In Pursuit of a New Path with Andy Syrewicze (2/3)

Welcome to episode 159 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we share part 2 of our interview with Andy Syrewicze, discussing Andy’s shift into Technical Evangelism as a career and how the Microsoft MVP helped him get there.

Original Recording Date: 12-29-2021

Andy Syrewicze is a Technical Evangelist for Altaro Software (now part of Hornet Security). Check out part 1 of our interview with Andy in Episode 158. Get the full details on what Andy is up to and ways to contact him here.

Topics – Seeking Something Different, Proof of Work, Marketing Is Interesting, The Microsoft MVP

2:35 – Seeking Something Different

  • After the webinar with Simon Perryman and becoming aware of the Technical Evangelism path, Andy made the decision he wanted to pursue something like it.
    • The MSP didn’t want to lose him, said he was good with people, and Andy gave it a try ("ok, yeah, I’ll try that").
    • Andy didn’t really like the management role but also really didn’t dislike it. It was merely not quite what he wanted to do.
  • Andy had started his own blog and wrote from time to time, making YouTube videos here are there also.
    • Andy got hooked up with the folks at Altaro who suggested he write some blogs for them, which he had been doing for a couple of years when he became the team lead at the MSP.
    • On a whim, Andy sent his contact at Altaro an e-mail suggesting they create a position within Altaro that covered what he was doing for them and a bit more as well as the business value of creating such a position.
      • The contact person said the idea was interesting, and a couple of weeks later, Altaro wanted Andy to come visit and discuss the idea. They made him and offer to be a Technical Evangelist for Altaro, and he accepted.
  • There was no question in Andy’s mind about wanting to pursue the Technical Evangelism path over managing a team at the MSP.
    • The MSP did what they could within the confines of their business model to support what Andy wanted to pursue. In the end it didn’t work out.
    • With Andy’s desire for Technical Evangelism, the MSP may have seen it as something they would end up losing (i.e. a billable resource), but the folks at Altaro heard only about the benefits of what they would gain.

7:55 – Proof of Work

  • Altaro paid Andy for the articles he wrote for them and for doing webinars on the side (before he became their Technical Evangelist). They knew he could both write and speak.
  • The extra money was certainly nice, but it was also extremely exciting for Andy to be doing some of the things he really wanted to do.
  • Andy was able to get some at bats and experience at what he wanted to do while still employed at the MSP and later used that as proof of work for what would be next for his career (easily transitioning to Tech Evangelist at Altaro).
    • This is similar to what Scott Lowe shared with us in Episode 153 on the "adjacent possible."
    • Thinking back to the moment where he to took the time to send the e-mail to Altaro, it was an instance of putting himself out there, taking a chance, and having it work out.
    • Andy painted a picture to his future employer of what could be based on what they already knew he was capable of doing (i.e. he made the sale of the company needing a new role and that he was the right person for it). Not everyone thinks to do this.
      • Andy feels like he might have been doing this within the different departments at the MSP but not to an external company like Altaro (until it happened).

12:23 – Marketing Is Interesting

  • Andy’s role at Altaro made him part of the marketing team as a technical resource.
  • The only customers Andy would interact with would be prospects (i.e. Pre-Sales).
    • He was experienced in Pre-Sales from his time at the MSP and mentioned this when suggesting Altaro hire him. Andy acted as a technical Pre-Sales resource for the US for the product set. It was about 80% Technical Marketing and 20% Pre-Sales.
    • Andy might also interact with customers and partners at conferences here and there, but he was never in a tech support type role at Altaro.
  • Usually IT skills progression is technically driven. At the time Andy joined Altaro, he had a lot of technical experience under his belt (including being designated as a Microsoft MVP).
    • In the first few years in the role and even now that he’s back at Altaro, Andy is learning more about marketing than he ever intended.
      • This includes elements of social media, community building, and search engine optimization (SEO).
      • Andy never set out to be a marketer, but that is part of the technical evangelist role.
    • There are parts of every role that people don’t like, but there are parts of marketing that Andy finds super interesting.
      • Prospect personas – who is the target audience for a product, an article, etc.
      • These skills were exceptionally valuable when it came to public speaking.
      • Instead of worrying about what he would discuss in a presentation, Andy began focusing more on the audience (something he was not as mindful of before).
      • This took Andy’s public speaking to the next level because he was taking his knowledge and molding it into something the audience (i.e. people with a business focus, people with a technical focus) could easily digest and understand.
      • Something very interesting and way more complicated than Andy ever imagined is search engine optimization (SEO), kind of like Calculus and rocket science combined.

18:36 – The Microsoft MVP

  • Around 2013, Andy attended Microsoft TechEd (now named Ignite) in New Orleans.

    • At this event, he got roped into the community (a networking group called The Krewe in addition to absorbing the technical content.
    • Through the contacts made in this group Andy became aware of the Microsoft MVP designation. People started asking him if he was one based on the things he was doing.
    • Andy also got the chance to get to know Keith Mayer, a Microsoft Technical Evangelist in the midwest.
      • Keith was a big mentor to Andy at that point in his career, bringing him into a webinar series called Hyper-V from a VMware Admin’s Perspective.
      • Andy looked at past view counts of other videos in the series and saw it was in the 150,000 – 200,000 range. It was a weird, almost out of body experience and the first time Andy had done anything at that scale. It was also a time where he felt a large amount of anxiety when doing a speaking engagement.
      • This experience eventually led Keith to nominate Andy for the Microsoft MVP. Andy had to fill out an application with his contributions and describe their impact / reach for a group of reviewers.
  • The MVP has different areas in which it is awarded (awarded once per year). Andy came on originally in the Hyper-V category after coming from a former VMware administration background.

    • They have since changed the categories for MVP. At present Andy is considered cloud and datacenter management (includes Windows Server, Hyper-V, PowerShell, Azure, AzureStack).
    • Some categories like the .NET MVP require code contributions to be considered.
  • Being an MVP gets you the designation for a one year period. Each year Andy has to resubmit contributions made during the time since the previous application period, and then it’s a waiting game to see if he got into the program for another year.

    • The level of effort was about the same to stay in the program after he joined Altaro compared to when he still worked for the MSP and was awarded MVP.
  • Take advantage of other programs like the Microsoft MVP that you can involve yourself in:

  • Much like certification, the benefit is the journey (getting involved in the community, contributing content, helping others).

  • Andy cannot say enough positive things about the Microsoft MVP community.

    • If he doesn’t know the answer to a specific IT question, he knows someone who does.
    • It’s humbling to be a part of the program. There are also times when the impostor syndrome creeps in.
  • Andy feels like the MVP award was additional verification for the folks at Altaro that Andy could do the work needed to be a Technical Evangelist.

  • Should we do a show on SEO (search engine optimization) to help bloggers, podcasters, and other content creators in the community? Please let us know what you think!

Contact us if you need help on the journey.

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