SaaS by SaasWest BigCommerce with Heather Barr

BigCommerce is Open SaaS means building a great community around it. Heather and Brent talk about the growing BigCommerce community and how to get involved. @hnbarr_

Heather walks us through how to get involved and introduced to the BigCommerce community. There is a lot of firsts happening at BigCommerce, and the community is strong and growing.

Heather tells us why it is unique in the commerce space and especially in the SaaS space. So many things in the works, and this is the perfect time to get involved. Will there be a BigCommerce event in Austin? SaaS by SaaSWest?

Check out the post on why you need a community manager.

5 Reasons Why You Need a Community Manager in Your Developer Community
5 Reasons Why You Need a Community Manager in Your Developer Community


Brent: Welcome to Talk Commerce. Today I have Heather Barr. Heather is the community developer manager, or the developer, community manager with BigCommerce heather, go ahead, introduce yourself. Do a much better job than I did . Tell us your day to day role and maybe one of your passions in life.

Heather: Yeah, absolutely. So great to be here. Thank you so much, Brent. Like you mentioned, I am the developer community manager at BigCommerce so I basically just do the day to day admin type things with our developer community spaces. The most puppet is our Slack. In addition to that, I build out some programs and host events and things like that.

Heather: And now that we have a really awesome solid developer relations team I work. Very closely with them to do exactly that and just improve the developer experience or try our hardest to do that at the commerce. And one of my greatest passions is it actually is somewhat of a newer passion.

Heather: Maybe in the past, like year or two, I have built out a, like a van, like a camper van out of a old like Amazon truck. And so I really love traveling around in that and just doing some camping or glamping I guess you could call it. But. 

Brent: All right, so now I’m super jealous and maybe after the interview we’ll have to talk about camper vans cuz I had the same idea out of an old, like a sprinter van or something.

Brent: Yeah, I love that concept and it gives you an opportunity to get out on the road and see things. So that’s super cool. Okay, so before we start the really fun interview, we’re gonna do the free joke project. And I did prep you on this, so it’s, I’m gonna just tell you the joke and then the goal is this a free joke or is this one we could charge?

Brent: So I have a very, I have a quick and simple one today. Ready? All right, I’m ready. To the guy who invented zero, thanks for nothing. 

Heather: I like that one. That one is definitely charged worthy. It’s simple. It’s to the point. And it definitely 

Brent: crack a smile. All right. Good. Do you wanna try one more or are we good?

Heather: I like that one, but if you have another, I can handle 

Brent: another. All right. I got an easy one. Okay. What does scholars eat when they’re hungry? Academia nuts. . 

Heather: Okay. ha ha, I really like that one. good. That one I would pay for . 

Brent: Thanks for playing along. Yes. I need a little jingle for that, I oh, definitely. I’ll think about a jingle later on. All right, so let’s dive into the bigCommerce community. I’m excited about the BigCommerce community cuz I was just, I was at the partner summit and it has this sort of open source vibe that some of the other communities have. Tell us how, what you’re doing in the community and how you’re helping the community grow.

Brent: And tell us a little bit about the Slack channel and. Yeah, go for it. 

Heather: So we have a Slack workspace and we are working on getting it to a point where we can just like fully blast it. But everyone listening to the podcast definitely reach out and get involved. I can have a link for bread that he can share, so you can join us there.

Heather: But yeah, that’s our most popping space right now. But we have other things going on in the community as well. The slack is just more of the I guess a real time peer-to-peer resource that we have available for developers and partners who are building solutions on the platform. And so in there we host some series events like AMAs.

Heather: We’re asking anything events with some of our product members. So basically if. People in the community have some interest in meeting with like someone from product or a team from product like mobile or headless or page builder or building widgets or whatever it is. Then basically we get those requests and then we just host like a small sort of intimate meeting in Slack and one of our like dedicated channels where you can just ask product anything about that topic.

Heather: So those are really cool. And we do those we do about two to three or four possibly every year. And we can increase that if we get a little bit more resources or help . But yes, so that’s one of the main things I guess going on in like in the Slack. We also have some other types of events depending on, like what you as a partner or developer are interested in.

Heather: Let’s say you want to I guess market or just promote your service to merchants and just have a space where you can talk openly about it and just have a real conversation about what you’re solving for and what are the, maybe the plans to come and so forth. We have an a series event like that as well.

Heather: We do it two to three times a year as well. And that is in our customer facing community. But to sign up, it’s through our developer community and then through My partnership with our developer relations team, Katie and Steven and Constance, which I know you already met with Katie. We are doing some bigger events, so those are really awesome.

Heather: So we did our first hackathon, which was really great. We planned to do many more and then, Also this past year we actually had our first community lead event too, which I know is huge, like in the space where you’re from. But it’s new here at BigCommerce and I really hope to see like more of these types of events and other types of content just like organically forming.

Heather: But that was with Space 48. So they held a, like a paneled type of, Virtual event where they basically were able to grab some partners from the community and just share tips and all types of stuff and just like things that they’ve learned like while developing on the platform. And it was completely community led and it just blew my mind.

Heather: It was so awesome. And yeah, I mean there’s just a lot of firsts going on right now and our developer community, and I think that is what’s really exciting is because, we’ve been building it for a couple years now, our. . Yeah, so we’ve been building it for a couple years now, and it’s just like we’re finally getting to a point where we’re able to.

Heather: see these types of opportunities and like actually really go forward with these types of opportunities ourselves, like internally. So I would say the big thing about getting involved in our developer community right now is that there’s a lot of firsts. So if you have any ideas or if you just wanna be a part of the beginning, like it definitely has.

Heather: That type of vibe where it’s like we’re, we’re getting that momentum and so we have a lot of stuff in the works and we have we just have a lot that we all wanna do as well. So it’s a really good time to participate. 

Brent: Yeah. And I can say that we worked with Space 48 on that first event in for another community in Austin in 2016 with Shipper HQ and Karen Baker.

Brent: Nice. , that was organized and we ran that until 2019. So it was it’s a great place and I’m gonna propose that we, we do a big the big Dev X or whatever we call it. Yes. Event in, in Austin next year. Maybe we should call it BigCommerce by, we have to think of a name to mimic off of, So by Southwest, right?

Brent: Ooh, okay. Commerce by SAS or something like South SAS by sas. Yes. We’ll have to, oh 

Heather: my gosh. Include you in the party planning committee. SAS by sas. Thinking of. So next year big developer things. And we’re starting to start conversations about those now and seeing who we need to talk to make these things happen.

Brent: Yeah. And there’s a great event space that we’ve always, we’ve done it in twice. It’s called Trinity Hall. It’s on Trinity, and I don’t know. Anyways. It’s in downtown Austin, but yeah. All right. So if I’m a new developer and I want to get involved in the developer community, and I, maybe I wanna build an app, is there a, is there like a place that, So I’ll join the Slack channel, and then is there a way for me to easily get started?

Brent: Walk me through pretending that I’m a developer and I really would like to participate in the BigCommerce c. . 

Heather: Yeah, absolutely. We have a lot of different spaces where developers can try to, reach out or get involved with others. But I would say Slack is definitely the most popular, but it’s not the most visible.

Heather: So that is something that we are working on now as far as like how to get that to be a more visible place and whenever we are able to get it to be a more visible place, that’s the other side to it. So depending on where this app developer, came to us or found us, whether it’s Twitter or our help center forum or stack overflow or whatever it is we would be reaching out.

Heather: So that’s what my team does. We reach out. And then also Katie, she’s really great with our Twitter. . So yeah, we basically would get in contact to find out what you’re trying to do, and then if we feel that, you’re an app developer, so we would obviously send you the link to get involved with our Slack community, and then there you can connect with other developers, other partners that have been building apps forever.

Heather: And so you have those resources but also build that relationship with you and then really provide some resources that help you individually, but that’s like linking the correct docs to you or different. And right now actually our developer relations team is working on a like an app series or they will be starting soon.

Heather: Because that is a gap right now too. It’s partners and developers are just like people that are new to building solutions on the platform, having that hard time getting an app off the ground, I guess you could say. And so that is something that we are actively working on right now. But I would say, the best or like the vibe right now in the community on how we could help is just really getting to know you one on one and providing those resources to you one on one. So it is more of a, Hey, let’s connect, let’s help each other, like that type of vibe. As we continue to grow, we can scale and can provide more resources and pump out more resources ourselves.

Heather: That’s when, you know we can provide those links and you. That content. 

Brent: Yeah. And there, there are regular public facing document doc, there’s a dev doc series that you have that’s public, so I could start there and then also get in contact with you to join the community and get going. How about I know that you mentioned having your.

Brent: First hackathon. , what are the plans around maybe having an in person 

Heather: hackathon? There are plans to having an internal hackathon. Yeah, that was our first one and it was a blast. And it got a lot of people excited. So that was like external people as well as like BigCommerce employees as well.

Heather: Everyone was just so comforted about the hack up on. And with that comes more I guess you could say. So teams, approaching us saying, Ooh, like we wanna, what about our thing? What about our thing? And they also third party at companies as well, saying Ooh. And so there is a lot of interest, which is really good for us because we get to plan out in advance let’s do this hackathon, virtually this one hybrid, this one in person or whatever it is.

Heather: And we can plan all of those out. And maybe we can make all of them hybrid. Maybe we can try different locations. There are a lot of ideas. Basically just a lot of ideas on what we wanna do as far as getting one planned. We’re not sure which one we’re gonna do next. Actually we do have one next, but we can’t talk about it right now.

Heather: And it. , that one maybe virtually. But midyear or like maybe late in year, I think we’re gonna try to do something a lot bigger, and that would definitely be a hybrid or in person. And then potentially doing some like small, like little dev challenges virtually, or even like doing some small popups in person would be really cool.

Brent: Yeah, I think we usually cap hackathons at 80 or a hundred people just because of the amount of people that you could fit in a room and we always hit it after an event. And it was always really fun. How about including people other than developers like project managers and solution architects?

Brent: Do you see a space for them in the community? I definitely 

Heather: do, and we have some of those Those types of roles are people with those roles in our developer community Slack right now. And so basically our developer community, Slack it’s like a umbrella acceptance. I guess you could say if you sit under the technical umbrella at all, if you work with.

Heather: Your developers. If you’re a CTO or a solutions architect or something like that, then you definitely are what we’re trying to have in this space. But for these events, I definitely see a benefit in having them. I think project management especially would be. Excellent to have because that’s what they do in their job and they really help the development lifecycle.

Heather: And so I think there’s a huge benefit of having like one project manager, like per team. I think that would be a really nice way to divide it up and then just really have a lot of success in the hackathons and from the submissions and on a team level. 

Brent: Yeah I, There, there are some other events that happen in other communities that are longer, or maybe they’re a weekend event, maybe a Friday night through Sunday event.

Brent: And then you, where you come together, build your ideas that you want to do. Then you put a team together and then that team goes and tries to get as much done as they can. By Sunday night. , so that comps would include a project manager or some kind of a architect, maybe some, there’s a lot more room for roles there.

Brent: Yeah. And then some people that aren’t so technical wouldn’t feel left out and they can participate in the event and have a lot of fun. 

Heather: Yeah. I think the more diverse the team can be the more successful it can be, honestly. 

Brent: Where do you see the BigCommerce community going in the next year or two?

Heather: In the next year or two, I see us doing so many more events really honestly. I see that being our, I guess our biggest opportunity is doing hackathons, doing smaller like developer challenges and then also just Getting ideas from our community as well. If there’s something that they, like our members really want to push out or just wanna be involved or really want us to push out or, and just see as an opportunity, we are all ears for that.

Heather: Like I said earlier, like we’re just in a time of a lot of firsts and so we are so open to making this the, this community. The best it can be for our members. We really want to hear from our members. We really want to just give them what they want. And I definitely see events being a huge thing for us this upcoming year.

Heather: And that’s a whole different type of just a broad range of types of events that I see coming. 

Brent: Are there any plans around, seeding other sort of community leaders to. build communities in other countries. In other areas. 

Heather: Yeah. So that would be that would be incredible. I think so there’s a lot of like really mature communities and then also just some really engaged like younger communities that are doing this right now.

Heather: And that have been doing it for years. And that’s something that I would personally love to see. Like for the Hackathon, for example, we had people that were, it was a worldwide type of event and it was really cool to see because we only had two weeks to really announce it. But it was like split between many continents, so it was, it would be really nice to just have I guess like focus groups or just user groups or just super, just whatever we wanna call it, but just like based groups in different regions.

Heather: And I think , like Magento or a lot of other types of different communities where they have they host like their own meetups and stuff like that. And even if it’s super casual but then we can be involved like on our side of hey, like we can help organize it or whatever. But then yeah, like y’all totally own it, like y’all are there.

Heather: Let us know how we can help. Notion does this I really love that productivity tool and they. They have a really excellent community, but but yeah, I definitely see that. I’m not sure how realistic that is for like this coming year since we’re like, we’re just now being able to like host all these really cool events.

Heather: But hey, if it happens, like I am all for it and I, yes, I’m like for making it happen to you. So whatever I can do to help with that and if we have a lot of interest and a lot of engaged people in different regions, like I am definitely for helping getting that. , 

Brent: I know in the agency space it BigCommerce is growing so fast that it’s been difficult to sometimes find developers and so you have to train developers.

Brent: Is there a easy way for an agency head to say, get to, to hire somebody that’s been involved in another SAS platform and convert them or help them understand? Getting up and running on BigCommerce yeah. So we 

Heather: have like big dev boot camps. That’s one of our excuse me, that’s one of our products or one of our services for getting started.

Heather: It’s like an onboarding type thing. So if you are a developer or if you have a developer that is like new to building on BigCommerce and you really wanna set ’em up for success Big Deb Bootcamp is a great option. Excuse me. Yeah, so you can get involved with Big Deb Bootcamp. I can actually get the link for you and I.

Heather: Include it so that you can try to like, push that out with your recaps and all that. But basically it covers developing on stencil on different types of getting started with like headless all of our APIs. Goodness. And just basic development, like getting started developing absent themes going over all of our resources basically.

Heather: So it’s a really nice program to get involved with if you’re new or if you’re just like trying to take advantage of what other resources are available to 

Brent: you and do you see developers quickly being onboarded and getting up to speed. On BigCommerce 

Heather: I guess you could say it really depends.

Heather: So with BigCommerce, we have developers that are, like third party developers as far as everyone, is a third party developer, but we have freelancers, we also have like developers that work for our partner agencies, and so it really depends on their relationship. I would say as far as what type of onboarding they get, which is something that we are working on as far as onboarding just developers in a better way in general, no matter you know, who or we know what they’re with.

Heather: I would say our. Are our partners. They have I would say more visibility to the big Deb Bootcamp. So I’d say that is something that kind of sets that like those developers aside because if you are a partner, you have more visibility. You just know about it more. If you’re a freelance developer, you probably have to discover it in a little bit of a different way, which is possible, but it’s not as visible to you.

Heather: So I would say. as far as like resources, like big dev bootcamp, it is a little bit more accessible if you are a partner. But then everything else as far as our documentation and our communities, like those are all very open for any sort of developer. So no matter if you are just doing freelance or you working for an agency or one of our partners, then you have access to the community.

Heather: And with that you have, the community team and then also Dev Rail to just walk you through whatever you would. 

Brent: and I would imagine that the amount of BigCommerce developers is like an iceberg where there’s the ma vast majority that aren’t involved on the Slack channel.

Brent: And it would be great to get ’em all involved. Yes. . Yeah. So maybe a message out to all the agency. Heads to tell their developers that there’s this great place that you should join and absolutely get questions answered, right? I think that’s the main key about the Slack channel is that if you do have questions, there’s so many people in there that are so smart, then that can help you get those questions answered quickly.

Heather: I agree and if you are a partner listening to this podcast or this interview we are going to have our own spot on the partner newsletters, the agency and tech partner newsletters. So that’s new and keep a lookout for us. We’re hoping to keep coming monthly with new content and also always having that CTA where you can share with your development teams to have them join us in the developer community.

Heather: We would love to have all of you. 

Brent: So a, as we finish things out today if you have one like little nugget that you could give a developer who’s starting right now besides joining the Slack channel Yeah. What would you tell them? 

Heather: I would really tell them to take advantage of. Us. That would be me, that would be Katie, that would be Steven, our developer advocates.

Heather: And it’s not only through Slack. We are, you can meet us on Twitter, you can meet us at some events. You can meet us wherever LinkedIn, this podcast. If you are struggling and you’re maybe posting on Stack Overflow or in the help center, reach out to us like dms because we wanna get to know you and we wanna get to know like how we can.

Heather: Not only just you, but also just every other developer that might be going through like a similar experience as you. And we really want to talk and connect and we do. And so if you’re a developer and you’re not super into that, totally understand. I would say something that could help.

Heather: Ah, goodness. Reaching out really does the best, even if it’s like on a GitHub repo or something, just letting someone know. That’s really how we make our changes. Even product. If you comment on GitHub or if you submit an issue or anything like that, or reach out to us in some way, or even tweet at us or whatever it is reaching out does.

Heather: Really help us make it better. So if you can find a way to reach out to us in some way that is what I would 

Brent: recommend. Yeah. And there’s also a BigCommerce Twitter community space now. Yes. As well. So that’s another good place for people to join. And there is more people in that space than another platforms I’ve noticed recently.

Brent: So that’s good. It’s being used. Yes. would add that as a developer and I’m going to admit that I started as a developer a long time ago. It is sometimes hard to ask questions and reach out and you really wanna solve it yourself. But once you’ve once you’ve paired up with, if you find somebody who can really help you, and I know when I got started I found somebody could help me.

Brent: And I think I was on MSN Messenger way back in the day and man did they help me, and there was so much more that I could get through with a little bit of guidance and mentorship. That, I think that the big com, I know that the BigCommerce channels can offer you even better than stack overflow or something like that.

Brent: That gets your question. You ask questions that’ll get answered quickly. So I can’t advocate more for using that and taking advantage of that as a developer. And it’ll really launch your career as a developer and help you accelerate your learning and getting things done. And then I would also say play around in a sandbox environment and make some stuff.

Brent: Yeah, 

Heather: absolutely. I second everything that you say. I agree a hundred percent. I can’t agree more actually. 

Brent: Great. As we close out, Heather, they I give everybody a chance to do a shameless plug. Okay. What would you like to plug today? 

Heather: Goodness. I’ve been prepping for this question. I’m not sure I’m having a hard time threatening a shameless plug.

Heather: I’m not gonna lie, but I will say if you could invest in a. Reusable water bottle. You can take it to the airport, you can take it everywhere. If you could fill it up. I actually went to a place to eat not that long ago and I was like, Hey, can I just fill up my water bottle? And they’re like, Yeah, do it.

Heather: Of course. So definitely get yourself a reusable water bottle or a few. That’s my stainless plug, . 

Brent: Cool. Thank you so much. Heather Barr, the community development developer manager for BigCommerce thank you for being here today. Yes, thank you 

Heather: for having me.


  • Brent W. Peterson

    Who is Brent Peterson? Brent is a serial entrepreneur and marketing professional with a passion for running. He co-founded Wagento and has a new adventure called ContentBasis. Brent is the host of the podcast Talk Commerce. He has run 25 marathons and one Ironman race. Brent has been married for 29 years. He was born in Montana, and attended the University of Minnesota and Birmingham University without ever getting his degree.

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