Microsoft evangelism – tempting!

I had hot chocolate and a terrific conversation with John Oxley, director of community evangelism at Microsoft Canada. He told me about Microsoft evangelists. It seems like such a terrific fit! And the phrases he used - finding heroes, telling stories - resonate with what I want to do. I'm looking forward to exploring that opportunity. Perhaps we can co-adapt. I'd love to work on skills that they'd find useful, and they can adapt the job description to take advantage of my background and interests.

I was glad to hear that they're coming around to seeing people as people instead of just as consumers. ;) I love how companies are gaining faces. They may have lost Robert Scoble, but they've learned the importance of having human connections! John said that they're moving more towards thinking of relationships, which is one of the things I've gotten really interested in.

In the course of the chat, John asked me what languages I program in. I rattled off a few - Emacs Lisp leading the list, of course. He had seen my resume online, so he knew that practically all of my experience was with free and open source software. I told him that was because open source was how I could work on things that mattered, even as an undergraduate in a Third World country. I loved learning from other people's code, and I still do. Microsoft won't—can't!—make me spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about open source. =)

What about IBM? If I can do Enterprise 2.0 evangelism, then it would be tremendously exciting to get in on the ground floor and help shape the technology. I've gotten to meet so many amazing IBMers through blogging and social bookmarking, and that kind of a connection isn't just something to walk away from! I also really, really enjoy mashing together all the Enterprise 2.0 services. =) If IBM can help me make *just* the right career for myself, then they've got dibs on my brain for taking that chance on me and giving me all these wonderful things to play with.

IBM doesn't quite have an evangelist track, though. I've been advised to look into technical pre-sales or business analysis. If Microsoft comes up with something that's an even better fit for my interests and goals, I'll consider them. After all, they have "evangelist" as a proper career path! =) I really want to be around lots of other people who do what I do or want to do, and I'd love to go to conferences and summits to meet other developers and evangelists.

John asked me what I wanted in a position. I want products and services that I'm passionate about and people I love working with. I want to get out there, meet people, and help them succeed by connecting them with other people I've met, showing them tools they'll find useful, and supporting them as they figure things out. I want to always be learning something new, always be playing around with something cool. The more I learn, the more I can give to more people. I want to be part of the community, and I want to help start communities elsewhere. I want to bridge worlds. I want to tell stories about the cool stuff other people are doing, and what people can do.

I like the picture John painted of evangelism. I'm going to do something like that. What company I do it with depends on a number of factors: the specifics of the career, how I feel about the company's solutions, the connections I have, the testimonials of other people within the organization... I'm looking forward to sorting that out next year! If I go with Microsoft or another company, that's okay - I think I'm creating enough value for IBM to make my fellowship more than worth it, and I'm going to keep ties with them. =)

Here's a sample job ad for the "enthusiast evangelist" position John mentioned. This isn't for Microsoft Canada, but it gives a good idea of the kind of work involved.

Come join the team that is changing the way Microsoft is connecting with influential end users as an Enthusiast Evangelist for the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) Headquarters. Our connection with “influential end users” lies at the center of Microsoft’s continued long term success as a platform company.

Candidates will be young graduates coming from a technical, marketing, media or other appropriate background and can prove to have a deep passion for technology. Participants must have excellent English and interpersonal communication skills.

Candidates are strategic thinkers, able to balance individual creativity with working as a team and will have a high degree of customer and partner focus.

We have created for you a program called MACH (Microsoft Academy for University Hires). Of this program, the candidate will participate in the Marketing programme which is a two-year international graduate course that will make the graduate familiar with the marketing culture at Microsoft.

The first year is structured academy training, and the second focuses on career development. The programme is for participants with less than 18 months of work experience. Though challenging, they equip the participants with the skills and know-how required for a rewarding career.

Required Profile

  • Passionate about digital lifestyle and rich consumer experiences across different mediums and technologies.
  • Individuals may come from either a technical, marketing, media or other appropriate background.
  • A deep strong understanding of this end user community proven by participation in online communities and/or user groups.
  • Flexibility in regards to work schedule and travel.
  • Solid understanding of the competitive products (hardware and software) and how to differentiate Microsoft from its competitors.
  • Strong communication and negotiation skills.

Candidates are born communicators with a passion for, and solid knowledge of the influential end users, the blogosphere and online media and most things that are part of the Digital Lifestyle.

The candidate will need to show the potential to develop strong leadership and program management skills as well as cross group collaborations skill and knowledge of the field.

To be successful, this candidate will need to show pragmatism and willingness to roll up the sleeves and get the job done!

I'd love to talk more with people in both companies doing the kind of stuff I want to do so that I can get a better idea of what it's like. But yeah, exciting times...

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