Evangelist Chick: Preachin’ the Good Word to Devs

Hacker News LinkedIn Facebook Twitter by Abby Fichtner

I wrote the start of this post after returning from a full day of interviews, what Microsoft has endearingly termed Finals Day… I had no idea I’d actually get to post it now, 2 weeks later, as I get ready to start this awesome new job…

Final ExamI just got back from my Finals Day with Microsoft. I’m interviewing for a Developer Evangelist position, which is beyond exciting. Not to mention a tad mind blowing. If anyone had told me a few months ago I’d be interviewing for this job I would have laughed them right out of the room.

And yet, here I am. So, in the spirit of fellow hax0r turned Microsoft Evangelist, Joey DeVilla (aka @AccordionGuy), I thought I’d blog about just WTF I’m thinking.

If you’ve read anything of mine, you probably know my shtick, I like to say:

“Java, C#, C/C++… it ain’t about the language but the wonderful things we build.”

And this is true – for languages, platforms, technologies, practices… I pride myself on being technology agnostic and just picking the right tool for the right job.

So, how am I interviewing for a Microsoft Evangelist role?? Good question! Let’s step back into our WABAC machine

Sherman & his wayback machineSherman, take us back to April, 2008…

At MIX 08, Daniel Makoski gave this amazing presentation called Beneath the Surface: The Natural Experience Vision. In it is this quote of his that I love so much:

“The last 30 years of computing have been about people learning the language of computers…

The next 30 will be about computers learning the language of people.”

Watching the video of this presentation was one of those career-altering moments, where you see something and go “Forget everything that I’ve done for the last 15 years, THIS right here is what I want to be doing.”

And so, I set about learning the technology to help get me there. I taught myself WPF, because Surface’s UI was built with  WPF. I hadn’t actually done Microsoft development since my C++/Win32 API days

#include <windows.h>

int WINAPI WinMain ( HINSTANCE hInstance, HINSTANCE hPrevInstance,
		     PSTR szCmdParam, int iCmdShow )

and so that meant I also had to learn this (not so) new fangled .NET and C#. The last time I looked at C#, it had struck me as the perfect combination of stripping away all the power of C++ with a dumbed down version of Java. Awesome! So I was pretty blown away by not only how far it’s come but how much it’s clearly left Java in the dust.

After a year or so playing with these tools and seeing what they can do, I concluded that these are the right tools for building out the next generation of software that’s natural for people to use. The type of software I want to be building.

And so, I decided to found my own company around this notion of building better software: Digital Muse. I even gave it a tagline inspired by Daniel Makoski’s presentation teaching computers the language of people. And, I signed up for BizSpark, Microsoft’s program that gives free software (yay!) to startups. Awesome!

Now, I just had to figure out how the heck to get customers. Hmmm.

So I’m looking around at all things WPF & Silverlight, and I come across this crazy job opening: Microsoft Developer Evangelist: Boston Startups. Hmm, what does a Developer Evangelist do anyway? Kinda’ curious, I click in and proceed to read a description that eerily describes me to a T. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Must demonstrate a passion for technology and previous experience showing developers “how to” (check!)
  • Possess current technical background in both Microsoft & competing technologies (Java, Silverlight, WPF–check!)
  • Exceptional skills creating and driving solutions to unexpected challenges (Hacker Chick, present!)
  • Opportunity to innovate by engagement, working with startups (*drooool* I love startups!)

Of course, there is no way in hell they’ll contact me back. But, what the hell, I post my resume to Microsoft and attempt to submit it for this position. Apparently, I wasn’t 10% smarter then their Careers website (tip: when applying to a Microsoft position, you probably want to use IE) and so failed. It made it into the system, but not for that job. The next day I get an email from a Microsoft recruiter saying that someone forwarded my resume to her and she was wondering if I might be interested in this position. It’s for a Developer Evangelist for Startups in the Boston area.

… fade back to today …

Despite channeling Jordan from Real Genius throughout the entire slew of phone & in-person interviews –- getting so excited and talking so fast I was sure I was just going to pass right out (exactly the right impression whilst trying to demonstrate your ‘leet communication skills), I somehow managed to land the job without the need for smelling salts.

Now, I’ll get to work with other devs who are like-mindedly crazy passionate & trying to start their own companies, and I’ll get to help them with all these amazing technologies. I honestly can’t think of a single thing I would rather be doing.

Everyone I tell says to me, “oh yeah! You’ll be a great evangelist!” and I keep thinking wow! really?? That is so weird, I’m just a hacker chick. Is being the type of person that would make a great evangelist a good thing?

But then, I think about how many devs I’ll get to reach to help promote software goodness and I think yeah. Yeah, I think that IS a good thing after all.

So just call me Evangelist Chick…

preachin’ the good word to developers.

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  • Abby Fichtner

    Hi, thank you!  I kept hearing your name today – clearly you are the man to meet :)   I'm not sure yet, but I'm going to at least poke my head in and introduce myself.

  • marshsutherland

    Abby, can't wait to meet you. Excellent platform-agnostic blog.

    Will you be at Microsoft BizSpark Meetup on Thursday night?


    – Marsh

  • Abby Fichtner

    Isn't that awesome?   :)  

    I'll be specifically focused on startups in the Boston area and I start on Monday – so I guess we'll see!  Stay tuned… ;)

  • Michael

    Wow that sounds great.  I am impressed that this goes back to an "Aha moment" at a conference and that you did the hard work to make it all happen.

    So what will you be doing as an evangelist? Looking forward to reading more about the new gig.

  • Abby Fichtner

    Thanks so much.  I feeel inspired *grin*

  • Bryan Beecham

    Very exciting stuff. Glad to hear about your new gig!  You sound inspired.

  • Abby Fichtner

    Awww, thanks, Maggie! And thanks for all your help introducing me to the other rad developer evangelist chicks!

    Absolutely, we are gonna rock the next dev event. Go go grrrl power, hah! ;)

  • Maggie

    Congrats on your new position, very proud and happy for you.  Can't wait to hear how it goes and hang out at next CodeMash type event!

  • Abby Fichtner

    thanky thanky, Sammy  8-)

  • Object-Oriented Sammy

    Ohhh excellent news – congrats <span>Evangelist </span>Abby! 8-)

  • Abby Fichtner

    Thank you sooo much! And I agree – it's a little uncanny, ain't it? ;)

  • Zachary Spencer

    AWESOME! Congratulations Abby! That seems like the perfect role for you!