The Role of DevRel at Google with Richard Seroter
Richard Seroter, Director of Outbound Product Management at Google, joins Corey on Screaming in the Cloud to discuss what’s new at Google. Corey and Richard discuss how AI can move from a novelty to truly providing value, as well as the importance of people maintaining their skills and abilities rather than using AI as a black box solution. Richard also discusses how he views the DevRel function, and why he feels it’s so critical to communicate expectations for product launches with customers.
Richard Seroter is Director of Outbound Product Management at Google Cloud. He’s also an instructor at Pluralsight, a frequent public speaker, and the author of multiple books on software design and development. Richard maintains a regularly updated blog (seroter.com) on topics of architecture and solution design and can be found on Twitter as @rseroter.
- Google Cloud: https://cloud.google.com
- Personal website: https://seroter.com
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/rseroter
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/seroter/
Announcer: Hello, and welcome to Screaming in the Cloud with your host, Chief Cloud Economist at The Duckbill Group, Corey Quinn. This weekly show features conversations with people doing interesting work in the world of cloud, thoughtful commentary on the state of the technical world, and ridiculous titles for which Corey refuses to apologize. This is Screaming in the Cloud.
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Corey: Welcome to Screaming in the Cloud, I’m Corey Quinn. We have returning guest Richard Seroter here who has apparently been collecting words to add to his job title over the years that we’ve been talking to him. Richard, you are now the Director of Product Management and Developer Relations at Google Cloud. Do I have all those words in the correct order and I haven’t forgotten any along the way?
Richard: I think that’s all right. I think my first job was at Anderson Consulting as an analyst, so my goal is to really just add more words to whatever these titles—
Corey: It’s an adjective collection, really. That’s what a career turns into. It’s really the length of a career and success is measured not by accomplishments but by word count on your resume.
Richard: If your business card requires a comma, success.
Corey: So, it’s been about a year or so since we last chatted here. What have you been up to?
Richard: Yeah, plenty of things here, still, at Google Cloud as we took on developer relations. And, but you know, Google Cloud proper, I think AI has—I don’t know if you’ve noticed, AI has kind of taken off with some folks who’s spending a lot the last year… juicing up services and getting things ready there. And you know, myself and the team kind of remaking DevRel for a 2023 sort of worldview. So, yeah we spent the last year just scaling and growing and in covering some new areas like AI, which has been fun.
Corey: You became profitable, which is awesome. I imagined at some point, someone wound up, like, basically realizing that you need to, like, patch the hole in the pipe and suddenly the water bill is no longer $8 billion a quarter. And hey, that works super well. Like, wow, that explains our utility bill and a few other things as well. I imagine the actual cause is slightly more complex than that, but I am a simple creature.
Richard: Yeah. I think we made more than YouTube last quarter, which was a good milestone when you think of—I don’t think anybody who says Google Cloud is a fun side project of Google is talking seriously anymore.
Corey: I misunderstood you at first. I thought you said that you’re pretty sure you made more than I did last year. It’s like, well, yes, if a multi-billion dollar company’s hyperscale cloud doesn’t make more than I personally do, then I have many questions. And if I make more than that, I have a bunch of different questions, all of which could be terrifying to someone.
Richard: You’re killing it. Yeah.
Corey: I’m working on it. So, over the last year, another trend that’s emerged has been a pivot away—thankfully—from all of the Web3 nonsense and instead embracing the sprinkle some AI on it. And I’m not—people are about to listen to this and think, wait a minute, is he subtweeting my company? No, I’m subtweeting everyone’s company because it seems to be a universal phenomenon. What’s your take on it?
Richard: I mean, it’s countercultural now to not start every conversation with let me tell you about our AI story. And hopefully, we’re going to get past this cycle. I think the AI stuff is here to stay. This does not feel like a hype trend to me overall. Like, this is legit tech with real user interest. I think that’s awesome.
I don’t think a year from now, we’re going to be competing over who has the biggest model anymore. Nobody cares. I don’t know if we’re going to hopefully lead with AI the same way as much as, what is it doing for me? What is my experience? Is it better? Can I do this job better? Did you eliminate this complex piece of toil from my day two stuff? That’s what we should be talking about. But right now it’s new and it’s interesting. So, we all have to rub some AI on it.
Corey: I think that there is also a bit of a passing of the buck going on when it comes to AI where I’ve talked to companies that are super excited about how they have this new AI story that’s going to be great. And, “Well, what does it do?” “It lets you query our interface to get an answer.” Okay, is this just cover for being bad UX?
Richard: [laugh]. That can be true in some cases. In other cases, this will fix UXes that will always be hard. Like, do we need to keep changing… I don’t know, I’m sure if you and I go to our favorite cloud providers and go through their documentation, it’s hard to have docs for 200 services and millions of pages. Maybe AI will fix some of that and make it easier to discover stuff.
So in some cases, UIs are just hard at scale. But yes, I think in some cases, this papers over other things not happening by just rubbing some AI on it. Hopefully, for most everybody else, it’s actually interesting, new value. But yeah, that’s a… every week it’s a new press release from somebody saying they’re about to launch some AI stuff. I don’t know how any normal human is keeping up with it.
Corey: I certainly don’t know. I’m curious to see what happens but it’s kind of wild, too, because there you’re right. There is something real there where you ask it to draw you a picture of a pony or something and it does, or give me a bunch of random analysis of this. I asked one recently to go ahead and rank the US presidents by absorbency and with a straight face, it did it, which is kind of amazing. I feel like there’s a lack of imagination in the way that people talk about these things and a certain lack of awareness that you can make this a lot of fun, and in some ways, make that a better showcase of the business value than trying to do the straight-laced thing of having it explain Microsoft Excel to you.
Richard: I think that’s fair. I don’t know how much sometimes whimsy and enterprise mix. Sometimes that can be a tricky part of the value prop. But I’m with you this some of this is hopefully returns to some more creativity of things. I mean, I personally use things like Bard or what have you that, “Hey, I’m trying to think of this idea. Can you give me some suggestions?” Or—I just did a couple weeks ago—“I need sample data for my app.”
I could spend the next ten minutes coming up with Seinfeld and Bob’s Burgers characters, or just give me the list in two seconds in JSON. Like that’s great. So, I’m hoping we get to use this for more fun stuff. I’ll be fascinated to see if when I write the keynote for—I’m working on the keynote for Next, if I can really inject something completely off the wall. I guess you’re challenging me and I respect that.
Corey: Oh, I absolutely am. And one of the things that I believe firmly is that we lose sight of the fact that people are inherently multifaceted. Just because you are a C-level executive at an enterprise does not mean that you’re not also a human being with a sense of creativity and a bit of whimsy as well. Everyone is going to compete to wind up boring you to death with PowerPoint. Find something that sparks the imagination and sparks joy.
Because yes, you’re going to find the boring business case on your own without too much in the way of prodding f