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Developer Advocate

Getting To Know Will Johnson, Developer Advocate @ Auth0

Meet Will Johnson, part of the developer relations team at Auth0.

October 28, 2021

Hi! My name is Will Johnson, and I'm going to tell you the story of how I ended up in the Developer Relations world. One thing I've learned is that where you begin does not guarantee where you will end. It's been an ever-changing path for me, but it's never too late to take control and direct your path.

My Interest In Computers Is Sparked

I remember sitting in my 3rd-grade class: all the kids were quiet, but you could feel the excitement in the air. Something new was coming: our desks were lined around the walls of the room. At first, everyone faced the middle of the class. Then, the doors opened, everyone looked anxiously, waiting for what was to come through.

One by one, the computer lab team rolled in brand new colored iMacs! The class went wild! Before this, we had blocky computers with green and black UI's. They were huge, slow, and boring. The iMacs were cool, colorful, and small. Something completely new!

That sparked my interest in computers. I always wanted to be on the computer and do things on it. I remember telling my teachers I want to tell computers what to do. I had no idea what that meant, and usually, they would direct me to learn the hardware part of computers. But I had no interest in that. The programs were what caught my attention.

Writing My First Lines of Code

Growing up, we never had a computer at home. I would only use the ones at school during lab time. I got my own computer right around the time the social media site MySpace was getting popular. One of the cool features was using HTML and CSS (even JavaScript, which I later learned) to customize my page. I spent hours googling different layouts and animations I could add to my page. (Yes, I used the <marquee> tag all over the place). Then I started doing my friends' pages. I enjoyed playing around with the code so much. I didn't even know you could use HTML and CSS to make real websites; I thought only MySpace used them. I would just search "how to make moving text myspace" without realizing I was using HTML and CSS at that time.

After MySpace lost its popularity, I stopped customizing pages. At that time, I was unaware that I had a valuable skill that aligned with my interests. I started planning what I would do for work, so I looked into the local college programs. They were all IT; no computer programming, computer science, or anything that would let me "tell computers what to do." Since I didn't want to go into a bunch of debt for something I wasn't sure was my thing, I put my tech dreams on hold.

Getting Over My Fears

When working at my day jobs, I would still do random tech things on the side. Like taking broken cell phones and replacing the parts, so they looked like new. Once, I had a Windows smartphone that I modded to run Android. I think I even used Java for that, some instructions were quite tricky, but I enjoyed the process of learning and kept going. I would search Google or YouTube and try stuff, and because of that, I've broken and bricked plenty of phones, but I was always having fun.

Around this time, I started to hear more and more about making apps and coding. Every time computer programming came up, people said: "You have to be good at math or coding on a computer since you are young." Neither of those was me, so it made me stop pursuing any further. People always made it seem like working with computers was really hard, and you had to be a super genius or something like that.

After being fed up with manual labor jobs, I decided to change careers and try different things. Then one day, I came across a forum post where everyone was buying online courses. In particular, I noticed that everyone was buying a specific course on web development. I spent $10 and purchased that course. I was skeptical if this was legit or not. Could I get a job just by learning online? I was willing to give it a shot. I mean, it was only $10.

As soon as I started learning, I began to recognize the syntax. "Yo! This is the stuff from MySpace that I learned a long time ago. I've already done this."

Breaking Into Tech

Learning to code and breaking into tech involved reading lots of blogs, watching videos, and listening to podcasts. I was so thankful that developers took time out of their day to create content to help other developers. So I started doing the same: I wrote blog posts, recorded screencasts, volunteered to mentor for workshops, spoke at meetups, and hosted a podcast. I would also tweet what I was learning and help others on Twitter as well. Every time I helped another dev get unstuck, it felt really good.

All of this content and community work was very fulfilling. I was learning new things and helping people reach new levels in their careers. At that time, I started to see the role of Developer Advocate pop up a lot. I didn't quite understand it at first, but it aligned with me more as I learned more about it. I liked tinkering with code and showing others how to do the same. Then people started to tell me all the time, "You should get into Developer Relations" or "You'd be a great developer advocate."

It took me some time and a lot of thinking, and then it clicked: I love the tech community! I've met a lot of incredible people, and I love helping them learn new things so they can crush their goals. It's a great joy for me.

I like to be remembered as a person that tried his best to help people in any way I could. That's why, in August 2021, I joined the Auth0 developer relations team. Their vision of empowering developers aligns with mine perfectly. That's why I look forward to creating content that humanizes the technical jargon and helps developers with their daily work.

So, this is my story of how I ended up fulfilling my early dream. Even if you are not working on something that energizes you, it is never too late to pivot to what you are passionate about. Don't get discouraged, and keep pursuing your dreams.

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