Bow your heads and pretend to be serious.
This past weekend, I attended a gathering of several hundred computer-oriented college-age young men (and a few women) wearing novelty sweatpants, otherwise known as a “hackathon.”
There were a number of post-college persons in attendance, mainly representatives from the sponsoring companies who were there to mentor the young Jonathan Jameses and let them know that their yen for appearing in public in Batman pajamas and winter hats with knitted animal ears need not be an impediment to gainful employment.
Many of these post-college persons introduced themselves as “Developer Evangelists.” As far as I can tell, a Developer Evangelist spends a lot of time with other current and wannabe developers, learning about their work, figuring out how others’ projects can inform their own, and looking for partnership opportunities.
I’m perplexed by the Developer Evangelists, and my immediate reaction to them is: “you’re doing it wrong.”* I mean, if you’re doing a good job of hiring, then you have a bunch of gung-ho employees who are excited to talk about their work, grow their skills, and look for ways to make that happen, no? It seems like the wiser course of action is to cultivate a workplace where everyone is a Whatever-Their-Role-Is Evangelist. It’s good for company PR. It’s good for hiring. It’s good for individual professional development. It brings more cool ideas back to the company.
More Evangelists = Bigger Funner for New Ideas and Hires = Better Company and Better Work. I mean, historically, More Evangelists = More Martyrdom, but I think modern tech startups have moved past that.
Granted, not everyone wants to be an evangelist; some of us just want to do our work (although if you’re excited about what you do, you’re kind of an evangelist anyway — sorry). But it feels like creating a space where anyone can and is encouraged to be one is better in the long run than creating a few specialized postions.
I’ve worked in the tech industry for nearly eight months and am not a developer, so I’m pretty sure I know what I’m talking about.
*I’m also perplexed by the choice of the word “evangelist,” but that’s a whole ‘nother post.