There a several different types of Technical Evangelists (TEs) within Microsoft. The role falls under the Developer Experience (DX) team and there are some roles that are more field facing, like mine, and there are other TEs who focus on larger customer engagements. In my role, I work closely with developers, students and IT pros from the northeast region to help them learn, adopt, and use the Microsoft developer platform to design and build the next generation of smarter apps.
How does your role as a technical evangelist fit in at Microsoft? Do you specialize in any specific products or platforms?
Personally, I focus on Machine Learning and AI Technologies, including Microsoft Cognitive Services, Microsoft Bot Framework, Power BI, and Azure Machine Learning. I present in the community on these topics and give demos of personal code samples on best practices for using these frameworks. More recently, I have been working with developers from different companies through 3-day “hack fests” to help them prove out Proof of Concepts in these areas.
Was this your original career goal or were you originally planning to use your computer science skills in a different capacity?
Originally, I started out as a statistical science major and then added computer science on as a second major in order to facilitate the analytics that I wanted to learn. I never thought I would fit as a full-time software developer, as I enjoy a lot of context switching and customer-facing roles. Before learning about the TE position, though, I did go through many software engineering interviews, both in tech and financial industry to try and determine what would fit me best.
How did your background prepare you for your current position? In addition to CS/IT, what other skills do you need for this type of career? Organization skills? Communication skills?
The biggest skill that I’ve had to learn since graduating has been work-life balance. I struggled in college with time management. I always felt swamped with work and eventually sought out help from the Academic Resource Center at Duke to help me figure out how to manage my time more efficiently. I was able to bring this over into the workplace, but I have a tendency to get so engulfed with my work that I don’t stop to take care of myself or my relationships. That’s definitely been the biggest challenge, especially, as a new hire-when you want to say “yes” to everything, but also need to have a semblance of a life.
What happens during a typical workday?
Every day is a little bit different for me. Most student and developer events are held on nights or weekends since that is when most people are free. I do not have a typical 9-5 job. Because of the constant moving around and events, we do have some flexibility in where and when we work. For instance, if I have worked a weekend, I will try to take the following Monday or Tuesday off to make sure I get enough rest.
What courses of action would you recommend for anyone considering this aspect of a technology career? Any specific courses, practicums, research experiences?
Getting involved in Meetups or developer communities is definitely a great way to prepare for this job. We have a very front-facing job, so speaking at conferences and events is very important. Any practice and networking will be a great help!
Did you enjoy your participation at the 2017 symposium and giving your input?
I had a great time speaking on the panel about women in industry and loved being able to network and hear the stories from the other women. I also found it incredibly interesting to listen to the academia perspectives to see where things were similar and different between the fields.
Robbin Koenig, M.A., M.S. is an educator with an avid interest in technology and science education. She has taught students in prekindergarten through high school. Robbin enjoys volunteer work, exploring the N.Y.C. cultural arts scene, and anything pertaining to wildlife.