkPost, my potential team, and the overall experience I had during the interview process. And he was right–while my other offers were amazing, the team and company as a whole really made SparkPost the obvious choice.

The Road Less Traveled

The developer relations community tends to be made up of folks with non-traditional backgrounds. Whether we came to developer relations from an engineering-focused career, product management, or content marketing, we almost all share a common love for technology and working with people.

The path to where I’m at now started back in January of 2000 when I joined the Marine Corps. After nearly five years of service as a Small Computer Systems and Tactical Network Specialist, I left active duty service. I’ve since worked in many different fields and roles, from I.T. and Systems Administration to Web Developer and Customer Support Manager.

The move from I.T. administration/support to developer and then to developer relations was natural. I love working directly with both developers and users while solving problems and creating new solutions, but neither pure development nor I.T. focused work scratched that itch completely. Developer relations gives me the chance to solve problems, create new solutions, and work with both developers and users.

Taking The Leap

My most recent position was with a DevOps platform based out of New Zealand. While working as their sole developer evangelist, I had the fortunate luck to run into SparkPost’s Mary Thengvall (and Ember!) at a Developer Relations event in Seattle. Mary gave a talk about burnout in developer relations roles and what she said really resonated with me. After that event I reached out and we started chatting more.

Fast forward a few months and Mary let me know that a position was opening up on her team. Of course I jumped on the opportunity immediately! Mary had been a great sounding board for ideas and an amazing source of support in my new developer relations career, so the opportunity to work directly with her was exactly what I needed. Shortly after the interview process started I managed to spend some time with Aydrian Howard, SparkPost’s East Coast based developer advocate, at AWS Re:Invent in Las Vegas.

Given my conversations with Mary, time with Aydrian, and the amazing team I interviewed with at SparkPost, the decision of where I wanted to go next was clear. While I did have some wonderful offers from other San Francisco based companies, it was the incredibly friendly connection with Mary and Aydrian that really cemented my decision to join SparkPost.

Family and Friends

Since joining the SparkPost team I’ve had the opportunity to travel to both the Maryland and San Francisco offices, in addition to spending a week in New York City with Aydrian. One of the constants no matter the location was the sense of friendliness and family. Phillip (CEO) and George (CTO) both make a point to greet new employees, and have since been nothing but friendly and supportive when I have run into them. Each office and team seems to have a deep sense of community and internal support. No matter which office I’ve traveled to, everyone has been incredibly welcoming and friendly.

Moving Forward

Now that I am almost two months into things here at SparkPost, I definitely stand by my decision to join the team. As a team and as a company we are constantly striving to do our best and challenge ourselves. For me this has taken the shape of creating internal apps for the team, attending some local San Francisco meet-ups, and starting to invest in our Bay Area community.

I’m also looking forward to digging into some sample apps, coding challenges, and ways that I can improve SparkPost for you, our community.

I’d love to get to know more of you as well, whether in person or online. Feel free to connect with me on Twitter or our Community Slack, check out more of my projects on Github, or find me in person at one of our upcoming events:

SCaLE – March 2-5, 2017 Los Angeles, CA (sponsoring)
RailsConf – April 25-27 Phoenix, AZ (speaking)

See you soon!
-Jesse

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