This was probably the first year that I did not even realize it was time. When I woke up this morning I checked my Twitter feed, and saw a tweet from someone about today being the award day for the Microsoft MVP program. Had my 21 month old son not come in looking for Daddy, I might have given a thought to when (if?) I was going to get my Award e-mail… but life took over, and I did not think about it until the e-mail finally came around mid-morning.
Congratulations! We are pleased to present you with the 2011 Microsoft® MVP Award!
For those of you who are unfamiliar with how the program award works, it is done four times per year – January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1. If I recall last year there was a bit of confusion because the program year which originally started October 1, was realigned to start January 1… so essentially they followed the world’s shift from the Hebrew calendar to the Gregorian calendar, which means that somehow I was awarded twice for the same year. Whatever.
A Microsoft MVP is supposed to be a community contributor. For that reason none of the work I get paid to do counts toward my MVP Award – or at least it isn’t supposed to. That may be one of the reasons that some of the people you would think would be MVPs are not. It is also the reason why a lot of people who are not Devs or IT Pros are MVPs. A lot of us work with technologies in other fields, but write about, blog about, or speak about them in forums, blogs, user group events, and much more. In theory writing books is a paid endeavour that should not be counted, but for books and other technology publications the lines are blurred and a lot of authors make the cut. Jason Hiner is the Editor in Chief of TechRepublic.com is an MVP, even though I assume he gets paid for the work he does on that site. Charlie Russell is an MVP too, and they both deserve to be.
When I started out as a community contributor I was replying to a ton of newsgroup questions; unfortunately for me most of the ones I was answering were about certifications, and there is no award category for that. Nearly two years as Founding President of the Montreal IT Professionals Community (www.mitpro.ca) earned me the nod, and even though MITPro did not focus on any single technology there was an award category called Windows Server: Customer Experience that was where IT Generalists who ran user groups were placed. I remember that Sunday morning like it was yesterday… I woke up and got the e-mail on my PC (I didn’t have a smartphone yet), then went off to ‘my’ Java U where I filled out the forms and NDAs and everything that was asked of me. I then started reading the protected material.
Sadly we found out soon enough that the ‘User Group MVPs’ were going away, and that everyone in the category would have to be re-awarded in a technology category (and would have to stand on their merits for the technology). A number of my friends did not make the cut and that was sad. I believe it was July, 2008 I was moved into the Small Business Server award category, which made sense at the time but my real hope was to be made one of the ‘charter’ Essential Business Server MVPs. In the first week of 2009 six of us were given that nod, and we became the ‘Charter Class’ of EBS MVPs (the others were Ollie, Amy, Steve, Jeff, and Robert). It was one of my few really wrong calls in the IT field – I was sure that EBS was going to be huge, and it was just not meant to be. Microsoft pulled the plug a few months before the release of EBS v2, and the product just stopped.
So with the death of EBS I knew I had to pick another Award category, and I was lucky enough to have my fingers in enough of the pies to know that I could ask for any of a number of them and have a good chance of being chosen. I asked my MVP Lead (and a particularly powerful insider) to have me moved to the Windows Desktop Experience category – in other words, the Windows Client. A few months later it was changed to Windows Expert: IT Pro. And that’s where I am today.
I am likely not the only MVP who has been in five different categories; I might be the only one whose five changes have all happened between cycles, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is I am glad to be back for Year 6, and the first year where my Award certificate will read Windows Expert: IT Pro. It does not mean another year of blogging, writing, and speaking… because these are all things I would do even if I was not an MVP. and that is what I always tell people who ask me what it takes to become an MVP… if you aren’t already doing most of it out of your own passion then it is simply not worth pursuing. I would have a lot more time for my family, for my hobbies, and for relaxing if I stopped doing everything I do to be an MVP, and chances are I would make about the same amount of money. However I do it, because I love what I do. I did them before I was an MVP, and I will likely continue doing them long after I cease to be one.
I travel a lot for business… I mean, a lot. Every time I tell my (very understanding) wife Theresa (@gilsmommy) that I have to book a trip somewhere, her first question is not ‘How long are you going?’ it is ‘Is this a paid trip or a free trip?’ followed by ‘Well, is someone else at least covering your travel expenses?’ You would think that traveling as much as I do for actual work, I would not want to take on the four or five user group tours I do per year… but I love speaking to the communities, and she understands that. If anyone wants to know who I thank for my being an MVP, it is Theresa… except for Years 1 and 2… those were all me
I want to thank Microsoft, Microsoft Canada, the Springboard Team, the Microsoft MVP Team, Ljupco, Simran, and Stephen for helping me to get year six. I promise to do everything I can to be worthy of #7. I wear both my MVP shirts and my STEP (Springboard Technical Experts Panel – Charter Member) shirts proudly, and will continue to wave the banner. Thanks for giving me products worthy of my time!