What is an evangelist (Developer Evangelist in my case)?

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“.


Comments (40)

  1. moo says:

    Glorified salesman.

  2. Alex Lowe says:

    Why is a Developer Evangelist a glorified salesman?

  3. moo says:

    You can dress it up all you want but you are there to simply help sell products.

  4. moo says:

    Tell you what, come on in waving your CV shouting "Envangelist" and we will laugh you all the way back to the door.

  5. moo says:

    ASP.NET which basically means you are a web jockey. MVP which means you sit around all day at work browsing usenet posts rather than doing actual work.

  6. Alex Lowe says:

    "You can dress it up all you want but you are there to simply help sell products." is a very profound statement.

    Every employee at Microsoft (or any other software company for that matter) is there to help sell products in some manner.

  7. Alex Lowe says:

    "ASP.NET which basically means you are a web jockey. MVP which means you sit around all day at work browsing usenet posts rather than doing actual work. "

    It is clear that you have not worked with ASP.NET considering that web applications, just like desktop applications, can have a huge backend architecture to them.

    No, MVP would mean that I sit around all day at work ANSWERING usenet posts rather than doing actual work.

  8. moo says:

    Yes including the Janitor. I guess we should rename his job title to "Mop Envangelist".

    Being called envangelist doesnt help your credability, people just laugh theyre nips off and think you are full of Bullshit Buzzword Bingo.

  9. Alex Lowe says:

    I suppose you can call the Janitor what ever you want.

    I didn’t say it helped my credibility. People can laugh. I don’t see what that has to do with anything.

    Generally, my engagements with customers consist of more than simply providing my title. So, laughter or not, they get value in the information I provide. I’m positive I can deliver the same information whether my title has Evangelist in it or not.

  10. moo says:

    I have no intention or desire to support ASP here. Here we use standardized protocols and formats.

  11. Alex Lowe says:

    Great. What standardized protocols and formats does ASP not support?

  12. moo says:

    Great, show me the ASP specifications on W3C.

  13. moo says:

    ISO? ECMA?

    Pick a standardization body and show me the specs.

  14. Moo seems to have an overly negative view of the Evangelist position. Let’s not forget that at the early stages crucial reason for Microsoft dominance was the developer support. Programming for Microsoft platforms with the first editions of Visual Basic and C++ compilers was easier than doing the same things for any other platform.

    Even today MSDN is one of the best developer resources out there, there’s no match for that in Linux/Unix/Apple/Amiga/OS2 world as far as I’ve seen. Plus, I always go to MSDN events to pick up some new stuff even if it doesn’t relate to my work. When was the last time a developer from Apache Foundation visited your friendly town to tell about upcoming features and listen to the requests?

    Anyway, among the companies to develop for Microsoft still has the lowest barrier for entry with free .NET compilers with SDK and plenty of documentation, books, and access to the guys like Alex.

  15. If you work inside Microsoft, I’m keeping a site for Evangelists at http://evangelism — let me know if you have resources that should be linked up.

  16. Ivonna Whackshaft says:

    Evangelist? So are glass washers silicon dioxide maintenance technicians in your wold? Tardlicious!

  17. Alex Lowe says:

    Moo, I’m no expert on standards bodies but I can say with relative certainty that your environment is missing a great deal of technology that is not certified by ECMA, ISO, or W3C. You could be a lot more productive if you used things that weren’t not certified by ECMA, ISO, or W3C!

    I mean, most of the web oriented development languages are not certified (PHP, ASP.NET, Perl, JSP, etc.). You must not have the need for anything but static HTML since it is standardized by the W3C. I feel very sorry for you because you must be wasting a lot of time using antiquated web technologies.

  18. Malek says:

    Well said Alex. I would love to hear what moo is using for his Web development (Accessing Data with JavaScript from the client?).

    Basically, what standards are about is interoperability, which has nothing to do with the technology used on presentation layer at the server side (call it UI processing, or what you like), because it only needs to be at the layers boudaries, and on messages being exchanged (with client and with other layers)…

  19. moo says:

    I dont do web development on the front end, I do the backend if anything web related as I refuse to be stuck in boring web land. I would rather code COBOL and get a huge legacy fee than do web shit.

  20. moo says:

    "Microsoft dominance" has that ring of evilness to it dont you think 😀

    I recall Dilbert had a funy strip piss taking Envangelists.

  21. The daily list of stuff I found interesting while blogreading.

  22. Moo, you’re jaleous, aren’t you?

  23. Hi Alex,

    May be to complete your list of MS job desc, you could describe what is an ISV DE – which is actually my job. Pretty sure you’d do it much better than I would.

  24. moo says:

    Jealous? Of what lol?

    He can envangelise all he wants, but one just cant polish a turd.

  25. moot says:

    I like how moo behinds behind the Anonymous Shield. Come on out and play, moo!

  26. Joe says:

    After reading all these posts I could understand there is a few like "Moo" who still live in late 1950s and 60s and refuse to get down from trees!!!

  27. SickOf says:

    Honest to Jeebus, I am so completely sick of everything and everybody in this entire field. I wish I’d become a dentist, or an undertaker.

  28. OK, nine months of radio silence is long enough. What have I been doing? The first big news is that I was laid off last October. The company was cool about it and called it a layoff (as far as…

  29. rawCoder says:

    Dear Alex,

    I am a die hard fan of Microsoft Technologies an their help for the Developer community.

    I was wondering what is the criteria for becoming a Developer Evangelist? How much coding skills get rusty due to lack of it after you become an Evangelist? How can i become an Evangelist .. do i need to be an MVP ?

    Hope u’ll answer.


  30. Alex Lowe says:

    There are many different types of Developer Evangelist jobs at Microsoft so I recommend that you check out the job descriptions/qualifications for the current openings at our career site:

    Developer Evangelist: http://www.microsoft.com/careers/search/results.aspx?FromCP=Y&JobCategoryCodeID=&JobLocationCodeID=&JobProductCodeID=&JobTitleCodeID=10422&Divisions=&TargetLevels=&Keywords=&JobCode=&ManagerAlias=&Interval=10

    That said, the qualifcations can be described at a high level as the following:

    1) You need to be very technical and hands on (i.e. you can walk the talk when it comes to coding). Ideally, you’d have both an extensive .NET background and a Linux, J2EE, etc. background as well.

    2) You need to have better than average public speaking/presentation skills. You will be interfacing with customers everyday and doing presentations most days.

    3) You need to understand the importance of community and have the foresight to do what is necessary to build a bigger and better community in your local geography.

    Those are the three core pillars I’d say you must have. Most developers fall short on item number 2 and many also don’t quite understand the community dynamics.

    If you feel that you meet those requirements then we’d love to have you apply for the jobs I linked to above.

    Your coding skills don’t become rusty. I think what becomes rusty is your ability to "hop" into the mindset that is required to work on "regular" applications versus your pet projects and demo applications you find yourself coding more often. Thankfully, we work with the largest customers in our geography so you wind up helping developers with the largest distributed .NET applications in existence.

    No, you definitely do not need to be an MVP to get a Developer Evangelist job at Microsoft. It certainly doesn’t hurt though. =)

  31. Heather Hamilton wonders why bloggers keep falling off. I can’t speak for everyone, but here’s my story…When I went dark last August, I was in the final throes of a death-march project, one of those projects that seems like a…

  32. JosephCooney says:

    Redmond, WSE2 Presentation

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