*Note: This was my first Toastmasters (icebreaker) speech, because I was asked to give my job title prior to delivering the speech and decided to give a 5-minute answer to the inevitable question. This also provides some insight into my role as a Developer Evangelist for the Spotlight on MACH series.
The first question most people ask me when I tell them what I do at Microsoft is, “What is a Developer Evangelist?” Often I get, “Is it a religious position?” (The answer is no.) To be honest, I had no clue such a position even existed before I started looking for my first job out of school. I didn’t grow up telling myself I wanted to become a Developer Evangelist; but when I think back to what I wanted to be when I grew up, I realized that perhaps I did want to be a technical evangelist all along.
In the first grade, I took my first step as an engineer and built a robot to do my homework and clean my room. Unfortunately, my robot failed, and to this day I still have to complete these tasks on my own. My father, a Mechanical Engineering professor, then showed me a bunch of projects that his students had put together and explained that I needed to understand and learn how to make things work. I was fascinated with his explanations behind each contraption, and it was then that I knew I wanted to be an engineer.
Alice Pang, age 6
However, there were so many other things I wanted to be when I grew up, and it didn’t occur to me that I had to compromise and pick one until the end of high school. I wanted to be a dancer; I loved performing on stage and having my moment in the spotlight after all the preparation and rehearsals. I wanted to be a reporter; I spent over a year in middle school visiting local TV and radio stations and found reading the latest news exciting. I wanted be a teacher; I spent countless hours in high school and college visiting younger students and teaching them math, science, and engineering; because I found it extremely rewarding to teach someone something new. During my collegiate years, I enjoyed developing networking, mentoring, and outreach opportunities in various Society of Women Engineers leadership roles.
But there was no way I could grow up to be a performer-reporter-teacher-networker-engineer! Or could I?
First of all, the job title is a bit too lengthy and wouldn’t fit on a business card. Secondly, that seemed like too many different career paths to take on simultaneously. If I shortened the title to “Developer Evangelist,” I could at least solve the first issue.
But really, I am all of these things. I’m a performer, because I often stand in front of large audiences (sometimes on a stage) and deliver presentations. I’m a reporter, because I bring the news of the most exciting technology to people via various forms of media (videos, live stream, Twitter, articles, etc.). I’m a teacher, because I show people how to develop on our platforms at 1st party, 3rd party, and community events. I’m a networker, because I travel around and connect with influential people in order to spread excitement for our technology. And, of course, I’m an engineer, because I write code for my demos and build things (that thankfully work better than my robot did!).
I can’t say that I went out looking for a role that fit exactly everything I wanted to be; I guess I just got lucky after completing a number of software internships that gave me good experience in preparing for this role. (For example, as an intern at Microsoft, I learned about all the cool technology built by various product teams. And while interning at Nokia Research Center in Beijing, I began the summer fixing bugs in phone apps but got the opportunity to present the apps to executives from around the world during the 2008 Olympics, because I could speak fluent English and Mandarin Chinese.) After finding the Developer Evangelist role, I’m optimistic that there really is the perfect job out there for everyone; you may just find it under a different name.
dance showcase in 2009. photograph courtesy of Wilson So
introducing 4th graders to engineering with our senior project team’s Nintendo Wiimote game