I’m excited to announce that last week I accepted a position as a developer evangelist with Twilio.
For the last 6.5 years, I’ve worked at Table XI, a web consultancy here in Chicago. Leaving Table XI is tough. The office has become a second home, and the people a second family. They took a chance on me back when I was struggling with untreated bipolar disorder and they showered me with grace and support to help me get back on my feet.
They also encouraged me to develop a diverse set of skills over the years. When they realized that I enjoy talking to people more than most developers do, they gave me a credit card and told me to go build relationships in the tech community. When I got burned out on business development, took a sabbatical, and started programming again on the side, they invited me to come back as a Ruby developer. When I started speaking at conferences about mental illness in the tech community, they paid for my travel expenses and said “Go!”
The last year of speaking, writing, and relationship building has been the most gratifying time of my career. All of my disparate professional and life experiences seem to have prepared me for this time – from programming BASIC on a TRS-80, to picking up trash at Disney World, to watching my dad perform his pastoral duties. Evangelism feels like a calling.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t make much sense for a 35 person consulting firm to employ a full-time evangelist. At Table XI, evangelism will always be the thing I get to do, not the thing I’m paid to do. And so, last week I enthusiastically accepted their offer to join Twilio’s evangelism team.
“What exactly does a Twilio developer evangelist do?”, you might ask.
First, let’s talk about what Twilio does. Twilio makes it easy for developers to add text messaging and phone calls to web and mobile apps. Patrick McKenzie uses Twilio to power Appointment Reminder which, you guessed it, sends appointment reminders for, doctors offices, massage therapists, etc. Hulu and Zappos use Twilio to power their call centers. Uber uses Twilio to tell you that your taxi is on its way. AirBnB lets hosts and guests text each other without giving out their real cellphone numbers.
An evangelist, by definition, “spreads good news.” We’re not sales people. You can’t twist a developer’s arm and say “Your app needs to send texts!” (Well, I suppose you could, but it doesn’t seem like it’d be very effective. Though, I haven’t started yet, so I could be wrong about this). Instead, you serve the community and hope that when a developer needs to send an SMS, they think of Twilio first, give it a try, and find it so easy that they don’t even bother with the competition.
But I don’t think I could have taken the job if it was all about Twilio products. Twilio believes that a healthy and growing developer community will produce more apps that use their API. Twilio evangelism isn’t so much “Go talk about Twilio,” as it is “Inspire and equip developers… and wear this track jacket while you’re at it.” So, for example, I’ll still spend a lot of time speaking about developers and depression.
There are about a dozen Twilio devangels spread out across the country and in the UK. Until last week, Twilio didn’t have an evangelist in Chicago. Now they do.
I adore this city. I’m proud of its growing technical community that’s coming into its own, and I’m honored that Twilio has chosen me to be its representative here.