My First Year as an MVP, part 1

One year ago, I was notified via email of my first Microsoft MVP Award. It was a pretty surreal moment! I captured some of my thoughts and emotions in a blog post last year.

Now that a year has gone by, very quickly I might add, it’s time to look back at my first year as a Microsoft MVP. I’ve put together some thoughts on my year, and some things that may help other first timers in their journey too.

Stats updated one year later

Re-reading last year’s post today, the first thing that I want to update are the stats:

  • There are 3,485 MVPs as of the official site this morning vs. ~4,000 last year.
  • In Business Solutions, 196 MVPs vs. 226 last year.
  • Focusing on Dynamics GP, there are 14 today, vs. 18 last year.
    • 3 Canadians
    • 8 Americans
    • 1 each in Australia, UK, Jordan & Saudi Arabia
  • In Canada, there are 180 MVPs today vs. 186 last year.
    • 3 focusing on Dynamics GP (Beat, Rod, myself)
    • 12 in Business Solutions (there were 10 last year)

MVP Program re-organization

The program was re-organized early in 2017. The biggest change was introducing a static renewal date for all existing MVPs, starting July 1, 2017 and then annually on that date. The second biggest change was announcing new MVP awards monthly, instead of quarterly, on the 1st of each month.

This change meant extending the “renew” date for a bunch of MVPs to July 1, 2018 who may otherwise have had a shorter-than-one-year “term”. So my first “term” as an MVP will end up being Oct 1, 2016 to July 1, 2018 and hopefully it will be Happy Canada Day from 2018 onwards for me getting renewed! ? (for non-Canadians, July 1st is “Canada Day” and a national holiday).

That change also means that my renewal next year will be based on a longer contribution period, where you’re usually only measured over a year’s time. Longer review period = expectation of an even higher amount of contributions!

Reactions to my MVP Award

Within the community, those familiar with the MVP program and award were fantastic and gracious in their congratulations. It was awesome feeling a bit like a superhero for a while! Some of the other reactions varied:

  • My family reaction was mostly like “congrats, we’re really proud of you!” followed by “what exactly does that mean?”. Valid question!
  • A client I was working for put out an announcement to their entire company about my MVP award, which was also very cool!
  • Someone else in the Dynamics media community congratulated me at a conference shortly after my award, with what might be the ultimate compliment, “I thought you already were an MVP”. I’ll take that, thanks!

For most “normal” folks, they have never had an interaction with a Microsoft MVP, and the program is not something they are familiar with even if they use Microsoft products most of the time in their day to day lives or careers. If they don’t even do that, they’re less likely to have heard of it, and that’s OK.

Sometimes I found myself playing down my award, because it feels like I’m just reaching over my shoulder and patting myself on the back, which isn’t exactly my style. Just because it’s super important to me, doesn’t make it meaningful to others, and you can’t make someone realize what this means if they aren’t familiar with it in the first place.

One particular conversation though, has bothered me all year and I should have let it go 5 minutes after hearing it. It was someone who is a consultant in the Dynamics GP space, but otherwise had never heard of the MVP program. “What did you do to get that?”, which in pure written form seems very innocuous, but at the time, the tone was like “Did you mail in some cereal box tops to get it?”. At least that was what I heard, and that was pretty early on so I felt like I had to re-justify getting the award in the first place. As I said above, I should have let it go…

Imposter Syndrome is real

That last experience leads somewhat into this one. I’m a pretty confident person, and I’m quite comfortable in my abilities and skills to do my job. I know I’m very good at what I do. There are not many people that I feel have my skill set when it comes to the combined abilities to work with Dynamics GP, have conversations with anyone at any level of an organization about it, on both technical and functional topics. This is one of the few times where I’m going to toot my own horn because I have worked with many consultants over the years who just can’t think outside of any box. They listen to a client’s questions and offer solutions that are completely unrelated and won’t solve their problems. They don’t know the full functionality so they go right down the road of a customization or third party product a client doesn’t need. They make promises they can’t keep and end up losing or frustrating their clients. I could go on but I won’t. I have a breadth of skills that allows me to take on nearly any project and complete it successfully, and that’s what’s kept me in business as long as I have without having to worry about finding work.

I have not found many others like me in the past who just understand what a client needs or is asking for or should be asking for. Until I became an MVP. Then it’s like the entire world is made up of over-achievers, and boy, when you’re in a crowd of people like that, it’s pretty easy to feel like a fraud, like you snuck in the back door without paying your dues.

I do find myself second guessing my skills when it comes to presenting at conferences because we have such an awesome collection of GP MVPs that have been around so long, that you wonder what could you possibly share that they don’t already know. But, you press on, because you’re now one of them and have to (or feel like you have to) prove you’re just as good. It’s an odd feeling, one I’m not used to. I’m not afraid of my fellow GP MVPs, but at times I question whether I deserve to be there.

That feeling will pass with time. The first year is likely the toughest.

Speaking of feeling out of place…

This one might sound similar to the Imposter Syndrome I spoke of above but it’s not quite the same. The MVP program is quite “male developer” centric, from my point of view at least. I consider myself a geek but man, in this crowd, I am way out of my league. The conversations are just so over my head, I feel way out of my comfort zone. And I LOVE tech… always have.

I’ve had a chance to meet many outstanding people so far that are MVPs in many other award categories. What feels quite odd is being a Business Solutions MVP in a space where the vast majority of the MVPs are in very technical award categories. Most don’t have a clue what Business Solutions even is (if I meet someone for the first time) or that the products in there exist. Now go more specific and say I work with Dynamics GP, LOL. “Is that like CRM?".  Um, no, not quite…

I find myself describing myself as an accountant (which I am) instead of as a kick-ass GP consultant (which I also am, LOL… *pats myself on the back again*).

MVP Summit

When I was awarded last Oct. 1st, some of GP MVPs were like “you GOTTA go to MVP Summit!”, so of course, I don’t want to miss a chance to be drinking some of the MVP Kool-Aid, and I went to Redmond Washington for the event last November. It was incredible in many ways, and quite disappointing in many other ways.

The opportunities presented to us as MVPs are tremendous, I can’t say enough about that. However, being in a product line that isn’t represented in Redmond means there is no content for Dynamics GP at MVP Summit. I didn’t expect there would be but what I didn’t quite expect was that the majority of the conference is intended for product teams to be doing deep-dives into upcoming features and getting feedback on things from the MVPs in their award categories. For some reason, I actually thought it was more of a learning-focussed event and it turns out there was little or none of that, at least in my experience. Soft skills for instance, are always worth improving upon, and then I had hoped to learn more about many related products to Dynamics GP.

I sat in a couple of Microsoft Excel sessions, for example, and I am pretty confident in my Excel skills.  Until I sat in those sessions and my god, the depth of the questions and knowledge of the people in the room were unbelievable. I might as well have been a grade schooler in a 3rd year university classroom.

I quickly found out that it’s drinking from the firehose if I were to attend any sessions that I thought I remotely knew anything about before I walked in the door. Literally, drowning in information I cannot process because I don’t understand. I simply don’t use those products in as much depth as these people do every day and wow, did my head explode.

The biggest challenge I had was choosing what sessions to go to. I found that incredibly frustrating. Many product teams limit attendance at their events to *just* those award categories so Business Solutions, which was probably the least represented line of products at Summit to begin with, seemed to have a very short list of sessions from which to choose.

That was as I was preparing to go to the event, before I realized it wasn’t “educational” sessions in the first place. So, there I was, newly minted MVP, jumping up and down in the forums probably sounding like a broken record, asking why we weren’t allowed the opportunity to see more product sessions on the calendar. We touch so many technologies - SQL, Office products, SharePoint, not to mention Azure and Windows etc., that we have varying degrees of familiarity with so many things, there were many areas I was interested in.

The best parts of going to MVP Summit for me were bonding with the other GP MVPs. For once, we were all in a space without customers, without Microsoft calling on us to do anything and we could just hang out and that was so cool. Getting to meet so many of the Canadian MVPs was also amazing, although I found it hard being the newbie and not really knowing anyone in the room to even start a conversation. Throw an introvert into a loud crowded room of strangers and what do you think happens? Thank goodness there was alcohol… coping 101 haha. But I survived.

Next MVP Summit is in March. I do hope to go, and this year I will be going with VERY different expectations. I now know for me, it will be about networking, & picking sessions where I have the best chance for successfully digesting the information. Perhaps I will find a way to be using the time to better my knowledge in others ways outside of the sessions, in one of the coolest locations on the planet: Microsoft head offices!


This post is getting VERY long, so this is the end of Part 1. Part 2 of this blog is here.

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