Crisis = Opportunity: Lessons in Jumpstarting a Developer Community

By Mary Thengvall

Talk Abstract

After 10+ years of working with developer communities, I’ve learned you can always turn a crisis into an opportunity. Whether it’s an unhappy community member, a failed plan, or an unexpected announcement from a competitor, with a bit of patience and hard work, you can not only survive, but thrive.

Talk Description

It was 7:30 on a Wednesday evening when a blog post set Twitter ablaze. Developers caught off guard by a sudden service change were angry and looking for somewhere to turn. Armed with great technology, a desire to help our new-found community, and a mantra of “We <3 Developers,” our developer advocacy team sprang into action.

We quickly began engaging in conversations on Twitter: reaching out to those in need, introducing our product, and providing support. The outreach quickly became a company-wide effort as the rest of the departments rallied behind us. Over the next few weeks, it became clear that a real community was building and that this moment of crisis had transformed into the opportunity to build a foundation for our future.

In this session I’ll share how we utilized Twitter and leveraged blog posts from our CEO and CTO to engage with developers and gain their trust. I’ll also talk about some of the things that have changed as a result of this “crisis”: - Our product team started operating under a community-driven development plan rather than a set road map - We are able to measure increased community awareness and buy-in with tangible results - We created a community Slack team to facilitate peer-to-peer support as well as promote conversation between our engineers and other community members

Lastly, I’ll give insight into how you can prepare to meet these types of crises head-on, and not only survive, but thrive under the pressure. Cultivating a community is critical for success in today’s tech culture, and learning how to be transparent, listen, and have the flexibility to respond to community input is key.


I’ve been working with developer communities and building out community programs for over 10 years. With the essential role that communities hold in tech companies these days, community managers aren’t the only ones who need to know how to address their community of users. Everyone from developers to executive management can benefit from this talk.

I won’t need any technical equipment other than my laptop and a projector.