Harshil Agrawal joins the Contentful Developer Relations team

We’re delighted to welcome Harshil to the Developer Relations team at Contentful! Harshil’s path to developer experience has been an interesting one — ranging from building communities to experimenting with various technologies to teaching. Read on to learn more about his career journey and involvement in the tech community.

What were some of your first experiences with web development?

When I was in high school, the startup ecosystem in India was booming. I wanted to be a part of it and create my own startup. All of the ideas that I had revolved around web applications. I realized that to build my startup, I needed to learn web development.

I also liked the idea of having my personal website — a space where I could share my story and projects. But again, creating a website was difficult if you did not know how to code. I came across WordPress and started building a website with it but I failed terribly. It was just too complicated for me. I also tried Blogspot but I disliked its design limitations.

Someone then mentioned PHP and suggested I learn that language. Yes, it was PHP, and no, I still can't code in PHP. However, the first framework that I learned was jQuery! I created my personal website with jQuery, and built a few small projects like tic-tac-toe and rock-paper-scissor games. I enjoyed coding websites because I could visualize the pages I was creating.


What made you want to choose a career in tech?

My school used to participate in tech quizzes, and also host them. These quizzes were not just testing our technical knowledge, but they helped us learn more about the industry. From learning about the history of computers to the emergence of artificial intelligence), these quizzes massively extended our knowledge. 

For one such competition, I got selected to represent my school. While preparing for the quiz competition, I read interesting stories about tech startups. Stories not only about successful startups, but also about the ones that failed but shaped the industry regardless.

These stories were captivating, and they encouraged me to be an active member of the tech quiz community. With each story I read, I became more inclined toward pursuing a career in tech. I knew that if I wanted to have a startup, it would be in the tech industry. Although I haven’t worked on my own startup yet, I am grateful that I chose this path!

How did you start learning how to code?

I have always been intrigued by computers. In school, I was the kid who attended all the computer lectures. I enjoyed those types of classes because with a few commands, I could draw shapes and patterns on the computers. Yes, Logo was the first programming language that I ever used.

Logo allowed one to draw shapes on a computer using commands. You instructed the Turtle (a triangular icon) to move forward, backward, or take a right or left turn. As the turtle moved, it drew a line on the screen. You could also implement loops in the code and do a lot more. I could never remember the commands to draw a circle, but it was still fun.

The programming languages changed, but my passion and curiosity remained intact. When I learned to create a CLI application with QBasic that takes inputs from users and processes them, I was on top of the world. I knew I could do so much more!

This passion and hunger to learn more led me on the path of self-learning, and the internet became my library. I took a few courses on FreeCodeCamp and also Codecademy. I started creating small projects to learn and improve my skills. You can still check out some of my early projects on Codepen and GitHub.

Library of books - resources

How did you get involved in your local tech community?

We have an annual technical festival at my university. At this festival, there are various events and workshops, and one such workshop was organized in collaboration with the local Google Developers Group. This was my first interaction with a local tech community, and I started attending the meetups regularly. I loved how people came together to share their knowledge and help each other. 

This inspired me to start a student developer community at my university. We met every other week to discuss various opportunities in tech and learn about Git, web development, Machine Learning, and more.

Building a community from scratch takes a lot of work, but I enjoyed the journey. I soon met others interested in tech, and was invited to give talks and hold workshops for other developer groups. I also became a part of the Mozilla community and the GitHub Campus Experts program during this time.

How did the community play a big part in your tech journey?

I never dreamed about being a Developer Advocate. In fact, until a few years back, I didn't even know this was a profession!

I knew I enjoyed helping and teaching my classmates and fellow community members — I’d learn a new language or framework, and want to immediately share my new knowledge with others. And the feedback and the response from other developers only motivated me to do more. I met a lot of folks from whom I learned a thing or two, such as public speaking and conferences, technical writing, and eventually, Developer Advocacy.

When the world went digital, the communities went digital as well. They enabled people from around the world to connect, and brought new opportunities. Developers were sharing their knowledge and building cool projects. It motivated me to start streaming on Twitch, create video tutorials and share them on YouTube, and I also started building side projects. GitHub Wrap is an example of one such fun side project.

Most of the internships and jobs I’ve had were opportunities I came across via the developer community. I still wonder how it would have been if I hadn't pushed myself out of my comfort zone and started a community!

Contentful community

Thanks for sharing! Anything else you’d like to add?

Throughout my journey, I've continuously pushed myself to try out new things. So don't be afraid to give that first talk, publish that first blog post, or apply for that job.

I am grateful to be a part of the Developer Experience team at Contentful, and I’m here to support you in getting the most out of our content platform! If you want to know what I've been up to, you can find me on Twitter, check some of my projects on GitHub, or read about my experiments in tech on harshil.dev.

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