Nick Landry, Microsoft’s senior technical evangelist, loves his job. That’s because promoting Microsoft technology also involves working closely with New Jersey’s developers, traveling across the state to offer them education and advice. And, in the process, he helps those developers achieve their own career dreams.
“My goal is that more and more of them can one day say ‘Well, thanks to all that work that I did and all the great things that I learned, I now have my dream job,'” he told NJTechWeekly.com. In fact, during his presentations Landy simply asks the audience, “Hey, who here has their dream job?”
“Most often I get no hands. Sometimes, one. But I’m always the one raising my hand in front, and I want to help developers get there,” he said.
Landry is a familiar figure at tech meetups, hackathons and other events.
His team at Microsoft is called “DX,”which refers to “Developer Experience and Evangelism.” Landry’s job entails educating people about development, entrepreneurship, Microsoft and the tech industry in general. He does this by reaching out to professional developers, entrepreneurs and students.
For example, Landry runs a meetup group called “Microsoft Mobile App Devs of New Jersey (MMADNJ),” which teaches members how to build apps and games. MMADNJ meetings have covered topics like voice recognition software and machine learning for mobile devices. One meeting even included a hands-on workshop in which Landry taught participants how to build their own circuits and connect them to the cloud.
Landry also reaches out to developers at other meetups, events, and coworking spaces.
The evangelist said that one of his goals is to educate developers about programs like Microsoft’s BizSpark, which provides tech startups with free software and services. He also shows people how to use technologies like Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing platform.
Additional outreach is accomplished online through blogging, videos, chats, podcasting, webcasting and the educational service Microsoft Virtual Academy. “Or it can be just engaging with people on Twitter,” Landry said.
He explained that “the idea is to let them know first of all that … I’m around. I’m not a Redmond guy that comes like once a quarter. I live here, I live just outside of Princeton, I’m local, and I’m all over the place in Jersey all the time.”
Landry’s efforts are fueled by his genuine passion for Microsoft. “I’ve pretty much committed my whole career to Microsoft from the get-go,” he said. “I started learning some of the tools like QuickC, QuickBASIC and QuickPascal in the late ’80s and the early ’90s. When I started my career, in 1992, those were the tools that I was using.” Landry also used Visual Basic, and then went on to learn the .NET Framework and more.
He spent most of his career as a developer and consultant, utilizing his background in computer science and engineering. “I was actually also an entrepreneur three times—all in Canada,” Landry said. The Montreal native remained enthusiastic about Microsoft technology all that time, so joining the company last year “was basically kind of a ‘coming home’ moment where it all made sense.”
Today his job involves telling students how they can find their own “coming home” moments. Rutgers University, Stevens Institute of Technology and Princeton University have all invited him to help their students reach their career goals.
“As you can imagine, we’re pretty much one of the top companies in the world that most computer science students want to work for,” he said. “So we do a lot of university recruiting events.”
For example, Landry said that he has met with Princeton students to “understand exactly what’s their drive, where they want to go. They have a lot of questions around Microsoft, and at the same time they want to learn, they want to prepare. So I’ve got to see if there’s an opportunity where I can help prepare students to be more ‘valuable,’ if you will, once they hit the job market.”
He has also reached out to student and professional developers at the Princeton Entrepreneurs Network‘s annual business plan competition. “Last year I was actually a judge at the event,” Landry said. Additionally, he answers questions and offers prizes at university hackathons, like last year’s HackRU.
But Landry isn’t always the one initiating conversations. In fact, developers actively seek his advice at regular “office hours.” He said that, before his monthly MMADNJ meetup, “what I do is I host office hours where people can come and they can ask for guidance around software development for mobile, or for the cloud, even [the internet of things]. And if they have a startup idea they can come and just get some feedback.”
Landry said that he has also offered office hours at coworking spaces like Cowerks, in Asbury Park, and JuiceTank, in Somerset. Other events at coworking spaces have included educational presentations about BizSpark, Azure, and mobile development.
Landry plans to keep expanding his efforts, and will soon be acting as an advisor for members of the TechLaunch accelerator. He hopes to continue spreading his enthusiasm for Microsoft via all forms of community outreach.
“It’s a very different Microsoft than it used to be,” he said. “And we know that there are a lot of entrepreneurs out there that they—they’re not necessarily looking at Microsoft because they’re looking at the Microsoft from 10, 20 years ago, which was a very different Microsoft. So a big part of our role is to kind of change those perceptions and say, ‘Hey, maybe you should take a second look.'”
Landry emphasized that his job revolves around collaboration. That’s why his team also provides tools for iOS and Android. He explained, “When developers sit down and they have an idea for a new project … we just want to be part of the conversation with them.”