Wednesday, February 28, 2018

You don’t get to MVP without making a few enemies

Cover by Kim Damsleth (Puzzlepart)

If you thought becoming an MVP is as easy as 1-2-3, think again – my story is all about pushing aside those who have been in my way and claiming what is mine! Don’t like it? Tough luck – I’m here to stay!

…..did fiction grab your attention? :) First of all I’m truly honored to have been brought on board as a member of the SharePoint Patterns & Practices team, or PnP for short. I have contributed to PnP for a while doing PR’s, so when Vesa Juvonen from Microsoft asked if I wanted to be part of the team to help out with issues, merging PR’s etc. I just couldn’t say no. I mean, create changes without someone else accepting it right? ;-)

See the announcement post at the Office Dev Blog.

SharePoint Patterns and Practices

And I hope that people who know me would characterize me as a mostly non-selfish and helpful person, even though I can be strict and troll the occasional thread or conversation :) I may often be right, but I do listen to reason and I’m willing to accept the “new right” at any time if convincing enough. Life is too short for absolutes.

To me, being part of any tech community is all about making friends with people who share my passion, and I have made quite a few friends over the years, many of whom are already part of the PnP team.


So what’s my story then? I have been lucky to have been awarded as an MVP for Office Server and Services since 2011. It’s not something I ever thought about nor was aiming for. For the longest time I have always loved learning and figuring out technical challenges. I started on BBS’ back in the day, moved over to Usenet (you can find some insightful BH90210 threads bearing my name ;), and further to other forums as Stack Overflow (with almost 30.000 points I’m in the top 1%) and Microsoft forums. And Microsoft forum participation earned me something called the Microsoft Community Contributor Award back in 2011, which I had no idea existed. Also about the same time someone (I have a vague idea who) nominated me for the MVP Award, and guess my contributions were valuable enough as I was awarded the first time in July of 2011. Very unexpected, but truly honored.

My point is, I spent my energy on something I loved and cared about, and good things happened. Had they not happened I would probably be in much the same spot as I am today – but I might not have personally gotten to know so many smart and excellent people. And I might not have jumped onto the chance of presenting at international conferences. I had done one or two local user groups, before doing SPC12.

MVP for me is all about the chance to get to know people smarter than me, daring asking questions to experts and actually getting answers back. It’s a give/take and win/win thing – if you can network, do it right with no hidden motive, and you will be more successful. In my experience if you are awarded a MVP award from Microsoft, don’t take it as granted, don’t expect the holy grail to be revealed, but seize the opportunity to build relationships with other MVP’s and with people from Microsoft.

It takes time, and it’s all up to you what you make of your award.

Photo by William White on Unsplash

The past years I have spent more time blogging compared to forum participation, as it’s impossible to attend to all arenas at once time wise for me. As much as I love presenting at a conference with the stage-high, I love writing even more. For one I can color my writing with my own language, and the reach of a blog post is far that of any conference presentation (unless taped). Which means I get in touch with a lot more people by blogging, many of who ask me questions about things I can figure out for new posts.

And here’s a secret I share whenever asked about how I manage to get the time for it all. I spend very little personal time doing what I do outside of when I travel or speak (which is 3-4 times a year). I might open my pc only a handful of times a month after I get home after my 8h workday (I don’t do overtime either). That said, I do surf, read and chat technology on my iPad or phone after work.

If you dig into my blog posts they are often about solving an issue or working around a challenge. These challenges are either self discovered, comes from my awesome colleagues at Puzzlepart or arrives via a random e-mail or mention somewhere. This means they are typically customer related to my consultant role – so figuring out the problem and writing about it comes naturally. Typically when I research something I start writing a blog post. The blog post then ends up as customer documentation, done during working hours. And I do tell my client about this – if  you hire me and I figure something out I will write about it. Ever seen Seinfeld and Georg pitching their show with the “that’s a show” line? That’s how I think about blogging. Any workday topic is a potential blog post.

Code wise it always make more sense to contribute to an Open Source project which fits your need, instead of writing all the code your self. In addition to re-using what other people create, you also get an extra pair of eyes on the PR’s you write. Win-win for everyone. And with PnP which have monthly releases, the time from commit to release is not that long, another win-win. Professionally PnP has been a huge success for me professionally and it has with other Puzzler’s as well, several of us contributing PR’s monthly.

You might think it would be a competitive advantage to hold things back, but having been part of sharing communities for so long, sharing comes naturally, and it’s a pillar we value highly at Puzzlepart. (You can find shared solutions like the Project Portal and SPFx extensions at the Puzzlepart github repo.)

As long as what I do is fun and the community enjoys what I contribute with, all is well. If there ever comes a day when it’s not fun I will start doing something else – but I hope that time is far far in the future. SharePoint and Office has proven a very friendly community arena for me, and as long as it thrives and there are things to learn I’ll stick.


Two pigeons nuzzle on a wall in the Trocadéro, the Eiffel Tower visible in the background
Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia at Unsplash