Under the Hood of DevRel: Intel’s Scott Apeland
Scott Apeland leads the Intel Developer Program and is responsible for defining and delivering programs for software developers worldwide. This includes the Intel Developer Zone and the recently launched Intel AI Academy. His responsibilities include developer engagement, technical support, community building and university programs. The Intel Developer Zone is a global program where developers engage with Intel for all things software.
Scott joined Intel in 1991 and prior to his current role was responsible for managing new product development, roadmap strategies and partner initiatives in the Video Conferencing Division, Internet Media Streaming Division, and Embedded Controller Division. Scott holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and a Masters of Business Administration from Brigham Young University.
How long have you been in the role?
I have been with Intel for 25 years now and in this particular role for 7 years. I started out in electrical engineering and then got an MBA. At Intel, I started in the embedded controller division in a product management role. That gave me good exposure to what is best for customers in both hardware and software. I then moved into product management in software and video streaming.
How did you move in Developer Marketing?
Intel asked me to get their developer programs going. To answer how can we engage the developer community in a broad way. As software becomes more important to Intel, I organised the Intel Developer Zone. Over time we have grown the number of technologies supported in the Developer Zone and have grown the number of developers engaged in the program.
What is your current focus?
We have one of the broadest developer programs out there at the moment. We support everything Intel does from high-end servers and high-performance computing (HPC) developers, through to cloud services, and new capabilities around network virtualization and software-defined networks. Then in the client space, we support laptops app development – for example encouraging game developers to take full advantage of the latest processors and GPU’s, to exploring new areas like VR – just seeing what developers can create with it.
Then we have the Internet of Things (IoT) developers – we help them use Intel technologies to advance capabilities from the gateway to the edge in that space. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been a focus most recently, and AI cuts across everything – from training neural networks in the data center to computer vision at the edge.
Wow, which such a large surface area, I assume complexity and breadth of coverage must be your biggest challenges?
Yes, it is.
We conduct a lot of market research to fully understand all the different market segments and developer personas we need to address. How to reach them, where they hang out online, what their challenges and needs are and of course sizing the individual segments.
Another challenge is making sure we have the skills to support all the different communities. We had been in the High-Performance Computing space for a while, but then we shifted focus to AI where we need to address data scientists and understand how to help them. We had to acquire new technical skills in our tech evangelist team to achieve that.
How are you organized?
We are part of the product organisation at Intel, separate to the sales & marketing group. We are set up as a horizontal capability in software and services, supporting all the product lines. The Developer Relations division is all about enabling the developer community. In this group, we have a high touch focus – matching app engineers and accounts execs with strategic accounts like ISV’s and a low touch model for engaging the broader community via the web presence and broad outreach.
How mature would you say Developer Marketing is as a craft?
The role itself as I describe it is well defined – pairing marketing & technical people together is a model that works really well for us. A lot of companies just starting up may not understand the finer detail. They have to understand the industry is changing rapidly – every year there are pretty significant breakthroughs. Ideally, you would find a developer type that is good at and likes marketing, but that’s really hard to find. We favour the approach of paring a great marketer with a great technical person.
It is true marketing to developers is very different to marketing B2C or B2B. You are not trying to convince them to purchase something. Developers want to solve a problem and you need to show them you can help them solve that. It does entail some traditional methodologies, but you have to speak their language. We will put a developer marketing person together with a tech evangelist so the message is right for the developers, the call to actions make sense to them, and the tone is appropriate.
For example, developers like competitions, and occasionally we will do them. We will work with a marketing to raise awareness and encourage people to enter, but what they have to do in the contest is technical, so you have to have a technical partner to pull it together – we mix a strong technical call to action and messaging with broad awareness driving.
Who are the internal stakeholders of your programme?
We have many due to the breadth of the program – for example the client computing group, data centre group, IOT group, etc. Each is set up as P&L’s and are driven by a business strategy, and they look to us to support that strategy. We sit down together to plan for the year ahead – figure out how that translates into developer program objectives and resourcing and nail down a set of objectives. They then fund the program.
That is really interesting, and the first time I have seen that kind of internal cross-divisional funding.
We have to report back on the pre-agreed KPI’s and have regular checkpoint meetings. We make adjustments along the way, and ensure they feel they are getting a return on their investment. We also have an obligation to educate internally on working with developers.
So with so many internal stakeholders and the fact they are funding your activities, how much time do you devote to stakeholder management?
A lot of time. They are funding the program so I need to ensure we are well aligned and the ROI on their investment is clear. Over half my time is spent on stakeholders.
With such a large surface area to cover, how does hiring work?
Things do change. AI has been a huge focus, and we have ramped up a program. A couple of years ago a focus was perceptual computing and 3D, but that the usages evolved so we shifted and needed new skills. We purposely hire people with a broad skills sets and have a flexible attitude, and are open to change, because we change a lot!
They must have the aptitude to learn new technologies, our core team can code in multiple languages, and they understand both client and server applications. We move them around, and occasionally we may need to bring in an expert in a new area.
How do you handle international?
We have local teams located in each geo who understand the local community and are good at reaching developers in their country. For example, in China, we have a local team on developer events and marketing and we will provide a global framework and program with content and target personas which they then execute locally. This is a really important area, as 75% of our developer base comes from outside the US.
How do you measure the success of your program?
When you are doing developer programs sometimes there isn’t a direct connection to revenue. You have to find other ways to demonstrate value. We do a couple of things.
At the top level, we ask if our market segments are adopting our specific technologies e.g. in the game development space we will ask – what is a total number of game developers, and what percentage are adopting our SDK’s? We also look at other measures like the number of downloads, the number of developers trained on a technology, and the number of people using online resources and forums.
We are looking for measures of momentum and accelerating adoption. Secondly, when we can, we look at a number of applications that get enabled and then what is the market share of those apps.
Then have many tactical metrics looking at users, downloads, repeat users, event attendance, etc
Do you see other developer relations practitioners or do you share/discuss best practice?
It is a small community of folks running developer programs, but there are only a couple of conferences for networking and sharing. Intel hosted the first SlashData Future Developer Summit at our campus in Santa Clara – it’s a really good opportunity to network and learn. The second one this year was even better – there was a real high quality of attendees and presentations. The other is Evans Data’s EDC Developer Conference. It’s been going for a few years and is a good place to hear what people are doing. If you are new to the field it’s probably a good place to start, as its more geared more towards getting started.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Managing all the stakeholders because our program is so broad – keeping the expectations and strategies well aligned is crucial for our program. That takes a tremendous amount of effort but is important.
What are you most proud of?
The growth of the program overall. Growth in terms of sheer numbers of developers we reach but also in terms of connecting with the top developers in the community. Through the Innovator Program, we are now scaling our efforts broadly through a set of advocates who are passionate about Intel technology.
We came up with the Innovator program as we look for ways on how we could bring in the best developers we engage with to make them successful and turn them into advocates. They are out there doing events, workshops, hackathons, and using our technologies already. Through the program, they become representatives of Intel. We fly them to events to present what they have created, effectively training other developers. It’s been phenomenal, and we have seen a huge impact. Now our Innovators are training 10 – 15,000 developers a month. We invest time into our relationship with the Innovators and gather feedback, it’s a real win/win.
Building on the success of the Innovator program, we have now just launched the Intel AI Academy to address Universities and the next generation of developers. We provide teaching kits to help integrate AI into data science classes, provide online courses, and enroll the best students into our student ambassador program. The students get extra training, support, early access to new technologies, and of course the Intel brand to use on their resumes. The program is off to a fast start – we have 160 student ambassadors around the world, and we went from 0 to 400 universities in a year!