…Hello Google

Starting December 1st, I’m going to be a Developer Advocate for Google Cloud Platform. It’s a similar role to what I’ve done before: go out to events or reach out online, and talk to people about technology that can help them. But Advocates are less about marketing than Evangelists, and more about product improvement. The idea is that while we’re out talking to people, we listen to their feedback and bring it back to the product teams. Evangelists do that too, but my gut feeling is that organizations with “Advocates” take that feedback much more seriously.

I’ll be talking about an awesome product. Or more accurately, suite of products. From Platform as Service and Virtual Machines to Storage, Databases, and Big Data queries, there is a lot to talk about, and lots of rabbit holes to wander down. I intend to wander down a few of them and bring you all along.

I’ll be talking to developers again, which is awesome. The past few years found me drifting further and further away from the developer communities that inspired me to get into this line of work 6 years ago. My work angst for the past 12 months and the work and projects I did to prepare for and secure this job made it very clear that this is what I really want to be doing.

I’m joining a team of intimidatingly smart people. And I do mean “intimidatingly” cause the interview process is as challenging as all the rumors make it out to be. But everyone I met along the process were incredible to interview with, and I can’t wait to start working with them.

I find myself reporting once again to Greg Wilson, and I honestly couldn’t be any happier about that. Good managers are both rare and more important than people think they are. When you find one, count yourself lucky, and if you can work for a manager you’ve confirmed is good, well, you do it.

Google culture encourages workers to informally collaborate. They find that keeping people in the same space yields better collaboration. And despite all of the advantages to working remotely I missed the serendipitous hallway meetings. So after 6 years remote, I find myself returning to daily commutes. I always said I couldn’t go back – but then again, when there is free Coke Zero, showers, nap pods, and brilliant co-workers – maybe it might be even better than working from home. I’ll miss seeing my kids the way I used to, but frankly, now that they’re in school, I don’t see them as much as I’d like to anyway.

You might be asking: Hey, does Google have an office in Philadelphia? Actually they appear to, but it’s not an office with any Cloud engineers. So my family and I are leaving Philadelphia for somewhere in the Bay Area, probably San Jose. This was not an easy choice, but I am very excited about the prospect. We’ll be around for the rest of 2014, with us moving in the beginning of 2015.

So let me finish by pointing out that none of this would be possible with out the encouragement and support of my wife, Janice. She was my practice interviewer, cheerleader, and sounding board. When the very people interviewing you point out that “Imposter Syndrome” is a huge part of the interview process, it’s hard to not to get lost in your head second guessing yourself. Janice was consistently convinced that I could get the position, and even helped me convince myself sometimes. And when I did get it, she agreed to move across the country to a place where we have no roots, with 2 children in tow. Not only did she agree to it, she embraced it for the opportunity it is. That doesn’t mean it isn’t terrifying for the both of us, but at least for me it is less so, ’cause she’s going to be by my side.

So there you have it, lots of change, I think they’re awesome changes, and I can’t wait.

How did you become an Adobe Evangelist?

Yesterday via twitter, I was asked a very ironic question:

So tell me @tpryan how does one become an @Adobe evangelist?! I must know.

I figured I would give answering it a go. Keep in mind that I did this 5 years ago when Adobe was trying to do very different things. I don’t know that this would land you at Adobe anymore. I distinctly think it wouldn’t. See the job I originally landed was “Developer Evangelist.” I slowly morphed into being a broader design focused evangelist over the past 5 years as Adobe’s focus on developers waned and more and more people were focused on Creative Cloud. So this wouldn’t work at Adobe today but it could land you at a developer focused evangelism/advocate role at another company.

Discover the role
My first introduction to the idea of an evangelist was Ben Forta in his role as ColdFusion Evangelist. I remember at the time being wowed that there existed a job where you had to fool around with new technology, blog about it, and talk about it at conferences. That seemed like a dream job, and I figured it wasn’t a career that you could plan for. It wasn’t until later I discovered that Ben wasn’t in a one off situation. There were developer evangelists all over the place.

Network for the role
A good friend of mine whom I met working at The Wharton School, Ryan Stewart, also was very much into the idea of being an evangelist. He ended up in the role before me and confirmed for me that was in fact an awesome job and that I could would be a good fit. I also met the a couple people connected with the product I really wanted to evangelize, ColdFusion. I connected with Ben Forta, Adam Lehman, and a few of the product managers. I also participated in the pre releases for the product, and got myself involved with Adobe’s user group community. All of these things gave me good connections and good name recognition with the people who would hire for the evangelist position. That wasn’t necessarily the reason I was doing any of it at the time. I was doing it cause I loved playing with the latest and greatest tech, and the community was very rewarding, but in retrospect these things helped me a lot.

Prepare for the role
At some point I decided I wanted the role, and I constructed the outline of a 5 year plan for getting the job. I looked at the externals of what an evangelist did. They experimented with the technology, showed how you could integrate it into other technology, and then they blogged about it and spoke at conferences. So I played with tech, got it to do new things, and then blogged and spoke about them. The idea was to prove I could do the job, before I was actually doing the job. This combined with my networking led to bigger and better speaking gigs, which allowed me to network more, which became a positive feedback loop.

Get Lucky
At this point I was a member of a pool of likely candidates for the role. I had applied once before. I knew everybody involved and had shown I could do the job. Then my friend Adam Lehman got hit by a car in London and was travel limited for a few months creating an opening for a replacement. And just like that my 5 year plan happened in 2. Luckily Adam recovered, and went on to do great things in product management. But it’s a terrible way to luck into a job.

For me it came down to being the right person and the right place at the right time. Some of that is preparation, and some of that is luck. You can control being the right person, in my case prepping for the role. You can have some control getting yourself in the right place, getting myself on the short list was partially in my control, by networking, but someone else made the call to keep me on that short list. And I had no control over Adam being hit by the car despite what some people may claim.

Some of these things would have to be updated for the current moment. Do you have to blog? Or is tweeting a combination of gist’s and github projects enough? Maybe, maybe not, but the main point here is that you have to explore tech and then share your findings. Are corporate sponsored users groups still as impactful? Or do you need to focus on meetups and regional conferences? Again the details aren’t as important as the fact that you are finding where peers and trend setters are, and engaging with them there.

So there you have it. Pretty much the way you get any other role. Figure out you want it, prepare your skill set for it, network with the people who do the hiring, and then assassinate anyone in your way be ready to take the opportunity if it comes up.

Goodbye Adobe…

After 5 years, Wednesday October 15th is my last day with Adobe. It’s fitting that my last duty for Adobe is a round of sessions at Max 2014. For me Max is the pinnacle of outreach at Adobe. As an audience member you get access to engineers, product mangers, and other experts from the community. My first had a profound impact on me. The very first entry on my blog is about Max 2004 – 10 years ago. The industry and what the event was all about was very different – back then, I was in the audience learning about ColdFusion, Flex and Flashpaper from Macromedia. This year I was on stage speaking about designer workflows using hosted cloud services for Adobe. It’s a very different world.

Five years after my first Max I got my dream job and joined Adobe. In the past 5 years, I’ve traveled over 560,000 miles to 119 or so cities. I’ve made friends all over the globe. And I’ve had a front view seats to some of the craziest technology fights we’ve ever seen. I’ve represented multiple technologies: ColdFusion, Flex, Flash, HTML5 and Creative Cloud. I’ve played with great toys. I’ve met most of my technical heroes along the way. It’s been a fun ride.

And now I’m leaving.

To all my friends I’ve met along the way, it was fantastic to have the privilege of talking technology with you all, and I hope to see you in the future. Keep in touch.

To my co-workers, it’s been a pleasure working with you.

To Adobe itself, you’ve been a great place to work, learn, and grow. So long and thanks for all the fish.

I have a next step planned. But in keeping with my traditions, I wanted to keep this a maudlin post about what’s behind me, rather than talk about what’s next. I’ll be blogging about that soon enough.

ColdFusion Thoughts from a Longtime PHP developer

Serge Jespers is a colleague of mine on the Platform Evangelism team. He’s a longtime PHP developer and has recently dipped his toes into the ColdFusion waters. He recently developed the MAX widget that’s been going around. In fact, he used ColdFusion to power it. Here are his thoughts on the matter:

…I’m fairly new to ColdFusion. I actually first touched CF about a year a go on the On AIR Train Tour through Europe. That was the first time I played around with CF after oh… some 10 years of working with PHP. I looked at CF a few years ago and never really took another serious look at it. I’m sure there are many of you out there in the same situation and I would like to invite you to take another look at ColdFusion. CF has changed and matured a lot since the early days and is just a breeze to work with. With a minimum amount of code, I was able to rapidly code my database calls for the widget. Another cool thing about ColdFusion is that once you write your database code, you can use it in a number of different ways. You can directly call the methods using Flash Remoting in your Flex application, call it as a webservice from a mobile Flash application and/or call it from an HTML page without changing anything in the original code. I surely was pretty impressed when I saw that the first time. If you’re a long time PHP user and want to know more about ColdFusion, I’d like to invite you to my session at MAX. I’m going to talk about the difference and similarities between PHP and CF and also talk about what CF can do right out of the box….

If you want to find out more about his experience with the widget, check out the rest of the article.

MAX 2009 Unconference – ColdFusion for the Masses: PHP, Java, Ruby, and ASP Developers

Wow, that’s a long title.

I’m doing a session at the ColdFusion Unconference at Max 2009 on promoting ColdFusion to non-ColdFusion developers. It’s about going into other communities and focusing on the correct arguments for ColdFusion. I want to both share what I’ve learned in terms of winning arguments, and hear what you guys think resonate. So I’ll be presenting a bit, but I’ll also be listening to your experience (if you care to share.)

So sign up for MAX 2009, and check out the Unconference.

This session will be Tuesday October 6th from 1:30 – 2:30.

Also check out my main conference sessions:

Leveraging Exposed Services in ColdFusion Centaur
October 5 at 11:30AM
This session is about the new exposed services or CFaaS we have included in ColdFusion 9. I’ll be talking about how to leverage them in Flex and other languages, and even how to enhance previous versions of ColdFusion with them.

ColdFusion with Microsoft Office, SharePoint, and Exchange
October 5 at 05:00PM
I’ll be talking about how nice ColdFusion plays with Microsoft technologies. While Exchange integration has been around since ColdFusion 8, with 9 we’ve added the ability to interact with SharePoint and Office documents.


Life on the Inside

I’m in a weird place. Last week I was an Adobe community member, now I am an employee. Last week I thought I knew hidden unspoken motivations behind Adobe’s actions, now I know I didn’t even come close to guessing them. Last week Ben Forta was that guy on the stage giving keynotes, now he’s my boss’ boss.

Mind you, I’m not complaining, it’s as awesome a gig as I’ve imagined, but it’s still a shock to the system. But I figured, while I’m still fluent in being a community member, I’d share some observations before they slipped away.

Things I Expected:

  • Every one else here is really fracking smart.
  • There are good reasons for certain stances and positions from Adobe that don’t make sense externally
  • Most of the not sharing those reasons is driven by legal considerations

Things that surprised me:

  • How much my co-workers listen to the community without necessarily piping in. They hear your complaints, even if they don’t tell you. They take them to the engineers even if the problem can’t be fixed for the next release.
  • Just how affected any one product is effected by the others. For example, certain management processes for CF or Flex have to work for Photoshop or Premiere as well. Some issues that come up again and again are due to this. It’s why the answer to “Why don’t you just switch to…” isn’t always as simple as “just switching to…”
  • Internally, there is a lot of affection for our customers. I think this was hit home to me, when one of my co-workers who has a tendency to rile up his particular community said pretty forcefully that “we created [the technology], and we’re not going to let our developers down.” Just writing that, it doesn’t seem too mind blowing, but it was yelled, at 1:00 in the morning, in 20 degree weather, so the passion was in the moment.

All in all, I’m in awe that I get to work here. I can’t wait to see what I learn next week.