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Draw an audience with your non-IT skills to build your personal brand

Marc Duiker
December 07, 2022

Draw an audience with your non-IT skills to build your personal brand

Lightning session I gave at DevRelCon 2022 in Prague.


# Drawing an audience with your non-IT skills to build your personal brand

I'm Marc, Sr Dev friengineer (inspired by Ben), Azure MVP, Co-organizer of ServerlessDays Amsterdam and I like to draw pixels.

Before we start, I want to highlight Speaker Buddy. If you're a conference organizer, have a look and let's make it easier for speakers to attend your conference.

I'll share my experience on how I've used my creative skills the last 2-3 years to build my personal brand and connect with the developer community.
I'll conclude with some people that I admire for their creative skills.
7 minutes to summarize 2-3 years is pretty hard, if you want more details, come talk with me afterwards.

## What is your creative skill

For some people that might be very obvious but for other it isn't. It doesn't need to be a classic creative skill such as painting, sculpting, or singing. It could also be, baking cookies, creating Legos, gardening, knitting. A lot of different things can resonate with your audience.

Find something that you're already doing so that you don't have to invest a lot of time in it.

Being original in your skill helps, but don't be too focused on that initially. For instance, a lot of people are doing sketch-noting these days, but there is room for more people doing that. It's not about being unique, it's about being authentic.

In my case, it all started with a retro game I created about Azure Functions, so this was made for a specific audience in mind.

The community loved it, and even some Microsoft people were playing it. Jeff Hollan (Azure Functions PM) and Mark Russinovich (Azure CTO).

But creating an entire game is a lot of work, and still requires IT skills. And I like to have results in hours, instead of weeks, so I changed my focus to just doing the graphics and sharing these images on social media. And that got me hooked.

## Identify your audience

If you're in DevRel you should have a pretty good idea who your audience is, and where and how you can interact with them.

My audience is mostly in the Microsoft space and mainly active on Twitter. Using pixelart in that community started when I was attending the MS Build conference in 2020, the first virtual one due to Covid. I created pixelart avatars for the hosts to show some support. The hosts loved it, they used it as their Twitter profile, and I got great feedback from the community.

Another opportunity I found, completely unrelated, was this VSCode extension, VSCode Pets, created by Anthony Shaw. It allows digital pets to walk around your editor. When I saw this, I knew I had to contribute to this open source project. I created these pets over the last two years. And learned a lot about animation and other developer communities and their mascots.

## Stay authentic

Staying authentic is one of the most important things in DevRel. We have to be believable and trustworthy.

I can't give advice how you can stay authentic, you have to figure out for yourself. I try to stay authentic by not overloading my audience with pixelart. I'm not posting daily or even weekly. And most of time, when I post something with pixelart, it isn't about work or technology.

For instance, I like series from the 80s.

These days I prefer using my creative skill to announce big news, like receiving an award, or changing jobs. Or I use it to react to something in the community. Because for me it feels more genuine and personal to respond in such a way, instead of writing a text message.

## Finding balance

When you use your creative skill within your community, the community will reach out to you, and more opportunities will follow. The downside of this is that it can take up a lot of your time. So, it's important to find a balance. Definitely learn to say no. Watch out for a creative burnout.

Also don't give away everything for free. You can also monetize your creative skill.

After MS Build 2020 I got a lot of requests for pixelart avatars, and I drew hundreds of them. It felt I had two full time jobs for a couple of weeks. It was too much, and I wasn't enjoying drawing anymore. I stopped drawing for a while.

These days I have a limit on the number of commissions I do. And I use pixelart in my job when I create demos. This feels like a good balance for me.

## Inspiring creative folks

Let's finish with a few creative folks which I admire.

Forrest has a real talent for writing and performing songs about the cloud and IT in general. He's also great sketch-noter.

Chloe has a professional background in theatre and is using that in her social messaging. She's also advocating for a more diverse tech industry.

David has an awesome beard (which is not a skill) but is a great cartoonist / sketch-noter, he often combines that with his dad-jokes.

Lian, she is the Queen of Karaoke, she makes her own clothes, here is the code dress she made.

Floor is really into knitting and cross-stitching, and I love that she uses Excel for her designs.

Jo, she was my manager at Ably and she's wonderful, and she is great at combining textiles with IoT. She made a live captioning face mask recently to communicate with her mother during the pandemic.

And finally, Cassidy, I love her humor, she creates amazing videos about CSS and IT. She also a mechanical keyboard designer now.

I hope you I inspired you to explore your creative side and I'm looking forward seeing that in the community.

Thanks everyone!

Marc Duiker

December 07, 2022


  1. @MarcDuiker What is your creative skill? Identify your audience Stay

    authentic Finding balance Inspiring creative folks
  2. @MarcDuiker 22 @forrestbrazeal @ChloeCondon @reverentgeek / David Neal @lianmakesthings /

    Lian Li @FloorDrees @thisisjofrank / Jo Franchetti @cassidoo / Cassidy Williams
  3. @MarcDuiker 27 @forrestbrazeal @ChloeCondon @reverentgeek / David Neal @lianmakesthings /

    Lian Li @FloorDrees @thisisjofrank / Jo Franchetti @cassidoo / Cassidy Williams
  4. @MarcDuiker 30 @forrestbrazeal @ChloeCondon @reverentgeek / David Neal @lianmakesthings /

    Lian Li @FloorDrees @thisisjofrank / Jo Franchetti @cassidoo / Cassidy Williams