I was reading a thread on Twitter yesterday and at it’s heart was a criticism of technology evangelist programs.
I’ve been part of one of these, the Oracle ACE program, for over twelve years, so I always pay attention to these discussions. It’s a topic I’ve covered a number of times over the years. See:
- Should you aim to become an Oracle ACE?
- Oracle ACE = Oracle’s Bitch?
- Oracle ACE Program: Follow Up
- Oracle ACE Program : Some more opinions (Includes a link to this video.)
Any evangelism program is part of the marketing budget, and ultimately there has to be a return on investment* for the company funding it. If that is a surprise to you, you must be really naive. What does that mean for people wanting to be part of such a program? You will only get selected for the program, and remain on it, if your content and opinions mostly fall in line with the message being pushed by the company sponsoring the program. Go to work for a competitor, or start saying too many negative things about the sponsoring company and you will probably be asked to leave.
In the previous paragraph I emphasised the words “mostly” and “too many” for an important reason. Your value to an evangelist program is that you are not a member of staff, yet you still enjoy using their products. You will not like every product they make, or agree with every decision they make, and that is fine. If people think you are selling out to stay in favour with the sponsoring company, your value to the evangelism program will disappear. Over the years I’ve been “off message” numerous times and never had any comeback from the ACE Program. Why? Because generally what I’ve been doing over the last 18+ years on my website, and through other Oracle community stuff, has been positive. If that changes and I suddenly become an Oracle hater, then I don’t see me being part of an Oracle technology evangelism program for very long. 🙂
If your interests are too broad, you may not be a suitable candidate for any particular technology evangelism program, or you may feel constrained by them. That’s fine. It doesn’t mean you are bad, or the evangelism programs are bad. There just isn’t a good connection between the two of you.
Over the years I’ve been doing this I’ve often seen people on the outside projecting what they want to believe onto these programs. They aren’t a certification of greatness. They are just a pat on the back for being involved in the community. Sometimes you get some expenses paid. Sometimes you don’t. I’m writing this after doing my laundry in a hotel sink, because it would cost me $150 to do it using the hotel laundry service. Last night’s hotel bill came out of my pocket. Nobody is refunding me for the extra holidays I’ve purchased from work. You get the picture. Do it because you love it, or don’t bother… 🙂
* In a comment thread on LinkedIn it seems my mention of “return on investment” may be seen by some as a straight financial ROI, like a direct relationship to more sales etc. This is not what I mean. I’m talking about winning hearts and minds, which will probably lead to more sales in the long run, but it’s probably not directly measurable. You can’t say, for each talk I do I produce X number of sales for the company. 🙂