Angela Dugan, Technology Sales Professional & Evangelist

21 May

“Own what you do, and don’t be afraid or ashamed to make sure people are aware of what you are contributing. No one else is responsible for your career/success but you, and if it fizzles into obscurity it’s no else’s fault.”

– Angela Dugan

I’m all about digging into the details of how you do what you do – no matter what it is, as long as I’ve noticed you are enthusiastic about it. That’s the starting point for all my interview requests. Angela Dugan, whom I know through Twitter and local community web sites, projects such a sense of joy surrounding her work that I had to interview her. If, like her, you are fascinated with technology, read her story for a somewhat less-heard-of path in technology careers.

Angela’s fancy title is Developer Tools Technology Sales Professional; she’s part of Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Evangelism group. I mostly know her as an evangelist for her company and her product. An evangelist, as she calls herself is “a person marked by evangelical enthusiasm for or support of any cause.”

Angela Dugan

Can you tell me how you got into this?

“I describe it here in case you’re interested in hearing from some of the awesome women I work with too. But I was NOT the poster child for “Women in Tech” growing up… Somewhere around sophomore year of college I realized being really smart, but being wishy-washy and cycling through a number of majors I was not passionate about was not going to cut it. I was close to getting an elementary teaching certificate, but I don’t know that my heart was in that either. So thanks to some prodding by my brother… I gave it a go with Computer Science and it was love at first byte (punny, and awful, I know). I never looked back, and after getting my Associates in Science, went on to get a Bachelor’s in Computer Science and Business and a Masters in Computer Science.”

I asked Angela about her own education and background.

“I had far more schooling than necessary, mostly because I switched majors enough times to have covered almost every area necessary in today’s IT world. And we all know plenty of people make it big without a college degree, but honestly I think my education was invaluable to being successful in the flavor of IT that I chose to pursue.

“For some background, I was in IT, slinging code for almost 9 years as a consultant before I joined Microsoft. Even then I needed to rely on many other talents beyond what I learned in my Computer Science classes to succeed. Spend a day talking to end users about what they want in an application or product you are building, trying to compromise, scheduling and prioritizing features. You’ll be surprised how handy those Psychology and Math lessons suddenly become. So, alas there is NOT a magic formula for which courses to take. Especially when you take into account all the different aspects of technology that you can focus on today. One thing is fairly universal though. In many tech-related fields, the ability to analyze, adapt, and collaborate are as important as knowing specific programming languages and techniques. And as you can see from my history, you may also need a firm grasp of communication skills (both verbal and written), leadership abilities, and confidence. People can certainly succeed in IT if they are missing any of the above characteristics, but it may limit your ability to grow beyond being a developer if that is something you want.

“There are a lot of certifications out there, I am probably not the best person to address the topic since their value is heavily based on what you do. Staying current, “sharpening the saw” as they say, is always a good idea. Just be careful not to spend too much time on certification if more value could be gained by simply reading a few good industry related books, getting involved with the tech community (SIGs or user groups) or creating some fun projects at home to expand your skillset.”

Are there personality types that would be happiest if they found this track in IT?

“I definitely display both characteristics, depending on the situation. Simple example, my brother is definitely an introvert. He is most comfortable in social situations where there are fewer people. He is a great developer, but would probably thrive in most any field related to software development since teams are often small and tight-knit. I am primarily an extrovert – I am comfortable on stage presenting to hoards of people at large tech events, especially when it is about something I am really passionate about. But I also thrive in more intimate settings with fewer people where I can dig really deep on solving technical problems with a customer. So if you are an introvert, you can thrive in about any tech related field OTHER than evangelism. Now that being said, there are a mind-boggling number of options for people looking to pursue careers in IT.”

Angela follows up on the many career paths in technology and how to determine which is right for you:

“I gave a talk at Devry HerWorld last year to help high school girls understand where IT was going in the next few years, and how they could best prepare for a career in technology. I was floored by how many tech-related careers exist that I was not aware of. And I am actively in IT.

“So the next challenge is how on earth do you know which one(s) to consider and how to prepare? Luckily I was part of a panel discussion including a lot of very talented women who were very successful in IT related careers, and I’ll add their wisdom to my own.

1. Internships are very important if you can make the time for them. You can get your hands on the technology early and make sure it’s really what you want.
2. Find a mentor. Find several… People already out there in the world have a wealth of knowledge you can tap into. They can encourage you to try new things, help you network to find opportunities to evaluate new career options, etc. Doesn’t matter how old or experienced you are, everyone needs a mentor. I have several.
3. Do what you love! I feel like I keep harping on this, but you don’t have to be a programmer. I see people who get into programming because hey, it pays well and there are always plenty of jobs out there, but they don’t really enjoy it. No one wins in that situation, trust me. Maybe web design, architecture, database administration, project planning, quality assurance, digital marketing, user experience design or something else is in your skillset.”

Because I knew of her leadership in Chicago Girls in Technology, I asked Angela to talk about hurdles for women in IT fields.

“I think the stereotype that “girls can’t be technical” is an old, dated one, and not many grown adults actually feel that way anymore. I don’t even like recognizing it, as though just saying the words helps to keep it alive. In my 5 years at Microsoft 2 of my 3 bosses have been women….both VERY technical and very successful…

“Women’s voices are heard in my company, and even beyond my organization we have more and more female leadership every year. Often it’s that women are naturally inclined to not speak up… Again, I find that to be something a lot of women deal with. I was not always confident enough to get on stage in front of 1400 people, especially when 97% of them were male, but once I got over it I realized that no one cared that I lacked a Y chromosome, as long as I had something valuable to contribute. One of the things we are trying to do with Girls in Technology is help young women, students, and professionals alike find their voices and build confidence to be someone who will be heard… An upcoming event we hope to hold soon is a panel discussion with some very successful, technology savvy women who can speak about how and where they started, the stumbling blocks along the way, and how they eventually got to be such rock-stars. It helps us to all realize that not everyone is born a CTO, or a successful game designer, or the inventor of Facebook, but they absolutely can get there!”

I wanted to know what kind of setting is required to do her job and more about the day-to-day aspects.

“Only one thing is critical to my job, my laptop. OK, two if you include my voice, because you can only do so much with a power point presentation and a killer demo! I go where my team and where my customers need me. I am based in Chicago and my primary territory includes all of Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana but I do get to travel occasionally to satellite offices. I go to Redmond/Seattle once or twice a year to visit the “mother ship”, but have also been to Dallas, D.C., Richmond, Minneapolis and am hitting Detroit next week for customer visits. This past year, I have been spending 50% of my time in Chicago and the rest split between Madison/Milwaukee and Indianapolis… The most exciting trip I’ve been able to take was visiting a customer in the Philippines! Wish that was something I got to do more often but with the magic of teleconferencing, I often do most of my international meetings through a webcam.

“I work out of 2 different Microsoft offices…as well as my house in Oak Park. One of the things I love about Microsoft is that you are treated a bit like an entrepreneur. You work from where it makes the most sense, and are expected to be responsible with your time in order to get the job done.

“I don’t think I have a typical day but a typical week is composed of something like this:
4-5 hours of account team calls to review opportunities where we can be engaged with our customers,
3-6 hours of internal team calls to coordinate activities, sales strategies, travel, and plan future events and conferences,
10-14 hours of answering emails (scheduling meetings, answering questions, troubleshooting),
14-20 hours of customer presentations,
2-4 hours of training on new technology and prepping machine images for demos.

One of the things that led me to ask Angela is that her career and personal identity are so intertwined, like Alma Klein’s. I asked, how much does your career influence how you see things outside of work? If it overlaps your daily life a lot, how do you feel about that?

“I struggle a bit with the identity thing. I never meant for “OakParkGirl” to be a technical community persona but since tech IS a major part of my identity it ended up being that way. Being a girl in tech with super bright red hair certainly makes me stick out to begin with. My biggest struggle is that I sometimes have to be careful, because I am at all times a representative of my company in the eyes of the public, and so I have to watch what I say a little more than I’d like to.

“Hopefully my boss doesn’t read this, but sometimes I can’t believe I get paid to do this. Well, the FUN parts of the job anyway. I truly LOVE my job, and my company…. Microsoft is a really great company to work for. We are paid well, we have great benefits, and I get to work with some truly brilliant and creative people on a daily basis. I can absolutely see myself retiring from Microsoft after a long, successful career there.”

Finally, what’s your long-term goal?

“My long-term goal is to just always love what I do, and try not to be too hard on myself for not having that all figured out just yet. The more people I talk to that are successful and happy, the more I realize few of them followed their “plan” or ended up anywhere near where they started. They rolled with the changes. Against my natural inclination, I’ve started to loosen up my roadmap and follow my heart. It’s done right by me so far.”

Here’s what I’ve learned from Angela as I’ve started to put this virtual career fair together: don’t make assumptions about career tracks. If you believe in yourself, it’s easier to make bold moves, so start with believing in yourself. Joy in your work is infectious. Network: online, in person, at conferences.

Thanks again to Angela for being so frank, but also for being very patient as I pulled this together!

Speaking of networking, you can find her here:

Girls in Tech Chicago:
on Facebook
LinkedIn
Twitter: @gitchicago
Official Site

Evangelism Updates:
Twitter: @mwd_devevents
Facebook

Just Angela:
Twitter: @OakParkGirl
Blog

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2 Responses to “Angela Dugan, Technology Sales Professional & Evangelist”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Place « She Has Moxie - June 12, 2011

    […] she can brainstorm with, Mary Fran once converted a barn for her work, Jennifer works at home, Angela works… […]

  2. Mentors « She Has Moxie - August 30, 2011

    […] I interviewed Angela, she touted the importance of mentors in her career development. Then my niece visited last week […]

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