API Jobs: Technical Evangelism as a Career

Mike Borozdin, Director, DocuSign
Feb. 24 2011, 12:00AM EST

Technical Evangelism, a fairly young discipline, may contain fewer than a thousand people today.  A few folks may be doing it part time and others who think that they are doing it when they are really not.  Overall, it’s a really fun job: you get to meet smart people, learn new technologies, create fun demos and travel to various conferences.

I was having lunch with a friend of mine, a software engineer, and we got to talking about the different emphasis of our jobs. I came through the development ranks so it was easy for me to compare what I used to do with what I am doing right now. If you are a developer looking for a more outward facing role, this article is for you.

Number one thing you have to remember: as a technical evangelist your job is to market.  The metrics are about how many developers outside of your company adopt your API.  Most of the technical evangelism organizations I have interacted with have one or more objective metrics.  Those metrics are a combination of the following:

  • Applications that integrate with your API.
  • Developer sandboxes requested.
  • The size of the registered developers in your community.
  • Satisfaction of the people that attend your events.

Some people add intermediate goals to this such as the number of blog posts, or samples or various activities, but I think at the end of it all the four categories above directly impact the revenue and help sales.  The general activity of a technical evangelist consists of:

  • Working with the customers and partners.
  • Writing about your technology.
  • Presenting at conferences.
  • Hosting webinars.
  • Creating demos.

Having a background in software development absolutely helps because developers are a tough crowd, but you will need to extend yourself beyond the code.  The developers who I have seen fail at this job might have been great engineers, but could never cross the social chasm to start connecting with others to educate them about the value of the technology they were evangelizing.  If you can do it, it’s well worth the trip you will probably be blazing on the trail of our joint technological future.

Mike Borozdin is Developer Programs Manager at DocuSign and is currently hiring a technical evangelist in San Francisco. Find Mike on Twitter.

Mike Borozdin I head up Partner Products and Developer Evangelism at DocuSign

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Met up with a Developer Evangelist for Twilio (@johndbritton) at Startup Weekend PHL. I think he is the first person I've met that embodies what you are writing of here. He demoed Twilio's API by writing a quick script that called/texted all of the people attending the intro session there - a powerful real-world example, with little talk of Twilio as a company, which resulted in more than a few projects integrating their API into web apps.

It went over about 1000x as well as the MSFT talk who relied on Powerpoint.