What Makes Me a Developer Evangelist?


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What makes a Developer Evangelist, to some, may be a slightly redundant question.  I’m sure a few of my fellow Evangelists would agree, but is it really? The Developer Evangelist role came about a few years back, pioneered by a select group of popular API-Providing companies. Originally, this role came to fruition in North America, but gradually, spread its excellency into Europe, and even today is still growing exponentially.

Put me in a room on my own, and I'll hack something.  Put me in a room with fellow developers, and we'll hack something excellent together.

Robin Johnson: Put me in a room on my own, and I’ll hack something.  Put me in a room with fellow developers, and we’ll hack something excellent together.

I’m not here to talk about the history of devangelism. I’m not writing about “What makes a Developer Evangelist,” I’m writing about “What makes me a Developer Evangelist.” I’m Robin Johnson, SendGrid’s newest evangelist and the second to be based in Europe.

So, what makes me a Developer Evangelist?  Well, the answer I give to most fellow Software Engineers is “I get too bored sitting behind a desk all day.”  This is true. I did six years cutting code. Whilst I will always love hacking, to hack on one project, all day, everyday, turns into a monotonous bore to me. Maybe I just wasn’t made to sit behind a desk?  Or maybe I just haven’t worked on the right project yet?  Whichever of the two are true, I believe it’s more to do with the fact I have always been a social person.

I’m Social

One characteristic we developer evangelists have in common is certainly that we are all social people. We have to be. But humans are naturally social creatures, so what makes us more social than the average developer? For me, a little self revelation reveals my quest for social status comes from my selfish love of being heard, my schoolyard status as class clown, a love of being on stage, an insatiable hunger to learn from my peers, and to share knowledge. I take a huge amount of pride in getting into the developer community, learning, teaching, sharing and co-working. Put me in a room on my own, and I’ll hack something. Put me in a room with fellow developers, and we’ll hack something excellent together.

I’m Ambitious

Another characteristic that most Evangelists seem to share is ambition. Almost all Evangelists I’ve ever met share a want or even a need to be awesome. Many share a similar history to mine; in that they left school prematurely to try their hands in the world of business. I left school at 16, to pursue a career in web development. I set up a naïve web development company, making terrible websites for equally terrible clients. I worked on this through to age 19 at which point my ambition got the better of me, and I moved to London; as I wanted more. (The north of England is hugely dear to me, but was then, and still is now a couple of years behind in terms of Tech.) My history is fairly typical in the Devangelism world.  Some of the most remarkable and ambitious people I’ve ever met are or were Developer Evangelists. Ambition can often be read as impatience. But not to us.

I Like to Travel

The past year has opened up a new world to me. I started as a developer evangelist for Couchbase in December 2012. One year later, you join me at the beginning of my second week as a developer evangelist here at SendGrid. Over the last year I’ve visited 16 countries, spent time in over 30 cities and racked up enough Avios points to almost buy a chocolate bar. I’ve been to some of the biggest conferences, coolest hackathons and interesting meet ups around the globe. I’m hoping you’re beginning to get a picture as to why I love this role. Imagine the amount of interesting people I get to meet, compared to the Robin who sits behind a desk all day.

So… What makes me a Developer Evangelist?

An insatiable hunger for knowledge, an unstoppable love of teaching and sharing that knowledge, a never ending quest to make developers’ lives that little bit easier, a love of traveling, a life-long marathon of being social, a passion for cutting code, a selfish love of being the centre of attention and an adoration for being a public-facing representative of a company I feel passionate about.

If you’re at a hackathon this weekend and encounter a devangelist, have a chat with them.  They’re some of the most friendly and interesting people you’ll ever meet.


SendGrid Devangelist. London based polyglot hacker, mainly playing with Golang and Ruby. Musical Hacker, Hardware hacker, Hackathon lover, API abuser and NoSQL user.

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