On being ... an evangelist

By Ingrid Sapona

For years, when describing, or introducing, my friend Sandy to others, I’ve simply referred to her as a computer consultant. While I’ve always realized the description didn’t do justice to her skills, expertise, and talents, it’s only the past couple years that I’ve really started to “get” what she does (and why she’s so highly regarded by many in her field). Officially, she’s a systems design engineer and she specializes in business process management.

About 10 years ago (before she started her own consulting business) Sandy had a position at a software company in California. Her title was eBusiness Evangelist. That title was just gaining popularity (at least in high tech circles) back then. I remember asking her what it meant -- exactly -- and she said something about spreading the word about technology. I also remember thinking the title was a bit much -- a bit too out there for me.

Needless to say, Sandy’s always had her hand on the pulse of technology. So much so, frankly, that for years I shied away from discussing anything technology-related with her because I just wasn’t into it the way she is. That said, I’ve always appreciated her expertise and considered her a trusted advisor. So, for example, when I was thinking about banking on-line, I sought her opinion about how secure it was.

A couple years ago I was complaining to her about the fact that I’m terrible at remembering all the different passwords and user names I have for different things. She agreed, but said she found a few free programs she liked that would keep track of all that kind of information. She went on to explain how she uses it and, intrigued, that evening I tried one she mentioned (KeePass). Well, it’s terrific. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without it now.

Another time she mentioned a new program (Dropbox) she was finding quite useful. Though I didn’t follow all she was saying, I got the gist. As I understood it, using this software meant I’d no longer have to worry about either taking my laptop with me or downloading files onto a jump drive if I want to work from someplace other than my home office (for example, from my mother’s house). Well, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, I tried Dropbox and I LOVE it.

When I bought a new computer last November, Sandy came over to help me set it up. When she found out what e-mail program I was using, she mentioned she really likes Google Mail and said I might want to look into it. Naturally, I asked her why she suggested I use it, and naturally I only understood part of her rationale. I made a mental note of her suggestion, but I didn’t relish the idea of setting it up, or of learning a new program. So, I had her install the updated version of the e-mail program I had been using.

Three days before Christmas my new computer crashed and I ended up having to return it. Thankfully my old computer was still functioning, so I managed to carry on. I decided to put off buying a replacement until I was back from vacation in late January.

Over the holidays I was reflecting on my computer woes and I realized that Dropbox had saved my hide because all my work files were there and I could continue working, essentially uninterrupted. Then I thought about how effortless it is to keep track of passwords thanks to KeePass, another Sandy recommendation. Once I realized that the technology Sandy’s recommended over the years has made a huge difference in the way I carry on business -- in other words, that her expertise has revolutionized my own business processes -- the idea of switching to Google Mail was a no brainer.

When Sandy came over last week to set up my new computer, we talked about the fact I had switch to Google Mail. I admitted that part of the reason I took the plunge was because she had mentioned it, and she’s never led me astray. I also confessed that, once I realized how much technology has changed the way I do business over the past few years, I made embracing technology, rather than fear it or simply grudgingly accept it, one of my New Year’s resolutions for 2011.

She smiled and said she was glad to hear it, adding, “You see, you’re becoming an evangelist!” As soon as she said it, I remembered her previous job title and I suspect she remembered trying to explain it to me back then. (I also wondered whether, once upon a time, I might have made a snide comment to her about that title. I hope not, but I fear I might have.) Anyway, I explained to her that my resolution isn’t so much about spreading the word to others as it is about getting over myself -- and my trepidation.

Since that conversation I’ve thought about what it means to be an evangelist and I have to say, I think I have the makings of one -- at least when it comes to the technology Sandy’s turned me on to. After all, I recognize the difference it’s made in my life, I can see how others could benefit by it, and I feel compelled to share the story of my conversion.

So come on folks, gather around – let me tell you about some stuff that can change your life…

Post Script: Just as I was revelling in the concrete ways technology has changed my life in just the past two years, people in Tunisia and Egypt were discovering for themselves -- and demonstrating to the rest of the world -- the life-changing power of technology that goes by the name of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Pretty amazing, don’t you think?

© 2011 Ingrid Sapona


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