Cue the “Damien” Choir

by Joey deVilla on December 10, 2008

I haven’t been posting much this week because I’ve been pouring heart, soul and brain cells into my first presentation at a Microsoft conference – TechDays 2008 in Calgary — which happens at 1 p.m. Mountain Time today. My regular posting should resume tomorrow or Friday at the latest.

The Empire’s still got some money to throw around, so every speaker gets two official button-down dress shirts with logos, one for each day of the conference. I have to admit I never thought I’d seen the day when I’d be wearing one of these:

Joey deVilla at TechDays 2008 calgary wearing a Microsoft shirt

My friend and co-worker John Bristowe keeps singing the “Damien” choir music from the The Omen every time I run into him with this shirt on.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Caps December 10, 2008 at 12:09 pm

You’ve come a long way since the Clark Hall Pub logo graced that spot…

2 Rob December 11, 2008 at 2:56 pm

don’t take this the wrong way but I’m suprised that microsoft would
Let a relatively new .net guy speak at techdays. Aren’t developer evangalists suppose to be experts in there field? You made it quite clear that you are ramping up on .net with various beginner type books, how can experienced .net developers see you as a mentor if you haven’t worked with .net? Kind of takes credibility away from these sessions if this is a common practise by microsoft…there conferences are in trouble.

Just my 2 cents.. Good lick with the conference an the new role.

3 Joey deVilla December 11, 2008 at 4:18 pm

@Rob: It’s a perfectly valid question: why would Microsoft hire a non-.NET guy as an evangelist?

The answer is simple: I’m a damned good evangelist.

Technical evangelism requires two different sets of skills that you don’t often find in the same person:

  • Hard skills: that’s the technical know-how aspect of the job
  • So-called “soft” skils: that’s the touchy-feely communicating aspect of the job

Of the two sets of skills, hard skills are the easier ones to ramp up. I’ve got a developer background, and before 2002, I used Microsoft’s development tools. Furthermore, I have a luxuries most developers don’t have:

  • The freedom to block out large chunks of my working day to get up to speed on current and upcoming Microsoft technologies
  • The ability to contact people within Microsoft when I’m stumped — not just developer support, but even the people on the product or tool teams
  • Whatever hardware, software and reading material I need

There’s also the matter of my soft skills. They’re considered much harder to learn than hard skills; some people believe that they can’t even be taught. My ability to communicate to both technical and non-technical audiences is such that even in this time of economic upheavals, layoffs and hiring freezes, I got so many calls with job interviews and offers that I didn’t have to call anyone for a job — they called me.

Pure technical know-how is not enough to be an evangelist. I’m sure you’ve suffered through some session or course taught by someone who really knew his or her stuff but had no capability of imparting that know-how to others. That type of person would be suited for a development role, but not an evangelist role.

Finally, management considers my “outsider” status to be an asset. While the evangelism team needs its share of “True Believers”, it never hurts to have someone who hasn’t been drinking the Kool-Aid to ensure they not just preaching to the choir. Just as the team needs credibility among long-time developers who use Microsoft tech, they also need credibility among a larger set of developers: those non-Microsoft developers who are generally considered to be “neutral”.

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