Articles by Brandon West


Brandon West

As Director of Developer Relations for SendGrid, Brandon's focus is on empowering developers to build things, gathering feedback for new features and improvements, and fostering a cooperative developer community for anything that needs email integration.

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Technical Debt is Not a Bad Thing

Brandon West Technical
question-mark

If you work around developers, you have probably heard the term “technical debt.” It’s a widely used metaphor that is useful when considering how to build and maintain software. The term was coined by Ward Cunningham, a computer scientist who created the idea of a wiki and contributed heavily to the development of object-oriented design patterns. But even though the Read more ›


How I Evaluate A Developer Evangelist Candidate

Brandon West Community
hollywood-hack-day-6

Interviewing a developer evangelist is tricky because there’s a variety of hard and soft skills required. An evangelist has to be a strong developer, but also has to wear many other hats, work horizontally across departments, and be an engaging and helpful participant at events. If you’re wondering what the day-to-day duties of an evangelist might look like, check out Read more ›


Why Mind Maps are Awesomesauce

Brandon West Best Practices
Mind maps

About a year ago I started using mind maps to help me organize presentations, meeting topics and blog posts and I’ve found that it works really well for me. Mind maps help me take broad, abstract ideas and turn them into concrete, real world examples that I can use to help tell a story. What is a mind map? It’s Read more ›


Dirty Socks and Technical Debt

Brandon West Events
Socks drying

Last month I spent two weeks traveling to Mexico City, Bogotá, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro with Geeks on a Plane Latin America. This was my second GOAP trip; my first was last year’s trip to Eastern Europe. GOAP is an amazing professional and personal experience and I highly recommend it to everyone. Once our group of geeks arrived Read more ›


Why We Open Sourced Our Documentation

Brandon West Product, Technical
SendGrid docs

I talk a lot about docs, because it’s important to me and important for the success of a product. You can read some of my thoughts on what makes good documentation and using Jekyll to create documentation. One of the goals I set last year when I was asked to take over the documentation was to eventually open source it. Read more ›


Creating Sustainable Documentation with Jekyll

Brandon West Company, Technical
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

I’ve spent a big part of the last year working on documentation for SendGrid. I’ve learned a lot of things. You can read about how we broke down the problem of documentation at a high level and why documentation is critical for success in Cheat Codes for Good Documentation. Below you’ll find the path we took, from the early days Read more ›


Cheat Codes for Good Documentation

Brandon West Best Practices, Technical
Still my favorite Programming Manual
Still my favorite Programming Manual

The Best Programming Manual

Everybody, especially developers, loves working on documentation. They understand the importance of docs and its impact on customer adoption and customer experience, and they always consider docs when planning and releasing code. Wait, why are you laughing?

Many companies have some kind of trouble with documentation. Lots of common problems make docs difficult to wrangle; information gets out of date or lacks completeness, the content is poorly organized or inconsistent, readers can’t find what they’re looking for, and code samples might be broken. If you walk through most engineering departments and ask for volunteers to help update docs, you’ll be met with silence if not outright derision.

The truth is that there are no cheat codes for creating a culture that values documentation or for creating quality content, but I’d like to share some practical things I’ve learned while trying to do just that at SendGrid, and hopefully give you a few extra lives (or at least some extra quarters) for your game.

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Two Years: A Long Time as an Evangelist

Brandon West Company
Two years of lanyards

24 months. It doesn’t seem to add up; “Developer Evangelist” still seems like the job I just started. I guess after writing code for a third of my life, that’s true. Learning and doing new things keeps me busy enough that I haven’t paid much attention to time sneaking past me. You could say that a lot has happened in Read more ›


Learn to Code: Build a Conceptual Framework

Brandon West Technical
Fortran

When we last talked about learning to code I recommended learning program design before jumping into choosing a program language and writing code. The hardest thing about learning new tech is getting the conceptual framework. My question may be simple, but I don’t know how to ask. — Sarah Allen (@ultrasaurus) July 4, 2013   Sarah Allen is speaking about complex Read more ›