Read as Raymond Camden talks about his career as a Developer Evangelist. Find him at www.raymondcamden.com and on his Twitter feed in the sidebar of this interview.
What do you do for a living?
I’m a developer evangelist for Adobe.
How would you describe what you do?
My job entails writing content (blog posts, articles for other web sites, books, etc), presentations (both remote and in person), and a lot of basic research.
What does your work entail?
My focus as an evangelist is web standards, mobile development, and ColdFusion. These are technologies that I’ve been using for a very long time now. (Well, mobile not quite as long.) These things excite me and I love sharing my excitement with others. For example, I may want to learn a particular feature, like HTML5 Geolocation, and to learn it I’ll build a demo and then blog about what I discovered while writing the code. I’ll discuss the confusion I may have had or the problems I ran into and how I got around it. I share that with others in the hope that it may get other people interested in the feature and may help them avoid any pitfalls I ran into as well.
As an evangelist for Adobe I talk a lot about our products, but I also look at other companies as well. My work environment is very encouraging of exploration and research and I never feel pressured to “stick to” our own products.
What’s a typical work week like?
I spend a lot of time preparing for future presentations, which means building slide decks and creating demos. Even when I’m giving a presentation I’ve already given, I’ll spend time reviewing it and tweaking it. I’m also normally doing research into a particular topic. For example, I may be curious about using IndexedDB to store data on the browser. I’ll decide on a particular type of demo that I think will help me learn the feature and then I’ll build it.
I blog pretty regularly and try to follow a schedule of one post a day.
How did you get started?
I’ve been doing evangelist-style stuff informally for a long time now, mainly in my own time. I enjoy teaching others and generally just sharing knowledge. I’ve also been close to the Adobe community for some time now so many of the evangelists there knew me already.
What do you like about what you do?
The amount of time I get to “play” with new technologies and new hardware (I currently own about 6 or so tablets).
What do you dislike?
While I love presenting and have been doing it for over ten years, I still tend to stress out when I speak. Not so much in terms of ‘fear of public speaking’, but more that I’m hypercritical about my own presentations. That’s really the only negative. Travel takes me away from my wife and kids, but I’ve been lucky in that my travel hasn’t been so bad. I tend to do more writing than speaking.
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
I’m a full time employee and paid incredibly well considering how cool my job is. Adobe also has really good benefits.
How much money do Developer Evangelists make?
I would say technical evangelists probably make more than a typical computer programmer, simply because they are more in the public eye and using more skills than simply coding. Being an evangelist means thinking about how you can help educate others. That takes a particular skill set that not many programmers have.
The best comparable role is a senior software engineer. I looked at glassdoor.com for the role (http://www.glassdoor.com/
How much money did/do you make starting out?
Well, in some ways, this role is like a “step up” or an “upgrade”. I’ve been in the same industry since 1995. My salary started off pretty darn good and has increased since that time. As a whole, I think the computer industry pays extremely well and I’ve been lucky to work in places that put high value on my skills.
What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?
I was an English major in school and have had a lot of practice writing. Plus it helps to have editors. (I currently have an editor for my blog.) In terms of presenting, there are basic guidelines for how to
give a good presentation. In many cases, it just comes down to preparation and practice. At the end of the day though, it isn’t so much that I know how to solve a technical problem. My skills come from being
able to help others solve the problem as well.
What is most challenging about what you do?
I work with a lot of bleeding edge web stuff and it can be difficult at times to find proper documentation, and when the documentation fails you it then becomes a question of figuring out where to ask for help.
What is most rewarding?
Being told by someone that my blog, or my presentation, helped them get their job done.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
Try your best to stretch outside the normal routine of just writing code. You can offer to give a presentation to coworkers, which is generally a low-risk/high reward endeavor. Not only will you get some experience presenting you will look good to your boss. You also want to ensure you have a good public presence with some form of blog. If you want to be known as an expert on some topic, it helps if your content shows up in Google searches.
How much time off do you get/take?
Adobe has a flexible vacation schedule. Basically, you work with your boss to plan out a reasonable amount of vacation over the year.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
Well, I’m not sure it is a complete misconception, but I do not spend all my time traveling. I think most evangelists do, but I do a lot of things remotely and do more writing and other activities that don’t require me to travel. I do travel more than most.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
I love to learn and play with new things. That’s been true for me since I wrote my first program in Applesoft BASIC nearly 30 years ago. If I can keep doing that till I die then I’ll be happy.
What else would you like people to know about your job/career?
The number one thing is passion. To be clear, I’m not talking about some kind of blind zeal to a cause, but just being passionate about technology and the industry as a whole.