Today, a slightly different post. I think it’s time to step away from the technical stuff for a moment and tell you more about my experiences in the Microsoft tech community so far.
On July 5th, 2022, I was re-awarded for the first time, entering my second year as an MVP. It seemed like a good moment to look back. I will also share some tips and lessons learned.
How it started
Back in 2017, I was working as a Microsoft cloud consultant. I was asked to participate in a “modern workplace” project, leveraging Windows 10, Microsoft Intune, and Autopilot. During this project, I reached out to many MVPs and experts like Peter van der Woude, Arjan Vroege, Albert Neef, and Peter Klapwijk, asking them a bunch of questions to help me forward. (sorry for that folks!) All this stuff was very new to me, and although I was eager to learn new stuff, I needed the community for inspiration and advice sometimes. At some point, I had long email conversations with Michael Niehaus, the (ex)godfather of Autopilot 😊. Michael was so nice putting his corporate mail on socials, so he was really approachable and helpful. As a result of that, documentation for Autopilot was improved step by step, and I really felt I was involved in shaping a Microsoft product/feature.
After that period, more and more modern workplace projects came along, and I started to be experienced in the field, sharing some tutorials with the community now and then. Somehow, that stood out to some people. During one of the projects, the project lead asked me if I was familiar with the MVP program. At that point, I had only written a couple of Dutch articles on LinkedIn, and I was convinced that I would not qualify for that title, so I let it rest, assuming I would never go that road. Little did I know……
In early 2018 I re-joined Twitter and discovered a whole new world of knowledge sharing. My network quickly expanded, and I kept learning new stuff every day, getting on top of all the new features in Microsoft 365. At that time, I was mainly focused on Microsoft Endpoint Manager. I believe it was Albert Neef who introduced me to a couple of Dutch meetups, and I loved attending those sessions. Community events were new to me, and I did not even know they existed! From that point onward, I started to visit local events more and more, where I met a lot of folks from the community, like Kenneth van Surksum, Peter Daalmans, Ronny de Jong, and Maarten Goet. I still see this as a crucial moment in my career.
The birth of janbakker.tech
Time went on, and slowly I got the urge to share my knowledge with a broader audience. Still a bit shy, but I decided to create a WordPress site to put out my rambling so that others could learn from it as well. On February 16, 2020, the first article was posted on my brand new website.
Soon I started with the Secure Score Series, and that brought me closer to the topics where I am today: Identity & Access Management and Security. Not long after that, I got in touch with Power Automate (Microsoft Flow back then), and that’s the point where stuff got serious. I learned about Graph API and fell in love with the Power Platform. Before that time, I would tell my customers: “nope, you cannot do that“. After that time, I was like: “not out of the box, but let’s see what I can build“. 😊 I learned that the Azure portal was just a UI wrapped around Graph API and that new APIs were shipped every day.
In the beginning, I was very focused on statistics. Posts with high views would make me happy. Google Analytics was open on my second screen, just to keep an eye on the visitors. As time went on, I learned that impact is more important than a high number of views. Keep in mind that most of the impact happens without you even knowing. The impact is not reflected by the number of viewers or the bounce rate.
In September 2020, I started a local meetup initiative with a friend. At the first event, I was also a speaker and did a session around FIDO2 and Azure Active Directory. That was one of my first ever public speaking moments. Up until then, I was only active by blogging and open source projects, so that was quite a step. Earlier that year, I was selected to speak on ExpertsLive in the Netherlands, but that event was canceled due to the pandemic. Looking back, I’m actually glad that opportunity got postponed because I had never spoken in public before. Now I had some more time to prepare and get used to speaking in general. Since we were in the middle of a pandemic, speaking on webinars was a great step-up from blogging, where you could sort of hiding behind your camera and still be “on the virtual stage”.
Then out of the blue, my former colleague Michel de Rooij (thanks again, mate!) nominated me for the Microsoft MVP award! As you might know, you can only be nominated by either a full-time Microsoft employee or another MVP.
Of course, I was very flattered, so I accepted the nomination and started to enter my community activities for the past 12 months. After completing that cumbersome task, the long wait began. Some folks were awarded within 90 days, while others waited for over a year to be finally awarded.
Luckily, on the first of March 2021, the redeeming word came into my mailbox. I was awarded an MVP for the year 2021! I was (and still am) so honored and proud.
Just a month before that, I became independent and started my own business. So, that period marks another critical milestone in my career.
So, you’re an MVP. Now what?
As stated before, MVP awards only last one year. That means that every year, you need to be re-awarded to stay in the program. I want to point out that not all activities happen on the surface. As soon as you land in the program, you will get many, many invites for Product Group meetings. These NDA calls are meant to show roadmaps and new features, where program managers ask for input. This is very crucial for the development of the product so that once a new feature is launched for public preview, most of the issues are polished already.
Also, some MVPs are doing a lot of stuff off the radar, such as being active on fora, providing feedback to the product team, improving documentation, or helping out the community without “bragging” about it. Public speaking or writing is not for everyone, and that’s totally fine. Being an MVP is so, so much more than that. So, if you are out there and thinking: I can never become MVP because I don’t do X, Y, and Z: do the thing you love, and try to be yourself (authentic). If your mindset is right, it will happen.
Let’s wrap up
I’m totally honest with you: I hope to stay in the program for a long time. But as I heard many MVP’s say before: even without the award, I would still do the thing I love to do most: sharing knowledge with the community. And that’s how I see it as well. Becoming or being MVP should not be the goal itself. Being awarded just confirms that you are doing the right thing for the community, and it should be unconditional.
Personally, I still need to learn a lot about storytelling, public speaking, and finding the right balance between work, family, and the community, but at the moment, I’m really happy with the way things are. Sharing is Caring!
A very interesting read, thank you. I’m just getting started with Azure and intune so I’ll certainly check out your site.
A wonderful write up Jan. Thank you for sharing.
Thanks for sharing, Jan. 🙏
A good read, thank you.
Nice article Jan. I recognise everything you’ve said from multiple technology communities on different topics I’ve been lucky enough to be part of over the years. Your lessons learned are spot on. Sharing and helping others costs time, but it more than pays for itself in the end.