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What is a Technical Evangelist?

It’s been a while since I’ve posted to this blog, so first things first, I’d like to bring you up to date.  After moving from Melbourne to London and spending a year there consulting to Earthport and working with Thomsons I have moved to India and joined Infragistics as a Technical Evangelist.

As someone whose bread and butter has been very closely tied to the delivery of production software for more than 10 years (as a developer, technical lead, architect, consultant and even an entrepreneur) this represents a shift in career path into to a professional function that is business focused.  What is a Technical Evangelist? is the inevitable question I am asked when I tell people what I do.  Wikipedia, the first stop for all of life’s pressing questions says,

A technical or technology evangelist is a person who attempts to build a critical mass of support for a given technology in order to establish it as a technical standard in a market that is subject to network effects.

Thanks to my colleague Tony Lombardo’s excellent insights, and the benefit of having spent a few month on the job I think I have a fairly good understanding this dynamic and exciting role with elements of sales, marketing and business and technology innovation.

As I see it, a Technical Evangelist’s role is to engage and inspire potential users of the technology.

How?

This is done through various forms of communication.  In my case: presentations, demos, talks, proof-of-concepts, sample code, blogs, articles, phone calls, emails, social media and the occasional bit of technical support.  Because Infragistics primarily sells development software, I communicate with developers, architects, project managers, product owners , business analysts and senior managers.  I speak different languages to each user so in a day I could be talking to an architect about streaming realtime data to a browser-based application using push technologies and then to a manager about agile methodology and the value of UI prototyping.  I strive to put myself in each user’s shoes and understand what is important to them so I have a context in which to communicate effectively.  My background in software development, consulting and entrepreneurship helps me immensely in this.  Being a Technical Evangelist is also a continuous learning process.  Apart from keeping up to date with Infragistics products and trends in the .NET/Microsoft ecosystem, I make an effort to to aware of software, technology and business trends at large.

Why?

Because the ultimate goal is to sell, a Technical Evangelist could be viewed a salesperson, but as Tony points out, selling is almost like a side effect.  The reason for this is that an evangelist communicates not to sell, but to educate.  Tony continues,

I present demos to teach about the product, and why I think it’s great.  I’m showing you how to accomplish a task using the product.  When I build a sample, I’m not just building another test project.  I’m demonstrating the capabilities of a product that have the potential to change your job, or at least make it easier.

A technical evangelist does what he does because he is passionate about technology and the impact that it can have in making life better.  Evangelism is a natural byproduct of that.   Personally, I am passionate about many things that help me in my job:

  • The importance of usability, user experience and user interface design (and visual and product design in general)
  • KISS
  • Efficiency and productivity: working smarter, not harder
  • Agile methodology
  • SaaS and web applications
  • SOA
  • Cloud computing
  • RIA, AJAX and Silverlight
  • Software development with .NET and the Microsoft ecosystem
  • The Internet
  • Innovation in technology and business

One of my heroes, Guy Kawasaki is a former Apple Technical Evangelist and is noted for having brought the concept of evangelism to the high-tech business.  Here are some words of wisdom from the man himself: The Art of Evangelism.  Incidentally I also use Guy’s 10/20/30 rule for my presentations.

I hope this gives you a better understanding of what a Technical Evangelist is.

I look forward to sharing my thoughts on user experience, software development with Infragistics/.NET and business and technology in general.

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