Wilbour Craddock of Microsoft Ireland on the Making of an Architect Evangelist

On a recent visit to Microsoft Ireland at their headquarters in Sandyford, Dublin we made a series of interviews with Josh Holmes, Enda Flynn and Wilbour Craddock. While speaking to Wilbour for a few moments between demonstrations I asked him how he managed to get such an interesting job at Microsoft as an Architect Evangelist.

What does an Architect Evangelist do?

My job as an architect evangelist is to go out and talk to people about the possibilities technology provides to solve problems, whether those problems are business problems or consumer problems or not necessarily problems but looking to become more efficient.

Resolve how people interact, that’s what my job is, its just to have those conversations and really make people think about the possibility that technology provides. And then based on that, it’s not a product it’s a concept, and then from that we build off a solution, and the solution is what we’re trying to achieve.

How did you get your job?

I sought out this job. Five years ago, I made a choice to become an evangelist, and I’ve worked for the past five years to find a path that would get me to that role. This is what I wanted to do. The job is made up of consumption, you consume as much technology as you can, ours and competitive technologies, to see where people are using technology, what new pieces are coming into the market, and then how those two can be melded together to build solutions.

Then it’s disseminate; go out and talk to as many people as possible about that potential, and try to excite people into creating these new solutions that are utilising all these great technologies to keep things advancing.

What excites you about the work you do?

What doesn’t excite me?! To be honest, I live in a pretty digital world. Everything that’s evolving that we see in today’s world is stuff that we are excited by, whether it’s social media, whether it’s the prevalence of online services, hardware technology, the next evolution, the next wave, the convergence of technology where you start to see the cellular space, and the smartphone space, and the tablet space, and the laptop and the desktop being converged into single devices; that excites me.

It’s the potential that it provides, that’s what really excites me. How can these things radically change the way that my kids interact? Why do my kids’ book bags have to weigh 50 pounds when they drag them to school every day? Technology avails of us a way of solving that problem. Those are the things that excite me.

What skills do you need to be an Architect Evangelist?

You figure out what it is that is important about this job. The big parts of this job are, being able to stand up on a stage and expel a story, so a commanding presence, so you have to be good at that component. Parts of it are going to be digesting that information, and also having vision; you have to be able to take in all of these components and see the wider picture and say, “well here’s the potential and here’s the opportunity”, so you’re doing a lot of market research type stuff, you’re consuming as much information as you can on a daily basis.

People are amazed by my inbox on a daily basis is probably between 1600 and 2400 pieces of information whether it’s rss feeds whether it’s internal emails, or whether it’s internal product discussions about specific technologies or next generation technologies. So, that’s a lot of information that you’re digesting on a daily basis. That’s what’s going to get you to be able to go out and have those conversations because you are able to speak with a fairly authoritative answer on how the industry is evolving, and how technology is evolving and how people are consuming that.

Can you describe the path you took to get where you are now?

So, the more conversations you have with people, the better, and then as I look at the path that I went through to get here, it started by doing a lot of community involvement, getting out and speaking in my community, getting out and working with user groups, talking to as many people who are using technology as possible, which then led to what Microsoft call an MVP or Most Valued Professional, which is a programme to foster people globally, there’s about 5,000 of them, who are product experts in any given area, and build out a community of people that are having these conversations with people, and from that then, it’s a path.

You get yourself recognised by Microsoft, you work with Microsoft and then you start to look at how you can get in.

From a research perspective, Guy Kawasaki was the first evangelist in the industry. Today he is a social media vanguard in terms of how he uses Twitter and Facebook and all the other social media services to share information, and he’s sought after, he’s got ten books in the market, he speaks on a regular basis.

You follow the guys that are vanguards in the role and see the successes and the failures and do what you can to succeed. It’s like any other job, I mean if you want to be something, you research it and search it out and you set a plan in action to do it.

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