The best way to start this blog post off would be to note that not every day is the same. In fact, it's the most varied, flexible job I've ever had. The second-best way would be to actually explain what a Technical Evangelist is (okay, your priority order on this may be different!).
The important part of this job title is "evangelist", and when most people think about the word "evangelist", they think about someone who is a religious evangelist who preaches the gospel, which is nowhere near what a technical evangelist does! Whilst thinking about how best to explain this job role, I came across this definition from Michael Sheehan that put my thoughts to words perfectly:
The technology evangelist inspires businesses and individuals through interaction, content creation and communication about a technology. The end goal of the evangelist, religious or technical, is to inspire and hopefully convert the audience.
As I mentioned earlier, every day is truly different, so instead I thought I'd describe a week in the life of a Technical Evangelist (TE). And even then, different TEs work differently and have different priorities and job roles. Here's my week as a Technical Evangelist on the audience team at Microsoft:
I take the train to Cambridge; today I'm giving a talk about Cognitive Services and the power of Machine Learning APIs in to students. I go through emails on my commute and catch up on a bunch of to-do list items that are easy to get out of the way on the train.
I arrive early so that I can do one more run through of my talk, I've found the best way to practice your talks is to practice them with the same energy as if you were really on stage in front of 100s of people.
After the talk, I hang around and answer questions; some are easy and some are about a specific project, in which case I would give them my contact details to follow up, or if I had the time, I'd grab a coffee with them and go through the project in detail.
That evening, I attend a community event. Developer communities are the best place to learn about technology you're interested in, meet new people and get feedback from developers. Most of the time that feedback finds its way back to the product teams. It's also a great way to give back to the community by giving them my time, whether that's through doing a talk on a technology of interest or running a workshop. I usually hang around after the talks to socialise and speak to people about projects they're working on and the technologies they use.
As I'm working towards my Xamarin certification, I spend the morning joining a virtual Xamarin university class. Xamarin University provides some great classes online where there are presentations, labs and quizzes (they usually last 2-3 hours). It's actually pretty cool being able to learn with a group of people virtually and actually getting to block out the time to learn and write code. One of the things I love about working here is the opportunity to learn whether that’s through internal training delivered online or in person, or learning from other technical folks around the company. The best way to learn is to do!
Next week I will be delivering a workshop on how to get started with the Microsoft Bot Framework. To prepare, I spend the entire afternoon putting together my presentation and workshop content. I build out chat bot demos from scratch, screenshotting and annotating every step I take to make it as easy as possible for people to follow along, and to make sure they get the same working application.
Wednesday through Friday
For the next three days, I'm involved in a partner hackathon. These hacks vary, it could be a two-day hack or a five-day hack. They also vary in technology, the focus on this week's hack is chat bots, but sometimes it's Power BI or Xamarin, or even HoloLens. Everyone on the team has a technical area in which they specialise, but we get to work together often so exposure to new technologies is pretty frequent.
Most of the partner hacks we do are with more than one company at a time, usually 4-5 companies. The usual format of these hacks is to spend the first day introducing the technology, then we split off into the different company teams and work with their developers to understand their problem, and start designing a proof of concept solution that we will build out over the next few days. Each company is assigned one Technical Evangelist to lead the project and help them find the best solution to their problem.
I then spent the rest of the hack… well, hacking! I get to sit down with the customer’s engineering team and hack away at a proof of concept that uses some of the latest Microsoft technology to help solve their problem. It's really challenging but also great fun, I always enjoy tackling difficult problems.
On the final day of the hack, we wrap up any loose ends and handover any code we've worked on to make sure the customers can continue working on the project after the hack. We then help them plan their next steps and put together a technical report about the work we've done that week (technology used, the challenges we faced, how we overcame them etc.) and demo our proof of concept.
The end of the hack is always a satisfying experience. I get to look back on the challenges I've faced and solved over the last few days knowing that the application I've helped architect and develop has saved engineers weeks, if not months, of work.
I'll spend the next week looking back at this hack and putting together a technical case study on the work I've done, going into detail about the technical challenges we faced as a team and documenting the solutions to help others solve similar problems.
And everything else that follows
That's just what one week might look like. The week after might involve attending or speaking at a conference; maybe even just running the Microsoft booth at a developer event. Other weeks, I block out a day or two just to practice for an upcoming talk. Or maybe it's a slower paced week and I just focus on some of my core evangelism work:
- writing blogs
- playing around with new technology to learn more about it and put together some fun demos
- planning out future community events I will attend and help with
- or just putting together new talk material.
Then there are the online shows and podcasts that my team and I often work on; these require some time to plan and practice followed by an entire day in the studio filming episodes. Sometimes, it's working on live events with Microsoft Most Valued Professionals (MVPs).
I'll stop here before I continue rambling about all the work I end up doing. It's an exciting job, it's challenging, it's flexible and what I like most about it is that it allows me to code and solve problems whilst also speaking and presenting to developers about what I'm most passionate about, technology.
My team is hiring
If you'd love to join the Microsoft UK Developer Experience team, follow the link below to apply:
Photo credit to my good friend Josh Holmes