Job description: Funzi Evangelist

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By: Aape Pohjavirta

Most working in the tech industry are familiar with the concept of the technology evangelist. A person that takes the technology, product, or service that a company develops, creates a story around it, and roams the world, making everyone aware – and a fan – of that tech, product, or service. Globally, famous service and technology evangelists include Steve Jobs, Guy Kawasaki, Dan’l Lewin, and my fellow Finn, Peter Vesterbacka.

Technology evangelism has nothing to do with religion.

A technology evangelist is a person who builds a critical mass of support for a given product or technology, and then seeks to establish it as a technical standard in a market that is subject to network effects. Not all technologies succeed or survive and that makes the job of the evangelist often lonely and always challenging. Especially when you work in a startup that has limited resources and is always in a hurry.

An evangelist’s venues of work are conferences, events, meetings, and get-togethers, where they spread the word about their product through public appearances – keynote speeches, panel discussions, or official meetings.

Funzi is a global service in the field of education learning.

This means that we must interact with both global organizations as well as locally relevant actors. And as we are doing something that no-one has done before and constantly developing our service,  everything needs to be coordinated. From evangelization to sales, product development, project implementation, and impact measurement. Not an easy task. For any organization. But what does it look like in practice? To give you an idea, I’ll describe my last evangelization trip to US of A.

Tuesday starts at 0830 in a seminar to discuss the potential opening of an innovation lab for global organization. I have been involved in the planning leading to this event and have many people to talk to. The event is opened by Minister Mykkanen and it runs very smoothly. At lunchtime, I head to the Airport to catch my flight to New York. I get to the airport [almost late] and make my flight. It isn’t often I can use direct flights but this time Finnair’s direct flight to JFK fit our [low] travel budget. Once in NYC, I take an Uber to my hotel where I try to keep myself awake; my desperate attempt to get used to the time difference to avoid any jet lag.

Wednesday, I participate in a High Level Action event organized by the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations as the Finnish delegate. The day starts with breakfast and getting my Visitor Passes organized. During a day like this, I typically work online when possible while making certain to advance the tasks that I had planned before the event, as well as seek to meet new people and organizations. After the official meeting ends, there is a reception. And at about 9 pm I’m back at the hotel, finish the rest of my day’s work, have a bite to eat, and doze off.

Thursday I have organized two meetings with new organizations and one with a friend of mine who is well informed about the “lay of the land”. After the successful meetings, I run and catch the train from Penn Station to Washington DC. The train was delayed and I arrived in my hotel at about 10 pm. You probably know the drill by now, I have a quick bite to eat, and fall asleep.

Friday starts with breakfast with the Finnish Embassy, continues with a meeting at the World Bank discussing inclusive entrepreneurship, gender issues, and how to accelerate the impact of mobile on global systems’ level. Then I rush off to Union Station, catch the Acela Express – work on my way to Penn Station, take the AirTrain to JFK, sleep almost six hours on the flight home and arrive in Helsinki on Saturday morning. Happy with the results of my trip and not the least bit jet lagged.

So if a tech evangelist is what you want to be, make sure you know that it’s a heck of a tough job, but ever so rewarding. Especially, when those late nights and early mornings mean you’re one step closer to achieving your goal.

But remember to keep yourself in shape; eat, exercise, and sleep well, in order to keep up with the hectic schedule. A good indication of how in shape you are is to arm wrestle your younger colleagues at work. At least I’m doing good so far.

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