When folks hear that I work for Microsoft, the first question I'm often asked is, "What do you do for them?" When I tell them that I am a Developer Evangelist, it leads to even more questions. "Evangelist?! What type of title is that?" Depending on who is asking (friends & family or folks I meet in the industry), it usually leads to an interesting conversation.
I usually offer a quick and short answer that I help teach people about Microsoft's developer-related tools and technologies by speaking at conferences and supporting "the community". For most of my non-tech friends, that answer usually suffices. But that's really just the tip of the iceberg for what I really do. I put "the community" in quotes, because that's what usually spurs follow-up questions like: "What do you mean by 'the community'?"
I then feel on the hook to explain the world I fit into. I start tossing around terms like MVPs, RDs, ISVs, partners, user groups and other assorted acronyms. If I'm speaking to someone closely familiar with Microsoft, I may get a few nods, but still a lot of confused looks. If I'm speaking to someone not familiar with Microsoft, it all sounds like a foreign language. (Some times even I get confused by what it is that I do!) What I end up explaining to folks is an entire ecosystem around Microsoft.
Jean Barmash, a.k.a. NY Web Guy, recently wrote a series of blog posts describing the Microsoft Community Ecosystem. First, Jean covers Partners, System Integrators, and ISVs. He then goes on to describe the various community programs and resources available.
Great write up Jean! I'll keep this around as a handy reference myself.
One of the things Jean notes is that the Microsoft Evangelists also reach out to folks who are involved in other technology communities. That is most certainly true, and one of the most fun parts of my job. As I've met many folks in the open source community via events like Bar Camp and the MTS, I've found some to be surprised about the vast community of support available to people who develop using Microsoft technologies. I invite all to read Jean's posts to learn more about it.