Tech Community: In Conversation With SAWO's HoC Cherish Santoshi

During our weekly Saturday ritual event called Journey of A Brand Community Builder, we went into a conversation with Cherish Santoshi. He has been a part of the tech community for 8 years.

Cherish is currently working as the Head of Community and Developer Programs at SAWO Labs, focusing on technical communities and DevRel spaces. This event was hosted by our community team at LikeMinds.

As part of this conversation, Cherish told us:

  • His technology community building journey
  • How did he decide to be a tech community builder?
  • What does he think about non-DevRel community management?
  • His thoughts on heavy documentation for non-DevRel communities
  • His favorite insight from the SOICM report

And much more!

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Who Is Cherish Santoshi - What's His Story?

Cherish talked about his current company, SAWO labs, where they build Saas (Software as a service) which helps businesses create password-less login flows. So no OTPs or passwords, just a simple sign-in. Previously, he worked with Hackerth, where he built a technology community forum of 3 to 5 billion developers.

Before that, he was a CA program manager at Amazon, one of the largest tech companies in India. There he worked with tech community teams like program teams as well as for analytics and operations.

Before that, he was an intern at Google. Before that, he was a founder and built 5 to 6 tech community websites for SEBs. That's where he is coming from. So all-in-all, Cherish has been a technology community DevRel manager and has worked with community tech development initiatives since 2013.

How Did Cherish Decide To Be In The Community And Tech Side Of Things?

There is a big gap between tech community developers and business teams - they don't understand the same language. There usually is a person that translates the business teams' requirements to the tech teams and the tech teams' constraints to the business teams.

More often than not, Cherish thinks that the community tech developers listen to that person rather than the business leads. And the business team also understands that not everything that they throw gets by exactly how they ambition it. There has to be a mediator in between who can work with the tech community developers, maintain that relationship, and get it all sorted out.

Cherish noticed the need for a tech support community at Amazon, and his strength lies in explaining these things to both of these teams. So he just moved into the online technical communities. He thinks that he was doing this subconsciously with every team, and so he was doing this long before realizing it.

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How Does Cherish Distinguish Between The DevRel And Non-DevRel Community Roles?

According to Cherish, both of these community roles are very community-centric. DevRel roles are mostly developer or product initiatives. You are either working for developer-centric initiatives like Hackerth does or you are advocating for developer-centric products like SAWO Labs.

As long as your target audience is technology community developers and you are building a tech community forum for them, you are doing DevRel. That sums up developer relations for you. 

Cherish's Thoughts On Heavy Documentation For The Non-DevRel Communities

According to Cherish, there's a reason that documents exist. So everything that you show to your initial audience will not hold after a certain level of upliftment and a certain level of product advance releases. So it makes sense to put it in a document, float it across, keep it updated and ask what the contribution is from. He thinks that is what DevRel does, and everybody should do it.

What Is Cherish's Most Favourite Insight From The SOICM Report 2021?

Cherish was one of the active contributors in making the report. Here are a few of his favorite insights:

  • 64% of the communities built in the last 3 years. This means 2 out of 3 communities built in the last 1 to 2 years. Communities have now finally entered the space, and people are getting to know about them.
  • Even though communities have entered, and it's been some time, more than 50% of the communities had less than 1000 members. And this seems to be consistent with the independent as well as the brand communities.

A bigger question that needs to be addressed here is that even though the communities have been existing for a long time, the skills required to grow and nurture the community are still missing. Hence the limited growth.

Now there is a lack of leadership and community-led platforms that help technology community builders grow. And since Cherish works in startup culture, he said he knows that a lot of startups are working on it.

In his words, "There is a huge surge in community ops as platforms like LikeMinds itself create great products for community developers. This wouldn't have existed 2 to 3 years ago. Even if it was, it was in stealth mode. This seems to be encouraging, and I do feel like even though the community as a role is fairly new, it received good feedback on how people feel secure working in this space."

He also added, "So that's good. Everybody has that notion that people get paid. There are more jobs, and leaders creating these things. So, I'm hopeful about this space because I can see an early momentum right now."

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Cherish's Advice For Kick-Starting A Career In The Tech Community?

Fortunately, DevRel spaces are fairly organized. Some rules and skills and profiles get easily matched with developer relations. One thing that Cherish looks for whenever he hires is - whether you have the user-level understanding that the user needs or you have a product-level understanding, and if you have both of these, golden.

We are also in need of technology community developer advocates. They are the people who take a stand for the developers. They make sure that their needs get addressed, recognized, and also finally solved. This is a ritual practiced at SAWO Labs. It is called Product Managers RoundTable, where they make their tech community roadmap based on the feedback they get from the community developers.

'Building a community for them, with them' and they are not doing this in silence. Cherish feels that when the developers feel the level of ownership, they feel a little more inclined towards being your superuser or your advocate, so if one can think in that space, that is great.

People have a product mindset, which means that they are a part of the tech product, and they want to make sure that it reaches the technical audience. It is the easiest, idiot-proof, down-friendly manner, and they are ready to do anything. From documentation to explain tutorials, reduce the redundant code, write API calls, add comments to the code, anything like that. Anyone possessing these skills is considered to be a good fit.

As per Cherish some things that one can do to kick start their journey are to over-source, build products, do product managerial roles, and write to developers.

As long as you are willing to find that space where you belong, there are all types of communities out there. Here at LikeMinds, we have communities for pet lovers, doctors, to learn a new language, anything you name. It is pretty crazy what people are doing out there.

So if you are someone who wants to create their own space where other people can also feel like they belong, just like you, then check out the LikeMinds website now!

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