Interviewing a developer evangelist is tricky because there’s a variety of hard and soft skills required. An evangelist has to be a strong developer, but also has to wear many other hats, work horizontally across departments, and be an engaging and helpful participant at events.
If you’re wondering what the day-to-day duties of an evangelist might look like, check out the blog post I wrote after my first year as an evangelist.
I don’t give candidates an engineering test. I don’t care if they know which sorting algorithm is the fastest and I’m not going to ask someone to implement malloc or put any code on a whiteboard. What I will do is ask questions that provide an opportunity to demonstrate one’s abilities and the extent of one’s knowledge. It’s up to the candidate to take that opportunity and make the most of it. That might seem strange to some, but in the end a good evangelist is adept at demonstrating what they know and sharing knowledge with others.
If I feel like I have to work hard to find out if a candidate has the necessary engineering skills, that’s an indication that he or she won’t be successful sharing knowledge with developers in the field. And if someone does a good job showing ability but there is a question as to whether or not that ability is enough, an interview with someone from Engineering can help sort that out, and they’ve had way more practice evaluating those skills than I have.
I’m also more concerned about breadth of knowledge and versatility than depth of knowledge. I remember interviewing a candidate who had a ton of C experience writing embedded systems, but not much web development experience. This candidate was super smart and a very skilled engineer, but he would not have been able to work effectively with our customers that use node.js, ruby, python, php, c#, java and every other language you can imagine.
Finally, I want candidates to demonstrate product experience. Haven’t used SendGrid? Sign up for an account, read through the docs, and write some code that sends an email. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but how can one demonstrate an ability to clearly and concisely explain the value proposition of a product that they haven’t used?
A Passion for Improvement
Once a candidate brings product knowledge and experience to the table, I know they’ve put in some effort and done their homework. Then I want to know what we could’ve done better. Be critical of the experience and offer some ideas on how to make the process better. The better the developer experience, the easier a developer evangelist’s job; a passion for improving that experience is a vital part of what our team does.
To summarize, when I’m interviewing a candidate for an evangelist role, I’m looking for soft skills like communication and public speaking, a wide breadth of engineering experience, and an intersection of the two. Of course, other people on the team evaluate candidates according to their own criteria, and having a wide range of opinions from the team is very important to making good hires.
If you are interested in working on our Dev Relations team or working for SendGrid in general, hop over to our careers page!