Road to Microsoft MVP, Craftsmanship & beyond …

2013 has been a busy year. We all have had our ups & downs and worked on products/technologies that we are passionate about. And it is particularly rewarding when others recognize your passion, efforts to grow our craft, technical prowess & community involvement. I am really honored and humbled to be named a Microsoft MVP in Client Development for 2014.

Now, it is customary to share some feelings/experiences along the road & what it all means. This is, at times tricky, since the subject does bring out our sentiments. This in no way, is a check-off list towards your goals; quite simply, my ramblings on the recent past & some common sense.

The pursuit of craftsmanship & not labels ..

  • The meaning — First, what does it mean to be a Microsoft MVP? It is a recognition of one’s passion around a Microsoft product/platform, technical knowledge & willingness to share/stir community excitement around MSFT technologies. MVP is an award system, with no definitive way to the goal .. and that is the point. We all have our passions & there needs to be flexibility to chart one’s own course. For more information, please visit the the MVP support site or the official blog.
  • The meaning, again — So, let’s rephrase. Since we cannot know everything about everything, the MVP award acknowledges one’s technical knowledge in a specific platform/product/domain. Now, this does not mean that all MVPs are technical rockstars; they definitely know their stuff .. but more importantly, are willing to actively share their knowledge. MVP is a a community award, recognizing significant community contributions around a MSFT platform & helping others. There are no shortcut & one has to be in it for the long haul.
  • The Showmanship — Someone recently said “We’re beyond writing software, we just talk about it” .. this a little funny & sometimes true. In our constant zeal to leave a footprint for other developers & make ourselves known in the community, we could sometimes get in the mode of blogging/speaking about every cool piece of code we write. While this is an extreme example, you should see the value of putting yourself out there. Every developer needs to have a blog .. yes, writing can be painstaking; but there has to be something interesting you worked on recently, something you would like to share. It does not hurt to put out your thoughts and content to contribute on a topic, and it slowly establishes you as a knowledge resource.
  • The Volunteer Army — MVPs often are the public face of Microsoft on a certain technology/product/platform. So, you can see why MSFT would be careful about which volunteers represent them. And that is partly the reason behind choosing folks who are vocal about their passion in the developer ecosystem.
  • The Guilt — This is purely my stance; MVP awards come a little guilt. I personally know way too many awesome developers around, many of whom are much smarter than I am. These developers silently do their awesome work in cubicles & are well respected in their respective teams; but may not be well-known in the community because they are not vocal about what they are up to. This is where comes my next urge ..
  • The step-out — If you are a developer, I honestly urge you to come out of the shell & start interacting with the developer community. I can vouch you will find the experience very enriching. For one, it opens our avenues to learn from like-minded people; developers just like you, who are trying improve their craft every day. Second, it helps you market yourself as a professional & establish your expertise, in ways your resume could never do. So, start by going to your nearest User Group or developer community meeting. Write & speak about what you’re passionate about. Take up writing a book or author a Pluralsight course or be active on a developer forum. I can promise that the tiny guilt of being a showman will vanish in the face of how much you are learning from other developers.
  • Are you social? — Well, this is an ironic question for developers, when we IM our buddy across the cube wall, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter what form of social media you use, as long as you interact with the right folks & getting your information from the right sources. This is pivotal in staying up to date as a developer. Twitter has quickly become one of the best ways to keep up on what’s latest in any technology & engage in conversations with your fellow developers. Bottomline, be social in any way you want, but make sure you are engaged & learning from other developers.
  • Learn, Learn, Learn — This goes without saying, right? The nature of our industry demands us to be in an always-learning mode & there are plenty of free materials to go by. So, voraciously consume anything you can get your hands on – MSDN, StackOverflow, Twitter, eBooks, developer blogs etc. If you think you are the smartest person in a room or in your team, it is time to jump out of the windows & run, so we can keep on learning 🙂
  • Community Investments — Give plenty & you shall receive. Investing in developer community helps us grow as professionals .. network with as many folks as you can & help in whatever you can. Keep the good faith that your efforts are being noticed.
  • The Help — Microsoft has a DPE (Developer Platform Evangelism) program which puts ‘field agents’ closer to developer communities across the world, as well as wonderful MVP Program leads. These are some of the smartest folks you’ll work with .. make sure to get in touch with them in your developer community. I promise – they’ll help.
  • The DON’Ts — Some of this is common sense, but common sense is not that common & we all make mistakes. Let us try to stay away from being rude, vulgar & disrespectful to others – this is plain uncalled for & leaves bad taste amidst a community of sharp brains. Off course, we will have strong opinions about technology; but we can agree to disagree in a respectful manner.
  • The Respect — We can sometimes forget in the Microsoft realm that the world does not spin around us; there are plenty of brilliant developers working on non-Microsoft or Open-Source technologies or projects. And the least we can do is be respectful to all the good work outside our domain of expertise. This shows maturity & professionalism; and gets you respect from the other folks.
  • Believe — Lastly, be confident in your abilities as a developer & genuine in your efforts. MVP or other recognitions may be the goal; but it is the journey that is more important, since it puts your career on a great track. Decide if a label is more important than respect from your peers .. and make peace with it. Be truly passionate about the technology, there is no way to fake this. Believe patiently in folks around you & your good deeds will not go in vain. Best wishes for your journey ..

Truly believe that software craftsmanship is a lifelong journey .. rewards will come along the way.

Cheers for a wonderful 2014!


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