So you want to be an Evangelist?

11 Jan 2013
25 May 2020
6 minutes
Copyright David Champagne
Copyright David Champagne

Update: read my updated definition of the role.

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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