«

My Story - The Road to Evangelism & Discovering Verizon Digital Media Services

Posted by Timirah James

If you’re an engineer who’s worked at any kind of tech startup, you know that innovation is fueled by late nights, tons of caffeine, the excitement of last minute requests to perform miracles. It’s amazing how long one can thrive on the adrenaline of these elements alone.

About 8 months ago, after years of working as an iOS Engineer at several startups, I awoke from my adrenaline rush, suddenly finding myself unfulfilled.

Here I was working as an iOS Engineer for a company in Santa Monica right in the center of the Silicon Beach scene, and had I felt myself begin to fall out of love with my once exciting routine: come in, scrum, work, push, leave, repeat.

I found myself having less and less time for doing what I really loved.

. . . But what did I really love?

I loved going to hackathons, I loved doing workshops, I loved sharing experiences with peers in tech. For years I had been able to balancing working full-time as an engineer, all the while staying active and in touch with all the things I was passionate about — mentoring and hosting meetups, building my own side projects, even starting my own program for young girls in tech.

But now that this part of my life became limited, it forced me to reflect and question my future.

Shortly after my revelation took action and I had applied to, been accepted, and began participating in a remote project-based training program solely designed for developer evangelism (launched by a startup based in NYC called Clarifai). The program, called Clarifai Champions, provided training through lectures, mentorship, and a host of other resources to prepare you for a path in Developer Evangelism. I was at a tipping point point in my career, and I felt it!

It wasn’t long after I entered the program that I decided this was the path I wanted to embark on for the next phase of my career, and began my search for roles in the Evangelism space. I came across all kinds of Developer Relations roles from the usual heavy-hitters like Facebook, Microsoft, Google, even tech companies outside the US. But I couldn’t find any that were LA-based in the Los Angeles area, which was a huge deal breaker for me.

T-Swift

I absolutely LOVE the Los Angeles and Silicon Beach area. I spent a lot of my time outside of work and in between jobs, helping to build the tech scene here organizing hackathons, mentoring at tech events, working with engineers and community leaders throughout LA (including Mayor Garcetti himself) to help ignite and grow the tech presence throughout the area. So I knew that whatever role I decided to go for, it was imperative that I’d be able to stay here in LA.

After about 2 days of digging around the internet, I had finally come across the treasure I had been looking for.

The job title read: “Core Development Evangelist” with a Verizon logo next to it.

say whaaa

Verizon?? Really?? What in the world would they need a Dev Evangelist for?? What exactly would they need to be evangelized?? Must be something to do with phones.

These are just some of the 75+ questions and thoughts I had rush to my head all at once when I saw that Verizon checkmark. The raging curiosity drove me to click on the job posting.

Applying

The job description fit my skill sets and interests to the tee, but it didn’t answer what exactly needed to be evangelized. Also, what technologies could they possibly be working on at Verizon? I assumed primarily mobile stuff (of course). My curiosity led me to seek some clarity by reaching out to a recruiter at Verizon via LinkedIn.

Call scheduled: check.

The first recruiter I spoke with seemed a bit confused when I asked her about the position. Then after she did some digging she said, “Oh, I think that role is for Verizon Digital Media Services, the team over in Playa.” Now I was confused. Verizon is Verizon, right? What is Verizon Digital Media Services? “But your background is super solid, and we have an opening for a role in iOS Development!” I politely declined. I was exclusively set on walking into a new phase of my career, and that phase was Evangelism.

A week later I had finally gotten in touch with the right recruiter, and scheduled a call. During the call I told her I had spoken with another recruiter who had no clue about the evangelist role. She then explained to me that this was a different entity within Verizon. Just as they had Verizon Wireless, Verizon Enterprise Solutions, etc — there was Verizon Digital Media Services, which is the the more tech and media-based core of Verizon.

Ahh

I was definitely intrigued.

One interest call led to a phone interview, then a phone interview to an onsite interview.

Onsite Interview:

I had no idea what to expect, or, again, what exactly needed evangelizing. More importantly, I was quite curious about what the culture would be like in a corporate Verizon branded company.

I met with Dave Andrews and several others from the Engineering and Marketing departments. And what stood out to me the most was that no one tried to paint a perfect picture of Verizon. They didn’t try and mask themselves or the company. Instead, what they presented was transparency.

Another thing that stood out to me was the team’s interaction with one another. I felt a sense of togetherness. A sense of family.

It was those key cultural elements that ultimately influenced my decision to join the team. But that wasn’t the only thing that wowed me. Once I learned what the “Digital Media Services” sector of Verizon was actually composed of, my mind was literally BLOWN!

Really

Verizon Digital Media services is composed of the Edgecast Content Delivery Network service, the Uplynk Video Streaming service, and the Volicon Media Intelligence service. Together, these services enable leading brands to deliver digital media over the internet (OTT — link). The company prepares, delivers, displays, and enables the monetization of all digital content end-to-end. Their clientele includes the likes of Hulu, ABC, Disney, REVOLT TV, SoundCloud, and Twitter!

How in the world had I not heard of this beast within Verizon before? I realized there wasn’t a day in the last two years that I had gone without unknowingly using their services.

It was going to be my job to help expose this great company lurking under the shadows of almost every brand that I love and utilize on a daily basis, and the awesome engineers behind it.

I was all in, and after about 4 more interviews, so were they.

After I got the call making it official, I felt a rush of excitement . . . followed by a sense of pressure. I would be applying to be their very first Evangelist.

And then, a realization replaced that pressure with a sense of pride.

A 22yr. old 6ft tall dark-skinned girl with pink hair would set the tone for the entire evangelism space at Verizon Digital Media Services, and all the evangelists to come.

Serena

I welcomed the challenge.

4 Months In…

And now, I’m 4 months in (wow — feels like 4 weeks), and there literally has not been a moment that I haven’t been amazed since I’ve been here. The knowledge and skill that it takes to build and maintain the technologies that we utilize is very unique. That being so as you can imagine, the range of technical talent is great! It’s nearly impossible to be the smartest person in the room, and that puts a smile on my face!

The culture is also super startup-esque! Actually the exact opposite from Verizon’s “super corporate” reputation. The people I work with are actual relatable humans! I could literally sit down and have a great lunch and conversation with any one of them.

(I have definitely worked in a setting where I couldn’t say the same before.)

Amen

The evangelism ball started rolling from the day I started, diving head-first into mentorship and outreach with organizations such as GirlsWhoCode, BSTEM, and the City of LA’s weekly Hack Nights (“Hack for LA”). We even sponsored this year’s Silicon Beach Fest, streaming the event with the Uplynk live streaming platform!

The next phase is rolling out our engineering blog and creating our own Verizon Digital Media Services developer community.

SQUAD

The level of enthusiasm and support I’ve received from EVERY department is uncanny. It’s a bit painful when you’re the first of anything, establishing the foundation for any initiative. But when you have colleagues who will literally drop whatever it is that they’re doing (whether it regards them or not) to assist you in reaching your goals, suddenly that pain becomes almost non-existent. Definitely feels good to know that I’m never flying alone, I have the support of the entire organization. If you work in the DevRel field (or any field for that matter), you understand how vital this element is for your role as well as how sacred that feeling is.

I am psyched to be behind a amazing company that doesn’t mind getting behind me!

I truly appreciate that moment I decided to take a chance and chose happiness over routine. I can’t wait to see where this goes.

I went from asking “What exactly would they need to be evangelized??” to “OMG, there’s so much to evangelize! Where do I start??”

UPDATE (8 Months In . . .):

Ok, wait – what? Another four more months just went by?!? I swear I have no idea where that time went!

Well . . . I take that back. If you’re reading this, that means we’ve finally launched our Engineering Blog!! Which means we’ve been putting a lot of time, energy, and collaborative efforts into creating awesome content to publish on our new outlet!

Hyphy

Once again, I believe the culture is responsible for this win. Just as with any blog, the making of this one was no easy task. Engineers working on high priority projects with conflicting schedules, team transitions — there were several elements which could have stagnated launch of the blog entirely.

But the collective enthusiasm of the organization around the idea of creating an outlet for our engineers to publish their knowledge, experiences, and perspectives on everything that is Verizon Digital Media Services (along with my size 11 shoe . . . jk) proved a more than compelling enough call to action for many of our engineers, website designers, creative directors and marketing gurus.

Cheesy, but true.

True

And trust me, there’s plenty to learn! I’ve been here 8 months and I seem to learn something new about the company every single day. Teams and projects I never knew existed, the dynamic depths of our platforms, and just how influential a lot of our engineers are in the dev community with their own open sourced projects, contributions, and meetup groups!

Stay tuned to the blog for all of the above in addition to our journey in our Evangelism efforts! ;)

Share