On the 1st of September, I opened my inbox and found a very pleasant surprise. I had received the Microsoft MVP for Office Development award!
This post covers some of the things that led to the MVP award and also some personal thoughts about the MVP award program. Please note that this is only my own opinion, I don’t know the award criteria. Hope you find the post interesting.
Note – No references to individuals or specific companies are made on this post for personal reasons. I’m extremely grateful to some people for their contribution, and I’m sure they know who they are.
November 2009. I started my first job right after graduating (same day!) and was asked the magic question that, in some way, ended up shaping my whole professional career so far. “Do you know what SharePoint is?”. No I didn’t, so was given a USB stick with more than 1Gb of SharePoint PDF books. Together with a virtual machine with MOSS 2007 to start playing.
10 years have passed since then, and a very large number of client projects completed. I can honestly say that I really like what I do. SharePoint development is not easy, and it was much harder back then; but like any other platform, you need to know it’s limits and limitations in order to avoid getting into trouble. Luckily SharePoint is a huge development platform, and after nearly 10 years, I still learn new things almost every day. It definitely helps keeping the motivation levels high!
During this time, I also had the pleasure of meeting and working with so many great people! It definitely helps to be surrounded by great professionals that are a true source of inspiration and motivation!
If I had to choose what (in my opinion) is the most important thing for any person working in the technology space, I would say being aware of what others are doing. Technology in general is not a “one horse race”, and this is definitely true for development. If you are not aware of what other professionals (in your tech stack) are doing, how can you evaluate your solutions and ensure that you deliver the best option to your clients? How can you ensure that you are not wasting time trying to find a solution to a problem? What if the problem has been already acknowledged and solved by other professionals?
In the current days, the SharePoint development community is very active and vibrant. There are lots of people who frequently produce new content, from blogs posts, videos, tools, code samples, you name it…Your biggest problem will be to select the content you can consume in the time you have available. Everyone is welcome and you will find that most people are genuinely helpful. Of course this didn’t happen randomly, and some people from Microsoft played a significant role on it’s growth and development. And this clearly demonstrates that all sides benefits from it.
Community projects on GitHub
Personally, this is also the area I most enjoy contributing to. Simply because you can get immediate feedback and use that to improve as a person and a professional.
Over time, I have contributed with some new sample solutions to the PnP repositories on GitHub. But I also try to always help improve the solutions provided by other people when using them in real projects. When I use an open source project, I feel I should contribute back, even if the contribution is small. It serves as a “thank you” to the people maintaining the code, and also helps me to better understand it.
I have also had the absolute pleasure, for two occasions, to do a sample solution demo on the SharePoint community calls (PnP). I have huge respect for the people that make those calls possible, as I have learned so much from attending them every time I can. Having the opportunity to contribute was an amazing experience. I highly recommend every SharePoint developer to join the community calls. It is the best (and easiest!) way to stay up to date with new updates.
It is also worth mentioning here the impact that Twitter had in all of this. I only joined Twitter about 2 years ago when a colleague strongly advised me to do so. And it deeply changed how I was involved with the community. It seems to be a common ground for most people in the community, so this is definitely the best way to get in contact with them!
I started following SharePoint blogs immediately after being presented with the first unexpected errors on my first SharePoint project. Back then, official documentation was nowhere near the resources that we have now, and blog posts were often “life saver”. And I still follow some of those blogs 10 years later!
It took me a long time (years!) to go ahead with the idea of creating my own blog. I only regret not doing it earlier.
I decided to write my posts in English (instead of Portuguese) so they could be consumed by a broader audience. Of course this has some impact on the time that it takes me to write a new post, and on the quality of the content, but it’s a barrier that I have learned to accept. My posts will likely never by grammatically perfect, but I hope that’s not the reason why someone would be reading them 🙂
I’m also not great with translating my ideas to text 🙂 but that does not prevent me from sharing knowledge every time I have the opportunity to write a blog post.
I’m not an extrovert person by heart, so I really pushed myself out of my comfort zone here.
In 2018, motivated by my co-workers at the time, I started submitting sessions to speak at conferences. I was not (I’m still nowhere near) an experienced speaker, so I had no real expectations of being selected, but still thought it was worth a shot. Ang I got selected 5 times! The first session was at the local SharePoint/O365 user group (Birmingham UK). Next, SPS Madrid and SPS Barcelona, followed by Evolve (Birmingham) and SPS Leicester!
The experience from 2018 was so great that I submitted again some sessions this year and had the pleasure to return to SPS Madrid and SPS Leicester!
Just a few planning tips in case you are considering doing this for the first time: international conferences often require that you travel the day before (if you want to be there from start to end) and you may not get a return flight on the same day, so you may need 3 days for a 1 day conference (!); also be aware that you will have to consider expenses, as some conferences may have budget to help with costs but it’s not very likely that they will cover travel + accommodation + subsistence…
There are plenty of places were people go and ask technical questions nowadays: Microsoft Tech Community, GitHub, Stack Overflow, etc, etc, etc, …
Personally I try to focus more on Microsoft Tech Community, and the reason for it is simply because I can have an email alert sent to me when a new question is posted within the SharePoint development area. I can quickly look at the title and decide if it relates to something I can help or not.
I also try to be active on GitHub issues list for SharePoint in general (sp-dev-docs). But most of the time someone already provided similar input by the time I see the issue – did I already mentioned that the SharePoint dev community was very active?!
Personal advice – MVP award
When I started to get more involved with the community, a former SharePoint MVP and colleague gave me a very good advice: do not set the MVP award as an objective and do not work with the aim to get it.
The reason is simple: it is not ultimately under your control if you get the MVP award or not. It is a long process, and if you are focused purely on the award you may lose the motivation over time.
If, in the other hand, it gives you joy to contribute to the community, then just appreciate that and enjoy what you do. Do not set targets or put extra pressure on you, just do it when you have the time and because you enjoy it. The award may or may never come, but you will never be disappointed.
Also, if you are active on the community, everyone will recognise your efforts and respect you for that. In my opinion, that is worth a lot more than the award.
Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the community!