Why Microsoft + Being a Student = Awesome

I’ve been following Microsoft on Facebook and Twitter for quite awhile, and it’s amazing to see what they have out there for students.  All I can wonder is … why weren’t these programs around when I was in school?!?  So check this stuff out…

DreamSpark

As some of you know, these programs have sparked my interest – WebsiteSpark, BizSpark, and yes, even DreamSpark.  I had originally heard about DreamSpark first and then about the others later.  I found it quite interesting to see just what DreamSpark entails.  So Microsoft is providing professional tools to classrooms and students alike, free of charge.  And we’re not talking just 4-year colleges either – community colleges, vocational schools, and even high schools can get involved!  If you have a verified (confirmed usually by a school/organization/something that can verify the student status) Windows Live ID, then you can get access to a variety of Microsoft’s products at no cost.  For more details, check out the DreamSpark FAQ.

Imagine Cup

Not only can you get their products, but you can also use their products to solve problems and compete against other students in the Imagine Cup.  The 2010 event already happened. There were 3 winners in each of a variety of areas – including Software Design, Embedded Development, Game Design, IT Challenge, and Digital Media. 

There’s talk already of the 2011 Imagine Cup, as its finals will be held here in the US, in New York City.  The 2011 theme will be along the lines of the United Nations’ Millenium Development Goals.  For more details. check out the 2011 theme page.  Ready to compete?  Then get planning to take over the world, as the Imagine Cup may be one small piece of code for you but may solve one giant problem! 

Microsoft Tech Student

Recently, they launched Microsoft Tech Student on Facebook.  It’s a great way to reach students via social networking through a site that many students are familiar with.  It is also a great way to present what offerings are available for students.  Thanks to that page, I now know about XNA in Academia – yes XNA programming in schools!  How neat!

Academic Evangelists

Finally, I want to talk about another group of evangelists that work with academia, called academic evangelists.  These are the people who spread the word about Microsoft to those in academia.  Now you won’t find them on the “Meet Your Local Microsoft Evangelists” site; I’m not sure why that is.  However, your local evangelists would be able to help find who the academic evangelists are. I know for sure that you can find a few blogging over on the Springboard blog.  They’re a great resource for students and teachers when it comes to learning about the latest and greatest technologies and how to get involved in the community.

Conclusion

These are just some of the offerings that appear in the academic realm.  Seeing all of this makes me jealous!  If I had these available to me when I was in school, I’m sure I would be in a different place.  If you are a student or know a student who’d be interested in this, definitely check out what Microsoft has to offer – it’s a wide world of opportunity out there!

Crossing the line, the district line…

I was reading Dan Rigsby’s post on West Michigan Day of .NET, and one of his comments really struck me.

It seems if you are in a different Microsoft district, you either don’t know much about what is going in other districts, or are afraid the break the barrier.

He’s got a good point. I live in the Heartland District, which encompasses Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan (south to north). Whenever there are events within our district, we have our evangelists who let us know what’s going on. But what about Days of .NET in places that are just across the state line, in one of the other districts? We don’t typically hear about those, and I don’t know why that is either.

While planning the Cleveland Day of .NET, I realized that our location is well within a few hours from the PA state line. Having made many day trips to Erie and Pittsburgh, I know just how long those drives are, and I know that I drove further just for Central Ohio Day of .NET. So, rather than letting this realization lead to nothing, I contacted every evangelist listed for PA, asking them to pass the word on to their followers. I did receive some support from them, and we were supposedly mentioned in the Pittsburgh .NET Users Group’s newsletter. So I’m hoping to see some PA .NET people at our event!

If you’re a .NET/CodeCamp/etc. event organizer, if you want to reach the districts outside of your own, check out the Meet Your Local Microsoft Evangelists page and reach out to them. Maybe we don’t get people crossing district lines because the word just doesn’t get out to them. Maybe people are afraid to spread the word. But if we want people to cross the district lines, we need to get the word out to them so that they know that our events exist!

Evangelists… who?

If any of you follow Amanda Laucher (pandamonial on Twitter), you may have seen her comment about meeting someone who didn’t know about their MS evangelists. I have to admit – I had no idea of these people called evangelists until just this last December.

Living Under a Rock

When you work for a small company that really doesn’t use new technologies nor hears about it, you never realize that you’re outside the realm of influence. The only reason why I knew about C# was because my buddy G and I were talking about how we’d never need to know it as long as we were at that company. I remember the discussion clearly, and to this day, G’s still there and not using much in the way of .NET (other than probably maintaining my small VB.NET app). Meanwhile, I moved on to a smaller company, bigger technical staff, and am using C# and having fun learning new technologies. There we were, the developers (yep, just the 2 of us) for a manufacturing company of 600+ people, not knowing of all the resources available to us.

Developer Evangelist?

I imagine that if my buddy Russ hadn’t mentioned the .NET SIG, I wouldn’t have thought to look to see what else is out there. Even so, going to the SIG meetings apparently wasn’t enough, as I had been going to the meetings since May 2007, shortly after I started my current job, but still had no idea that there were these people called evangelists. I wouldn’t hear about them until December 2007, when this guy Jeff Blankenburg came to the Bennett Adelson SIG and showed us some cool stuff from Microsoft (like Popfly). He mentioned that he is a developer evangelist for the region. At that point, I had to wonder what it was they did. After prodding Russ for more details, I learned that there was some other guy who would come along rarely but apparently not much else happened here in Cleveland. Still, there wasn’t much that I could find out from Russ on what a developer evangelist did.

So, some of us lived under rocks or were just out of the realm of influence with the evangelists. (SIGs too far, no evangelists geared for the industry, etc.) If you know people who are left out, mention this post to them, as the Microsoft evangelists (at least those here in the Heartland District) are just an awesome team to meet!

So what do evangelists do?

Before I get into the “who”, you need to know what they do.

Just as the title suggests, they evangelize! Seriously, though, they’re developers, architects, and other tech-minded individuals who get to hear about the cool stuff ahead of time and make sure that we know about it. Tools and technologies, they’re seeing just what the industry has in store, where things are going, and they tell us about it. Through presentations at user groups and events, blog entries, podcasts, videos, forums, and just being themselves and talking about the things they’re passionate about, the evangelists get the word out.

Who are our evangelists?

Ohio is in the Heartland District, which happens to have quite active evangelists in the area. Since I’m a dev, I’m going to mention the developer evangelists first – Jeff Blankenburg and Jennifer Marsman. If you’re a dev and reading my blog, you ought to read their blogs as well! Jeff’s blog may be slow at the moment, as he’s out until the end of May, but definitely stay tuned to his blog when he returns, as you never know what he’ll blog about – from something about Silverlight to the after-party of a .NET event or a contest for swag at Codemash, his blog covers all sorts of things, some .NET related and some just regular blog entries. Jennifer just started her blog at the beginning of April and has returned to our region after a few months on leave. Something that Jennifer’s doing in her blog is featuring women in technology on her Friday entries. Definitely check out her blog as well!

Then there are the architect evangelists. We used to have Josh Holmes as an architect evangelist for the Heartland District, but he recently was promoted to Central RIA evangelist. Josh is one of the guys from Code to Live, and although he has a bigger region now, he still comes around to the Heartland area events. Our new architect evangelist is Brian H. Prince. I can’t comment on the architect coverage, as I’m not an architect, but I definitely recommend checking out Brian’s blog even if you aren’t an architect. He talks of cool technologies like LiveMesh, robots, and even these things known as “soft skills”.

There are other evangelists in the area, but I’ve met the 4 that I mentioned, and I can definitely tell you that these guys (and Jennifer!) are passionate about technology and getting the word out to the community. Sometimes, I think part of their job is to promote the “unity” in “community”.

Don’t know who your evangelists are? Want to know who the others are in the Heartland area? Meet your local Microsoft Evangelists!

I’ve sent this info on to my buddy G, so that he’s no longer just another dev out of the realm of influence. But there are other devs out there who don’t know about these great contacts. So pass this word on and get the word out there, so that they know that there are awesome resources out there for us in the field.

And a shout out to the PA evangelists, especially John McClelland, for getting the word out to their PA followers on Cleveland Day of .NET! Thanks for spreading the word! 🙂