Category Archives: career

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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Evangelism

Taking a break from my KMD2004 cramming to post this cautionary note from an IBM evangelist (see, they do exist):

Being an evangelist has it benefits, but you soon get tired of the frequent flyer miles; the anonymous hotels; the loneliness; the adulation of knowing the right thing at the right time. I can’t tell you if now is a good time to jump, or not, what I can tell you about mistakes, they’re the only thing that you can truly call your own.

This is something to keep in mind. I'm excited about living on my own, but someday I might tire of it. I'm looking forward to going on all sorts of speaking tours, but someday I might get tired of going up on stage or being "on" all the time. Someday I might get tired of always being in a different timezone from the people I love. Someday I might hate missing birthdays or casual get-togethers.

But while I'm young and unattached and eager to learn, I might as well sacrifice that comfort for learning. I want to learn how to listen, how to connect, how to sell. I know how to converse with a hundred people. I want to learn how to converse with thousands. I want to learn how to speak geek and speak suit. =)

(Thinking of it, though: If I'm going to be travelling a lot, it won't be fair to uproot my cat from sunny Philippines where she gets fed regularly and where she can hang out with our other cat... I miss her!)

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... Oh my goodness, a Distinguished Engineer blogged about me... Gwee!

Found my vertical: HR

I ran into Pete Forde at Andrew Burke's birthday party last night. He explained to a number of Andrew's friends in other industries that it was really the technical strengths and reputations of tech evangelists that made them much more effective than non-technical marketing or sales people. After all, many developers can easily detect marketing hype, and they don't like it one bit.

IBM consultants are always talking about "verticals", or industries on which people focus. Banking, real estate, pharmaceuticals, education - for salespeople to truly excel in any of these areas, they need to invest time into learning the industry inside and out. They need to know the vocabulary people use, the concerns people have, the opportunities for growth, and even the competitive context around their clients. Focusing on an industry allows people to develop deep competence and strong relationships both within and outside the industry.

On the walk to class the next morning, I thought about how that deep knowledge of an area helps me make deeper connections. I love having read most of the Toronto Public Library's holdings on social networking. I can quickly recommend appropriate books and tips. I'd love to have that kind of knowledge on a business area. So I started thinking about what I should focus on...

A friend once told me that he had no idea what he wanted to do at the moment. I told him that if you know who you want to be, then you can figure out what to do. I want my career to help me be the person I want to be. I don't want it to just pay the bills until I accumulate enough money to "retire". I want it to factor into my personal growth.

So the real question is: who do I want to be? What do I want to learn?

At some point in my life, I'd like to know a lot about real estate. I won't be able to make the most of it right now, though. Microfinance? Investing? Education? None of these really hit me as the right next step given my passions, skills, and the needs of people around me.

Then I started thinking of it in terms of who I want to be and what I'd love to do. I want to help people think, and I want to help people connect.

The first explains my interest in personal productivity, notetaking strategies, etc. The second underlies my passion for social computing. One standard business area that covers both would be HR. Human resources - seems to be a fantastic fit for what I'm doing right now and where I'd like to head in the future.

At networking events, I perk up whenever people tell me they're in recruiting—not because I want a job for myself, but because recruiters know how to manage lots of relationships and get a sense of who fits into what positions. What excites me about my research at IBM is the idea that I'll be able to help people find and connect with other people within the company.

I think the second part - helping people connect - is what I'm going to focus on for a while. We'll see if I need to further niche myself. Large tech companies that need social knowledge management tools for internal use, such as IBM's offerings? HR consultant for lots and lots and lots of small companies to help them grow professionally, source people, etc.? We'll see. Whatever space I choose, I want to learn everything that I can learn about it, and I want to own that space. =)

So that's my vertical, and my ideal job description for the next step is getting clearer and clearer. I want a sales + evangelism job (both aspects!) focusing on HR products and services that help people connect. I should find people in the area and ask if they niched themselves even deeper (HR for real estate companies? HR for campus recruitment of technology companies?). Then, just as companies post job ads describing their ideal candidate, I'll get a better idea of what an ad for my ideal company would look like... =)

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Job search? Company search!

I figured out what I really, really, really want to do as my next job. I'm a perfect fit for it, and it's a perfect fit for me. Now all I have to do is sell my future company on the idea so that they'll create my position. I'm not searching for a job... I have a job that'll create a *lot* of value, and now all I have to do is search for a company!

Watch. I've got Awesome Things planned. Here are my next actions.

  • Find out how many companies get started in Toronto each month / year and their survival rate.
  • Establish links with entrepreneurial groups and meetups.
  • Find a news source for new companies.
  • Identify the potential established companies that would benefit from the kind of work I want to do, and set up meetings.

MWAHAHA!

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Collaboration

Now is about the right time for me to step up my job search. I sent my resume to some of the IBM teams I'm interested in, and I've been talking to them about what might be a good fit for both me an d IBM. I'm particularly interested in working with Lotus Connections and other IBM social computing initiatives, either as a behind-the-scenes developer, a consultant, or a sales specialist—or probably a mix of those.

I find it amusing that that the teams that build collaboration tools are the ones who most realize the importance of face to face communication. I'd really like to stay in Canada (paperwork being one among many reasons), but I'll try to stay open to the idea of relocating.

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Looking at the puzzle pieces

My life is giving me bits and pieces of something that's worth thinking about.

Piece: Introducing J earlier to the joys of Shel Silverstein was a wonderful demonstration of the infectious power of enthusiasm and the value of right timing.

Piece: The book I'm reading about internal marketing (Light Their Fire) talks about how enthusiasm - passion - is part of building the best internal brands. The book I read before that (Better Than Perfect) was about how certain people can excel and lift up everyone around them.

Piece: To help me understand myself and plan my own career, Stephen Perelgut asked me earlier what I would do if I didn't have to think about money.

Stephen said that I'd make a good developer. That would be straightforward. But there's this side of me that refuses to be ignored...