The Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) One
I had the honor of being awarded a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award within the Azure domain. According to Microsoft:
Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals, or MVPs, are technology experts who passionately share their knowledge with the community. They are always on the “bleeding edge” and have an unstoppable urge to get their hands on new, exciting technologies. They have very deep knowledge of Microsoft products and services, while also being able to bring together diverse platforms, products and solutions, to solve real world problems. MVPs make up a global community of over 4,000 technical experts and community leaders across 90 countries/regions and are driven by their passion, community spirit, and quest for knowledge. Above all and in addition to their amazing technical abilities, MVPs are always willing to help others – that’s what sets them apart
To give you an idea of uniqueness of this award at the time of this writing there are ~500 MVPs in the US and only 40 in Azure. This is cool!!! Everyone’s story to this is different and I’ll attempt to provide my insights as I know once I was nominated there wasn’t a plethora of current information on the how/what/why components of an MVP.
Putting in the Work
My story started with shifting priorities in 2020 with the migration of everyone working from home coupled with relocating as part of a move. I started to focus on putting myself out into the community more and sharing some of the knowledge I’ve accumulated in hopes to create relationships and develop new challenges. It’s not an easy thing to do but I figured opportunities are a lot like luck in cards. The more you play the greater the odds you get dealt a winning hand….in this case opportunities. You can’t win a hand if you never play. So where to start?
There’s something out there about recognizing your sphere of influence. Afraid of being rejected from a speaking opportunity? (Don’t be more on that later) Then just write a blog article. No one is stopping you. It’s part of the reason I created this site, aside as an excuse to learn AWS. Yes I recognize there is some irony there. Being your own creator means you have an outlet at your fingertips that no one can control but you. If people leave negative feedback, then you can decide to listen to it or ignore it!
There are other community outlets that can act as gateways to the community. Take Stack Overflow. I decided to be a little more active on there to test the water on what I think I knew and see what feedback/needs there were in the community. You learn and get some instant feedback on what is well received and what isn’t. Additional it really help hone technical writing skills.
Another avenue that I know was intimidating for me is contributing to Microsoft projects on GitHub. I mean wrap your head around the fact that what you are contributing to could be mentioned on Microsoft pages for all to see, included in future product releases, or even be put out there for others to use as templates. It’s a lot and imposter syndrome is a real thing. My advice is to remind yourself that there is a reason Microsoft has put this information in the opensource community…..THEY WANT YOU TO DO IT!
Aren’t sure on GitHub, start with opening up issues. There isn’t one IT professional=who doesn’t have an opinion on something not working as it should, a document that is confusing/incomplete, or an example that is out dated. If you see it at least open an issue. Even better create a PR and fix said issue, I know I did and get a feel for how the PR flow works for various projects.
Committing to opensource projects has led to some rewarding experiences. I’ve been on a meeting with a client and they’ve seen my photo on Microsoft documentation. I’ve also seen my GitHub user mentioned in Microsoft product releases as a contributor.
It’s kind of cool to see the impact you can have by just making minor changes. Not every pull request has to be some huge feature. Heck, I’ve found that half the time I was contributing was when I was learning on my own and just contributing back. Either by providing examples back or providing feedback on unclear documentation.
Taking It Further
From what I’ve observed some MVPs all they do is what I mentioned above. Now they may take it further by doing such activities as creating an Open-Source product to support Microsoft or become a top contributor on Stack Overflow. That’s not me and I recognize that while respecting those that do.
I don’t mind getting up and speaking in front of people this is something I know so there are other avenues to take in order to get to that level of engagement. I started challenging myself by submitting proposals to conferences and user groups. By the way start local. You’d be surprised how many organizers will give preference to those with ties in the area. If you disagree encourage you to try it! If looking to start, start there.
Presenting, if done well, is a great tool to reenforce your knowledge. It forces you to really be sure about what you are presenting, framing the context for your audience, adapting to time, etc… Would strongly recommend just trying it out. For me once I had a topic accepted the next step was get my slides in order, research/confirm what I was referencing, walkthrough, walkthrough again, then find someone I trusted to present to.
That last piece is key. Honest constructive feedback can be the hardest thing to find yet the most important to grow from. It helps confirm your intent, identify what isn’t clear, and helps you get ahead of any questions that might arise. Even better get feedback after you present. Every time I’ve presented someone has provided me with something around what I am presenting that I was unaware of!
Afraid of public speaking? Not a problem if you want to get involved. There are plenty events within the community that are blogged based such as Azure Spring Clean, events that used pre-recorded videos such as Azure Back to School. Looking at the contributors, it can be intimidating….but submit. Worse that can happen is you are provided feedback on how to improve. That’s one of the great things I’ve learned about the community, it’s an open and receptive one. And if you do get accepted then everything above about prepping for a speaking engagement applies to these as well.
Nomination can only be done by an existing MVP or a Microsoft employee. This is a hard requirement to achieve, think about it. Not only do you have to know someone with this award but then be respected enough for them to nominate you.
The MVP award is a huge career achievement. One you don’t earn overnight and one where you have to put in the work. I view it as recognition/confirmation of making a positive impact within the Microsoft community.