The Journey from Intern to Developer Advocate

Jose Zamora
Jul. 27, 2018 by Jose Zamora

Back in June of 2015, I joined SparkPost as an intern. I’ve been here now for almost 3 years – mostly as a Software Engineer, but more recently in my new role of Developer Advocate. We just had an awesome intern class join us at SparkPost and I figured I’d share my story for all the hopeful interns out there.

A Breath of Fresh Air

Like many other prospective interns, I met SparkPost at the UMD college career fair. It seemed like a cool company, so I decided to apply. A short time after, they invited me to their intern open house. I had no idea what to expect from it. Just that week I’d had a couple of technical interviews with other companies and felt pretty burned out. The event was unexpectedly refreshing in comparison. It was a sequence of short interviews with different teams, focused on projects I had worked on and my interests. The conversation only turned truly technical when an engineer was interested in one of my projects. Even then there were no quizzes – they simply wanted to hear how I solved problems. The people I met and conversations I had that day ultimately made me decide to accept SparkPost’s offer.

The part after the interviews was actually much more intimidating. The team I was joining coded entirely in Javascript, a language I didn’t really know at the time. My manager sent me a bunch of resources to catch up on before starting. I was able to get about halfway through them. In spite of that, the transition into the job was surprisingly smooth. The team was very accommodating to my skill level. Within the first week, code that I had written, aided by some world-class mentoring, was being used by SparkPost customers.

Looking back I feel even more impressed with the SparkPost intern interview process, which placed me in the right team, even though I had no experience with the stack. By the end of the summer I had worked on several of our APIs and our web app. It was probably the fastest and best learning experience I’ve had. I really loved what I was doing and was lucky enough to stay on working part time through to the end of the year.

The following spring I joined SparkPost full time as a Software Engineer. My day to day didn’t change too much at that point. The work was very similar to the work I was doing as an intern.  I was also still taking one class in college to fulfill a graduation requirement. So it really felt like nothing had changed. SparkPost was awesome enough to let me leave early on Wednesdays to attend lecture and gave me time to study for finals.

My Projects and Experience

As an engineer I got to work with a lot of awesome tech and explore my passions. There is great support for mobility within SparkPost, so I got to move around teams to work on stuff I wanted to work on. I learned that I preferred to work on new customer-facing features the most. I also really enjoyed the events I got to attend. Meeting our customers at conferences and helping college students get started with SparkPost at hackathons were some of the best experiences I had as an engineer.

In college I used to go to hackathons a lot. Some of the companies sponsoring the events would send Developer Advocates to represent them. These were some of the first professional programmers I ever met. They would build cool demos, help out students with their projects, and sometimes put on workshops and tutorials. I always thought I would enjoy that job. SparkPost was really good about letting me test it out. They gave me a 3 month period to explore the job, during which I could switch back to my engineering job if I found it wasn’t for me. Earlier this year I committed and fully transitioned into a Developer Advocate role. I’ve only been on the job for about 6 months now, but I’m loving it!

I’m really thankful to SparkPost for helping me grow. The mentors I’ve had here have been supportive, passionate and caring. Without them I would not have been able to take full advantage of the opportunities I’ve had. If you’re interested in pursuing your own growth while contributing to an awesome product, you should check out our open positions. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about my time at SparkPost, Developer Relations, or career changes.

— Jose
@josegzamora

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