In this blog post, I want to share with you my Microsoft MVP journey so far, help you answer the question of how to become Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional), and what being an MVP helps in.
You can also check my other blog post that I recently published to answer many questions I am getting about what it takes to become a Microsoft MVP.
Today I received an email from Microsoft congratulating me for being a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for the third year in a row. I still remember the first time I received this email from Microsoft in 1st July 2017. I was doing some shopping in the mail and I read that email on my mobile and words can’t describe the mix of feelings I was experiencing back then. I waited till I arrived home to tell my wife, and although she didn’t understand what it means but she was happy for my achievement.
Become Microsoft MVP
Being a Microsoft MVP means a lot of things. Of course, it comes with some cool privileges and fame, but it really reflects your passion to share knowledge and engage with the tech community out there. If you share knowledge because you are passionate and you love doing it, and not because you have to do it to earn fame or to become Microsoft MVP, then you are in the right track.
It has been three years for me as part of the Microsoft MVP family, and I want to share with you my journey that led to my MVP nomination, and most importantly, how being an MVP helps you reach more people, meet other MVPs and speak in big conferences.
Passion of learning and Writing
Back in 2005 when I started working in the IT industry, my supervisor and colleagues quickly realized my technical writing skills. Not that I wrote in a professional way back then, but they knew how much I love to document what I’ve learned and how we fixed or solved a technical problem.
In 2007 I was taking a lot of Microsoft certification exams to get my MCSE 2003 certification, and there was always this section about digital certificates and encryption that I never understood back then. So, I skipped this section during my study hoping that no many question will come about it.
But l am that kind of person that can’t rest until I understand the deep technical details about things I am working on, and how they all fit together. So, I decided to spend the year 2007 studying about cryptography.
I was inspired by Bruce Schneier, who wrote a lot of books about cryptography theories. The first book I read for him was Practical Cryptography. This book was the reason I started my specialty in security. After reading this book, I purchased a lot of his books to learn more about this interesting field full of secret messages and historical facts about how cryptography was a turning point in the world war. It is so strange how a book, an article or a conversation can affect you personally and change a lot of things in your life.
I was also working on Microsoft infrastructure technologies like Active Directory, Exchange, OCS (now known as Skype for business) and many other technologies, and I gathered a lot of knowledge and tips on how to troubleshoot and fix things. Combining my technical knowledge and technical writing skills, I felt that the need to share what I’ve learned with the world.
Passion for Sharing
In January 2008, I started to seriously think about blogging, and I decided to use WordPress to host my blog. I still remember my first blog post in April 2008 about Windows Vista boot process as it was a hot topic back then. My blog posts were not well-written and without any respect to Search Engine Optimization SEO best practices (if they existed back then), but my goal was just to share what I’ve learned to the world.
You don’t have to be a professional writer to start blogging. You don’t have to be expert in WordPress also. I hear people saying, “I don’t have time” or “I am not sure what to blog about”. Some of my friends have great technical knowledge but they never consider blogging because they don’t have time.
My advice to everyone is to start with one blog post. Just write about a topic or about the way you solved a problem at work. Somewhere in the world, there is someone who might be facing the same problem and he might find your blog post and learn the answer from that blog post you wrote years back.
Just remember how happy you were when you find a blog post describing a technical problem you are facing at work and how this blog post helped you solve the problem and save the day at work. You just have to start sharing that knowledge you have.
You don’t need to be an expert in your field to blog about it and you don’t have to be an expert to become Microsoft MVP. Back in 2008, I just blogged about how I solved or fixed a technical problem and I was happy to receive a feedback from people that my blog post helped them save the day. This is the most satisfying feeling you could ever have as a blogger.
The feedback I started to receive from people about my blog posts motivated me to be a better blogger and to blog more. It took me until 2014 till I decided to move my blog post from WordPress.com to WordPress.org with the help of my colleague Taiseer Joudeh and start applying many SEO practices to have my blog post rank higher in search engines.
So my advise to you is start small, start with one blog post and don’t give too much thought on how professional your writing is. You can improve with time and learn about SEO later. With every blog post you publish, you get closure to become Microsoft MVP.
Applying for the MVP program
In 2015, one of my friends got nominated and accepted to be part of the Microsoft MVP family. Before that, I always looked at MVPs as highly technical people who are from different word and there is no chance for me to be an MVP. Some of them authored a lot of books and they speak in big and famous conferences. I didn’t have the courage to apply for the MVP program.
But I learned that “ if you want to win the race, you have to be in the race”, which means there is nothing impossible, you have just to believe in yourself and continue doing what you are passionate about which is sharing your knowledge and contributions. So, I started to read more about how to become Microsoft MVP and to connect with couple of MVPs asking them for their MVP journey. Remember, you can always ask for help.
In 2016, I gathered with some friends and we decided to establish a new tech community in Jordan and start organizing community events. We called it JoTechies and we hosted the first Global Azure Bootcamp in Jordan. I had the chance to co-organize events and speak in many events that year. Of course, it took a lot of efforts and commitment, but all of us are passionate about it. With every meeting I organize, I get closer to become Microsoft MVP.
I thought then why not to apply for the Microsoft MVP program and I actually did. I believe the reason I was accepted as a Microsoft MVP in July 2017 is due to my consistent and various contribution to the community, whether by writing blog posts or speaking in local community events.
The one thing I want you to learn from this blog post, is that you can become Microsoft MVP also. If you really love sharing your knowledge and start the first step of turning your passion to actionable contributions, then you are one step closer to become Microsoft MVP.
My First Year as Microsoft MVP
After receiving that email in 1st July 2017 that I have been accepted as a Microsoft MVP, I started to learn how can I amplify my contributions and what the MVP program has to offer me as a community contributor. To me, the most important benefit of being an MVP is having the chance to meet with other MVPs and establish professional connections with fellow MVPs.
The most exciting experience to me was attending the Microsoft MVP Summit in Redmond (the head office of Microsoft. Flying to Seattle and having the opportunity to meet new and old MVPs all gathered in once place was a non-forgettable experience. There, I met with a lot of MVPs that I had the chanced to read their blog post over the years and now I am meeting them in person.
In the photos below, you can see me meeting with Ahmed Nabil Mahmoud , Ahmad Najjar and Ahmed Bahaa Farid
I remember meeting Darrell Webster, an MVP from New Zealand, and he introduced me to a lot of MVPs in the summit which helped me establish new connections. During the summit, I also get to meet the product group in Microsoft and learned from them about new technologies and answer a lot of my technical questions, which helped me solve technical problems I am having back at work.
Getting Opportunity To Speak In International Conferences.
To become Microsoft MVP not only helped me connect with a lot of other MVPs and meet the Microsoft product group, I also get the chance to apply as a speaker to Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando in 2018. I attended Microsoft TechED and Ignite since 2007, and never thought I would become one of the speakers in such big event.
It also helped me speak in a lot of conferences like SharePoint Saturday and the Modern Workplace conference in Paris in the same year.
Speaking in international conferences helped me become a better speaker and I learned a lot from this experience. In my first speaking event, I did not have much confident and I was not satisfied from my first public speaking experience. But this helped me learn how to become more confident and how to speak in more natural and comfortable way. With each public speaking event, I become more and more confident and better. With each public speaking event, I got closure to become Microsoft MVP.
Launching My YouTube Channel
I started to get messages from fellow MVPs and from the audience to share my presentations as I developed a good PowerPoint skills over the years. People loved my presentations and they started to ask me to blog about new topics.
Because not all of my public speaking events are recorded, I decided to re-do my presentations and record them offline, and then share them online. To do so, I started my YouTube channel where I can post a recorded version of my speaking events.
It didn’t take so much time until some online learning platforms started to reach out with me to produce an online courses and teach some topics at their platform. One of them is Pluralsight, the leading learning platform out there for developers and IT pros. I watched a lot of online courses at Pluralsight and never through one day I would become one of their authors.
The key point I want to leave you with here, is to start somewhere. Start with your first blog post, record your first YouTube video or do your first public speaking event. The first step is always the hardest and with time, you will learn more and become better of doing that. Doing so, will open the opportunity for you to meet new people and for people to know you in return. This will help you more to become Microsoft MVP
Creating Your Personal Brand
I remember that session in that MVP connection event in Dubai in November 2018, when a fellow MVP Alistair Pugin talked about personal branding and how important it is for Microsoft MVPs. I never thought or knew about this topic before, but Alistair in his session talked about how to establish your personal branding and how important that is.
Personal branding is all about establishing and promoting what you stand for. Your personal brand is the unique combination of skills and experiences that make you. I started to learn more about this topic and investing time and effort to establish my personal brand across all social media channels and on creating an authority for my self inside the technical community. I encourage you to start learning more about personal branding even if you are not a Microsoft MVP.
Being Part of The MVP Family
To become Microsoft MVP opens the door for many opportunities and it really helps you connect with other MVPs through exclusive communities and events. I always reach out to fellow MVPs to ask for help and this is the beauty of such program. I learned that there is a non-spoken code between MVPs that we all should always help and support each other’s.
You also get access to many online technical communities that are only available to MVPs and RDs, which helps your get answer to your questions and get more involved in upcoming community events. I remember one time I had difficulties doing my first live video and I reached out to couple of MVPs who already did that many times, and they helped me setup my first live video talking about Microsoft Ignite tips.
Being part of the MVP community is the most rewarding experience I had in my professional career. Whenever I go to a Microsoft conference, there is an MVP gathering or special exclusive event that I go to and connect with fellow MVPs. This is one of the coolest thing that should motivate you to become Microsoft MVP.
You also can be part of the MVP family if you want. You only have to believe in yourself and be passionate about sharing your knowledge and contribute to your local technical community. Who knows, you might be a fellow MVP and become Microsoft MVP one day and meet me at one event one day!
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Wow!! wonderful journey Ammar! I think your blog will be my 2020 roadmap. Thanks for sharing
Glad you liked it ! you can do it!
Great and simple words that really inspire
Thanks Alaa 🙂 you can do it also.
Yup I have started my own blog https://azurespace.net 🙂
Great journey 👍 Very inspiring post, Ammar.
Thanks for sharing 🙂
Amazing well done .. I am inspired now