If any of you follow Amanda Laucher (pandamonial on Twitter), you may have seen her comment about meeting someone who didn’t know about their MS evangelists. I have to admit – I had no idea of these people called evangelists until just this last December.

Living Under a Rock

When you work for a small company that really doesn’t use new technologies nor hears about it, you never realize that you’re outside the realm of influence. The only reason why I knew about C# was because my buddy G and I were talking about how we’d never need to know it as long as we were at that company. I remember the discussion clearly, and to this day, G’s still there and not using much in the way of .NET (other than probably maintaining my small VB.NET app). Meanwhile, I moved on to a smaller company, bigger technical staff, and am using C# and having fun learning new technologies. There we were, the developers (yep, just the 2 of us) for a manufacturing company of 600+ people, not knowing of all the resources available to us.

Developer Evangelist?

I imagine that if my buddy Russ hadn’t mentioned the .NET SIG, I wouldn’t have thought to look to see what else is out there. Even so, going to the SIG meetings apparently wasn’t enough, as I had been going to the meetings since May 2007, shortly after I started my current job, but still had no idea that there were these people called evangelists. I wouldn’t hear about them until December 2007, when this guy Jeff Blankenburg came to the Bennett Adelson SIG and showed us some cool stuff from Microsoft (like Popfly). He mentioned that he is a developer evangelist for the region. At that point, I had to wonder what it was they did. After prodding Russ for more details, I learned that there was some other guy who would come along rarely but apparently not much else happened here in Cleveland. Still, there wasn’t much that I could find out from Russ on what a developer evangelist did.

So, some of us lived under rocks or were just out of the realm of influence with the evangelists. (SIGs too far, no evangelists geared for the industry, etc.) If you know people who are left out, mention this post to them, as the Microsoft evangelists (at least those here in the Heartland District) are just an awesome team to meet!

So what do evangelists do?

Before I get into the “who”, you need to know what they do.

Just as the title suggests, they evangelize! Seriously, though, they’re developers, architects, and other tech-minded individuals who get to hear about the cool stuff ahead of time and make sure that we know about it. Tools and technologies, they’re seeing just what the industry has in store, where things are going, and they tell us about it. Through presentations at user groups and events, blog entries, podcasts, videos, forums, and just being themselves and talking about the things they’re passionate about, the evangelists get the word out.

Who are our evangelists?

Ohio is in the Heartland District, which happens to have quite active evangelists in the area. Since I’m a dev, I’m going to mention the developer evangelists first – Jeff Blankenburg and Jennifer Marsman. If you’re a dev and reading my blog, you ought to read their blogs as well! Jeff’s blog may be slow at the moment, as he’s out until the end of May, but definitely stay tuned to his blog when he returns, as you never know what he’ll blog about – from something about Silverlight to the after-party of a .NET event or a contest for swag at Codemash, his blog covers all sorts of things, some .NET related and some just regular blog entries. Jennifer just started her blog at the beginning of April and has returned to our region after a few months on leave. Something that Jennifer’s doing in her blog is featuring women in technology on her Friday entries. Definitely check out her blog as well!

Then there are the architect evangelists. We used to have Josh Holmes as an architect evangelist for the Heartland District, but he recently was promoted to Central RIA evangelist. Josh is one of the guys from Code to Live, and although he has a bigger region now, he still comes around to the Heartland area events. Our new architect evangelist is Brian H. Prince. I can’t comment on the architect coverage, as I’m not an architect, but I definitely recommend checking out Brian’s blog even if you aren’t an architect. He talks of cool technologies like LiveMesh, robots, and even these things known as “soft skills”.

There are other evangelists in the area, but I’ve met the 4 that I mentioned, and I can definitely tell you that these guys (and Jennifer!) are passionate about technology and getting the word out to the community. Sometimes, I think part of their job is to promote the “unity” in “community”.

Don’t know who your evangelists are? Want to know who the others are in the Heartland area? Meet your local Microsoft Evangelists!

I’ve sent this info on to my buddy G, so that he’s no longer just another dev out of the realm of influence. But there are other devs out there who don’t know about these great contacts. So pass this word on and get the word out there, so that they know that there are awesome resources out there for us in the field.

And a shout out to the PA evangelists, especially John McClelland, for getting the word out to their PA followers on Cleveland Day of .NET! Thanks for spreading the word! 🙂