So you want to be an Evangelist?

Copyright David Champagne http://davidchampagne.ca

Copyright David Champagne http://davidchampagne.ca

It’s been a couple of times that people ask me what it take to be an Evangelist. Always in the mindset of saving some keystrokes, I decided to do a blog post about my vision of it. First let’s clarify something: there are many types of Evangelist roles around the world, and the job I have, may be quite different from the one you aim for. Also, I’ll focus on the role of a Technical Evangelist as it’s what I’m doing for the past two years. This will be my own perception of what I’m doing day to day.

The role

The role of an Evangelist is all about people. As a Technical Evangelist, my role is to connect with the developers. I’m there to help them be successful in their project, and in their career… It’s more complex than that, but for a business point of view, I want people to use the technology of the company I work for. That means changing perceptions when they are negative, create awareness for those that don’t know what we have to offer, help them learn how to build software with our tools, and helping them to go from the idea to the realization. Day to day, my job is split into two categories: online, and offline. Concretely a week at work can contain some or all of these tasks:

  • Creating a blog post on a technical topic or to announce something like an event or a great offer;
  • Public speaking at a conference about a technical topic;
  • Starting a conversation on social media like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn;
  • Leading a workshop around a specific technology;
  • Doing an online webcast with co-workers (an equivalent of a conference, but online);
  • Networking in a happy hour or a conference party;
  • Answering emails;
  • Meeting with people online or offline;
  • Creating technical content like presentations or demos for future events or for the community;
  • Animating or helping at a hackathon;
  • Connecting with key persons in the communities;
  • Planning the fiscal year, an event, a program…;
  • Traveling to new places;
  • Coding, and learning new technology;
  • Assisting or presentation at a user group;

So you can see that the job can be quite different from one day to the other. There are also some exciting things like public speaking, or going to a conference party to network with developers by taking a beer. It’s the public face of the role, and it’s usually what people are seeing, and exciting about. You also need to think about the fact that there are less-exciting stuff you need to do (that doesn’t mean they are not interesting or challenging), like planning, some meetings… At the end, my role is to find which of these tasks I need to prioritize depending on my actual goals. What makes sense for the business or what need to be done now?

The qualification

As someone ask me, there is no courses or diploma to become an Evangelist. For me, it’s all about the experience, and the personality of the person. On the experience side, there would be no way for me to be a good Technical Evangelist if I had never worked as a developer. The basis of my work is to talk to developers, help them solve their pain points, and get them to write software. If you never wrote a software of your life, never had the problems you can get by working with a customer or never had this feeling that you had to learn yet another programming language if you want to stay relevant… You won’t be able to connect with them, you won’t be a trust agent. So I would say that the first qualification to be a good Evangelist is to have experience in your domain. For me the experience is crucial, but knowing the exact ecosystem or technology for the company you want to work with is not. You can learn it! What you can’t learn, it’s the personal aptitudes you need to have to be a successful Evangelist. Since Evangelism is about people, I would say that the first element is about being social. You don’t need to be a social beast like me, but you need to like enough people to care about them, and like to network with them. You need to be passionate! There is no way you’ll be able to get people to use your device, your programming language, or your platform if you don’t have the passion. But it’s not enough! You need to be able to share this passion. I know developers who are genius, way way better than me. They have the fire inside them, they live, and breadth with code, but they are bad communicators. This is something crucial as you communicate with people all the time: by emails, on the phone, in a meeting, in person, with a blog post, by doing a presentation, by teaching in a workshop, by creating relationships with new people… all the time! Of course, this is one view of the role. There are many other Evangelists out there like the friend Christian Heilmann from Mozilla who published an ebook on this subject (I didn’t have the time to read it yet – I blame my Kindle, and the fact it’s so easy to buy books – , but knowing him, and with the experience he has in the role, it should worth the time to read it). There is also the friend Joey DeVilla (ex Microsoft Evangelist) who did a good blog post about it 3 years ago (it helped me to evaluate if I wanted to enter the interviews process at Microsoft). Those two good reads if you want to know more about what is to be an Evangelist. So at the end, for me, being an Evangelist is about people (I’ll never repeat it enough). It’s a fantastic role for people who have the experience in the field, who are passionate, who like to share, and who cares about others. I hope this post will help, and I encourage you to ask me any questions in the comments section of this post if your career plan is around this type of role or if you are just curious about what I’m doing for a living.

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/*Comments*/

  1. Wait… people get paid to do that list of things? Damn… And here I do it for my meetup groups for free.

    01/10/2013 08:32PM
    • One day I’ll write about how I got the role, but it’s basically because I was also doing Evangelism, like you are doing with HTML5 Toronto, before Microsoft hired me.

      01/10/2013 09:07PM
  2. Excellent write up Fred :) I have to say I decided that I wanted to look into become an Evangelist after meeting you, Susan Ibach and Marc Gagné. The role looks less like a job and more like something I would want to do day to day for fun.

    01/10/2013 08:55PM
    • Glad you liked it as you are one of the people I had in mind when I wrote this post.

      I would say that all jobs look less like a job once you really enjoy what you are doing. If what you are love to do is mostly what an Evangelist do for a living, go for it!

      01/10/2013 09:10PM
    • Your comment gave me the idea to do another post on this topic, but more about tips I have for people who want to become an Evangelist (like starting to do public speaking, showcasing their expertise in a blog, having a social media presence…).

      01/10/2013 09:15PM
  3. DOH! my last comment didn’t make it. Great blog, I’m familiar with Joey’s work, not Christian Heilmann though, reading for another day. :> If you’re in Ott in the spring, check out Ottawa IT Camp 2013! :> Keep up the great bloging.

    01/10/2013 10:39PM
    • Thanks Peter, see you in Ottawa really soon, maybe for the IT Camp!

      01/13/2013 06:08PM
  4. Really enjoyed this post, Frédéric.
    As usual it not only shared valuable information but gave insight into who you are which is important when you are an Evangelist – trust being an essential characteristic.
    Thanks for providing me with a new “to-do” list. :-)

    01/11/2013 10:34AM
  5. Everything sounded so perfect…until the moment coding and development decided to dive in! :( I was never good at coding (only some PHP and CSS required for maintaining/creating WordPress sites for my projects and occasional clients). All I’ve ever loved is to help people by writing. By writing about technology, tutorial of new software and applications, news to let people know what’s going on in the tech world etc. You get my point. :)

    07/22/2013 07:23PM
    • Actually, I was mostly talking about Technical Evangelist roles, but there is probably non-technical job that you could look at.

      07/22/2013 08:55PM
  6. This is job I’d love to do.
    Sadly this is not a very common role here in Spain.

    02/14/2014 05:02PM
    • This wasn’t a role I see at all in Montréal, and rarely in Canada. Right now, I’m working for a company in the US, but I’m working at home. If you are correct with remote working, you open up your opportunities a lot more than trying to find something local.

      02/17/2014 11:26AM
    • Good aproach. This is something I must consider, good idea.
      I feel that role really fits with how I like to make things, sharing knowledge, communication and conecting with people.

      02/17/2014 11:32AM
  7. this is the first post ive read on evangelist job roles- im personally looking for a career change…..thankyou for your honest post :) for what its worth, everything youve pointed out only makes me think this may be the career path im looking for

    04/29/2014 11:28AM
    • Savy, I’m happy it helped you. Please let me know if you have some questions as I’m doing this for more than three years.

      04/29/2014 12:12PM

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