Last weekend I had the great privilege of attending my first Microsoft MVP event – the MVP Community Connection held in Sydney. This was an invitation to all Australian MVPs to come together over two days to network, receive central communication from the program managers, and learn some best practices in how we can better serve the community.
First I should explain what an MVP is. The Microsoft Most Valuable Professional award is presented to recognised experts in the technical community who regularly and voluntarily share their passion and knowledge with others, including Microsoft itself. The award celebrates an individual's deep commitment to serving the community and promoting awareness of Microsoft’s great products through a variety of channels – be it running user groups, speaking at events, blogging, mentoring, answering questions on forums, creating and sharing free software, etc. Aside from recognition, the award includes a number of benefits and privileges, including direct access to the Microsoft product teams via email distribution lists and Yammer, invitations to early previews and Product Group Interaction (PGI) meetings, exam vouchers, free software and subscriptions, and more. In return, Microsoft expects us to use these benefits and privileges to facilitate our continued involvement in the community and also to provide valuable feedback to Microsoft to help them design and build better products. The award lasts for one year, after which it may be renewed if the candidate has continued to demonstrate exemplary commitment and service.
The award is always granted in a particular Microsoft technological area or product for which the candidate has demonstrated expertise. My award was presented in February this year in the category of Azure – one of the broadest areas which happens to include enterprise integration. This was presumably in recognition of my efforts in running two user groups, speaking at multiple events (including Ignite Australia), writing posts on both Mexia’s and my personal blog, and promoting Microsoft events and announcements on social media. Yet, I always feel that I should be doing much more to serve an integration community that is always so willing to share and so appreciative of the efforts of those who do share!
This latest MVP event in Sydney was designed to allow us to come together and share ideas about how to improve our community leadership. It began with some fun networking activities on Friday afternoon & evening, followed by a more formal schedule of sessions on Saturday. It was a nice touch to arrive at the venue on Saturday morning and be presented with a personalised appreciation card complete with a custom Lego figurine. It quickly became evident that each Lego figurine was carefully selected to match the physical characteristics of the recipient in terms of hair colour, gender, etc!
After a warm welcome by Community Program Manager Lana Montgomery and a program update by Chris Olson from the DX team, there was a keynote about Digital Transformation by Technical Evangelist Vaughan Knight. This was followed by a series of enlightening “Skills Sessions” presented by prominent members of the MVP community including Troy Hunt, Orin Thomas, Marc Kean, Robert Crane, Leon Tribe and David Gardiner, spanning topics from developing your personal brand to blogging like a pro to recharging your user group. These were followed by some round table discussions around various topics relating to community involvement such as growing technical communities, embracing emerging technologies, supporting entrepreneurs and start-ups, and assisting young student technologists. The day wrapped up with some closing remarks by Lana and then a trip to the Helm Bar in Darling Harbour for some refreshing drinks before heading to the airport.
The event was not only well organised, informative and enjoyable, but I also found it truly inspiring to meet up with so many other enthusiastic technologists! While you might expect it to be intimidating to be a newbie in the company of so many extraordinarily brilliant and accomplished individuals, I actually found everyone to be extremely friendly and welcoming. I made many new friends that day as well as catching up with some old friends like Bill Chesnut, Mick Badran, Shane Hoey and Martin Abbott. Kudos to Lana for her exceptional organisational skills and her contagious positive energy! Really looking forward to more occasions like these, as well as the continuing support from Microsoft which helps us MVPs better support the wider community.
Photos courtesy of Lana Montgomery