This post has been republished via RSS; it originally appeared at: New blog articles in Microsoft Tech Community.
This post by Loryan Strant is in conjunction with the Uptake Podcast episode in Sydney.
The Microsoft Tech Community and me …. The Microsoft Tech Community is me
My name is Loryan Strant, and I’m an extrovert; my energy comes from engaging with others – and the Microsoft Tech Community is my primary source to do that.
That energy comes from learning from people, sharing stories, tips & tricks, frustrations, and knowledge.
Growing through sharing
For many, attending community events such as user groups, meetups, technical conferences (whether Microsoft-organized or other) is often seen as something on top of their job – however I see it as a part of my job. And I don’t mean that I derive income from speaking engagements or put a shirt on my back using vendor swag. What I mean is that if it weren’t for the community – I wouldn’t be who I am in my job.
While often at events these days I attend as a speaker, I also relish the opportunity to be an attendee and learn from people I know in the community – but also people I’ve never met or even heard of. And this is because, despite how I may come across in the public forum or how MVPs may be perceived – I don’t know everything. I never will, and therefore community is so important.
One of the things that drives my desire to present and be a speaker at events, is not to increase my follower count or amount of session attendees. It’s to share my knowledge and help others. If I speak to an audience of 200 people, and only one person comes up to me at the end to say they’ve learned something – I know that others will benefit from that person’s new knowledge. It may be a handful of people, or it may be thousands – but it was worth my time. Conversely, I also relish when someone shares their perspectives, experiences or a different approach – because we’ve now learned from each other and are both better for it.
Status does not maketh man
I often get asked how to “become an MVP” or to get to speak at events like Microsoft Ignite, and the reality is there is no set formula – but one thing is for sure: It doesn’t happen if you’re not an active part of the community.
When I’m asked these questions, I ask the person why they want to be an MVP or speaker, and what would accomplishing or attaining those titles or recognition mean to them. For many, they are not really part of the community, or if they are – they are just watchers/attendees.
Some people define themselves by status such as getting an award, speaking at a global conference, or by social follower count. To each their own, but those do not make anyone more or less worthy to the community.
A person who attended Ignite for the first time last year relayed a story to me of an MVP session, where the MVP presenting was a hero of his; however that view was shattered when the presenter was not able to answer all of the technical questions asked in the session. In fact, this attendee offered to help answer the questions for the presenter who accepted.
My first point to this person was that “MVP” is not a certification, it’s an award for community contribution – so it is therefore unrealistic to expect an MVP to know more than everyone about everything, even if it’s their area of focus. And the second point was that by answering the questions themselves, the attendee was also an active part of the community and sharing their knowledge – even without being a speaker. This realization gave them a different perspective, and resulted in them becoming more active on Twitter, engaging in more conversations, and sharing more of their knowledge with others.
Life/work/community balance integration
One of the common misconceptions is that we MVPs have a wonderful life being flown around to conferences worldwide and getting tons of free swag. The reality is, being an active part of the community requires both personal and financial investment. Attending conferences, user groups and meetups takes time away from your work and family, which has a cost. However, from my perspective, the reward outweighs the cost – and I don’t just mean the clothes or other swag.
By investing my time in the community, I improve my own knowledge and push myself to learn things I didn’t know previously. This improves my capabilities to be hired both as a consultant or employee, to attract clients, and potentially earn more money. No glass award trophy, no badge – just me.
This benefit flows on to my family as well, because I am happier in my job and the work that I do, and my mental cup is filled, allowing me to be a better husband and father. My family is able to travel with me to some of the conferences, so we’re able to visit places that we might never have gone to, as well as to meet people from around the world.
My wife and children are connected to these community members because they’ve met them at events, shared meals and spent quality time with them. There is no separation for me between my work life, my personal life, and my community life – they are all integrated. This rings true now, even more, as my wife was also awarded Microsoft MVP in January this year!
Recently a colleague commented that my Twitter feed was “on brand” as it was largely around Office 365. I clarified that I don’t go out of my way to maintain a brand, that is simply who I am. However in the Facebook world, I am connected to many of the people I work with both professionally and within the community – again because our lives are intertwined, which increases the strength of our connections with each other, enabling us to have more open and meaningful dialogues, regardless of whether it’s work or personal.
The Microsoft community is more than just technology
As our world evolves its understanding of social dynamics, the human mind, and many other things, so too do our approaches to how we work with them. At Microsoft Ignite last year the Humans of IT community was bigger than ever, and elements of it permeated through all aspects of the conference.
While I was only involved in facilitating an Unconference session on ADHD and how Office 365 can help, my wife was more actively involved by fostering discussions around neurodiversity every day in the Humans of IT area. It was amazing to see the openness and authenticity of the conversations she experienced, as well as those in my own workshop.
The fact that people were brave enough to leave their visage of being “perfect” IT professionals at the door and instead show their bare humanity and vulnerability was awe inspiring. I am regularly praised about my bravery to be open about my ADHD as I’ve blogged and spoken about it publicly, but in reality the people attending these table sessions and workshops were equally brave.
The Microsoft community fosters a safe space for people to share information and experiences, not just about technology.
We are all Humans of IT, and all have our challenges whether they are permanent or transient. By having such a community available to have a conversation, be heard, and learn from others is something that I hope permeates in other areas of our lives, work, and broader society.
Having challenges does not make us weak – in fact it is our ability to deal with them that makes us strong. The same is the case for being open in our conversation about these challenges – we shouldn’t be afraid to show ourselves. Our community makes us stronger in more ways than one.
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