Dictionary.com defines “evangelist” this way (there are three other definitions but they are very similar to this one):
“A bringer of the glad tidings of Church and his doctrines. Specially: (a) A missionary preacher sent forth to prepare the way for a resident pastor; an itinerant missionary preacher. (b) A writer of one of the four Gospels (With the definite article); as, the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. (c) A traveling preacher whose efforts are chiefly directed to arouse to immediate repentance.”
I work as a Developer Evangelist at Microsoft. Some people have a negative perception of the “evangelist“ piece of my title. I don't see it in a negative light at all. I mean, as a user of Microsoft development products, you want the ear of the Devleoper Evangelist as they have your best interests in mind. I take all of the feedback I get and go back to product teams, etc. to impress upon them the importance of the wants/needs of our customers.
Here are some of the activities that make up my job (there are many other things I do on a daily basis but this is a good snapshot):
*Presenting/Training .NET development topics for customers
*Working with User Groups to ensure they get adequate support from Microsoft
*Writing sample code for customers
*Working with local influentials such as MVPs and RD to ensure they have what they need to be great customer evangelists
*Organizing and managing local developer events such as DevDays
*The most important part of my job, IMHO, is to collect developer feedback on all things related to software development on the Microsoft platform.
Now, I do all of these things within the district that I work (covering the states of Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky in the United States). There are Developer Evangelists all over the world but each geography works differently (i.e. the number and focus of Developer Evangelists in other parts of the world do not necessarily operate as I or my counterparts in the United States). I should also say that each Developer Evangelist and district has different needs so the percentage of time a Developer Evangelist spends on any given point I mentioned above is completely dependent on the environment and geography in which they work.
I love what I do and I consider myself very lucky. There is nothing better than making statements like those that I made in this post. It is a guarantee that when someone makes a statement that “X is the best”, the feedback will be very strong good and bad. The “good” feedback is nice as it tells us what to keep doing but it is not nearly as helpful as the “bad” feedback (of which that post generated a lot). If you have suggestions for things we can do to make the developer's life better (anything ranging from community involvement to product features) then feel free to contact me.
Update: I'm not a "glorified sales person" as one person commented (I removed the comment because the rest of it was completely in poor taste) because I cannot sell anything. Developer Evangelists at Microsoft do not have a sales quota or anything like it. If you wanted to buy something from me I'd have to find someone else. Now, I believe that some evangelists in the industry are glorified sales people. Before I came to Microsoft, I was an ASP.NET MVP (answering developer questions every day) and I worked as an Architect/Dev Lead on software development teams long enough to be more than a “glorified sales person“.