I’ve been a developer for two and a half years. And for that entire time I’ve worked as a freelancer and consultant. I’ve loved that work. One of my biggest pieces of advice to new developers has been to find a good and supportive person/team to work with. I’ve been lucky enough to have that almost the entire time. So I’ve worked with great people, I’ve enjoyed what I was doing and learned a ton along the way, and really had no aspirations to leave. So why am I leaving that all behind and taking on a new role, in a part of the tech industry I’ve never worked in, and joining my first DevRel team at Deepgram as their Technical Community Builder?

If you’re a Parks & Rec fan then I’m going to send you to season six where Leslie is offered a job at the National Park Service. She’s conflicted the entire season about whether or not to take the job, to leave all she’s done, the things she’s loved, and the people who have played such a meaningful role in her time as deputy director of Pawnee Parks and Recreation Dept. It’s not an easy decision even if the audience knows it’s a good one for her. There’s a bittersweet undertone to her exciting new adventure.

I played the conflicted developer as I considered whether or not this was the right move for me. On paper, it looks perfect. Ever since the very first time I opened up zoom almost two years ago for our first (unofficial) virtual coffee, I have been moving towards this role that I didn’t know existed. Continuing to build up Virtual Coffee, support it through its infancy into a full-fledged community with people who would come to be some of my best friends, while still growing as a developer, as a speaker, as a mentor and as an educator, I was developing the skill set and creating the toolbox I’ll need for my role as a Technical Community Builder. Others recognized this as the right direction, as something I’ve unintentionally been moving towards even when I was resistant.

But let’s jump back to the supportive people advice I mentioned earlier. When Michael Jolley and I first met to talk about his DevRel team, I checked them out and saw that Deepgram was doing some really cool things in the speech-to-text space. I also sent some DMs to Twitter friends to check Michael out as a team lead. There were only positive responses. All good signs. And even though we had a really great conversation and he was incredibly transparent and willing to listen, I was right with Leslie and her hesitation. Part of my concerns was moving into a full time role as a parent. I have four kids (5, 7, 10, 12) and there’s a lot that I do and weird schedules, etc. I mentioned that. Despite his reassurance, I was still hesitant, so he offered to set up a conversation with another parent on the team.

I learned a lot in that call, but the most moving moment was when my future teammate—whose recent family challenges had included a lot of sleep-deprived nights—read me an email he had sent to Michael about the challenges he was facing and then read Michael’s response. There was such understanding and empathy. It exemplified the person-first approach that’s been core to my approach to life and community over the past five years. And it for sure alleviated my worries about being a mom first, and a DevRel second.

My interviews with the other Deepgram folks followed suit. I very much appreciate that we could disagree and talk through ideas. To know that we could argue—not angry arguing—a pedagogical approach to argument where you disagree and listen and exchange ideas and grow as a team. This is one of my new top favorite things, because I love to argue—I’m a middle child, afterall. If you can have that kind of exchange in an interview, that’s a team that’s invested in a growth mindset and willing to consider different ideas.

To be clear, everyone at every step of this process was amazing. And I still wasn’t sure. But it’s also been important to me to push myself out of my comfort zone, to embrace growing pains—even if I do it begrudgingly sometimes—and to find the support I need to grow beyond my own ideas and experiences. And I knew all of those things would happen as part of the Deepgram Devs team.

Although it was still a scary decision, I’m incredibly excited. I’m excited to listen to what folks want from our community, to help define what our community will look like and how we’ll support them, to be challenged in new ways. To grow as a developer. To grow as a community builder. To push outside of boxes, challenge existing ideas of what community means, and to take what I learn and support others. To be inspired in new ways.

During this process of interviewing my new teammate, Kevin, created this demonstration on using Deepgram to support people who rely on lip reading by creating a wearable closed-captioning device. And if you keep going down that thread you’ll see added features and functionality. What’s at the core of this is improving communication, allowing for more human connection, and I can’t think of anything more exciting than that.