It has been a really difficult 12 months for us all in so many ways and the COVID19 lockdown probably couldn’t have arrived at a worse time for everyone. I don’t think a day goes by right now where I am not worrying about the social and financial impact it has had (and is having) and hope we can all get through it as relatively unscathed as possible.
Most people probably will not know this (since I never publicly announced it) but this time last year to this very day I started an FTE position as a Senior Solutions Architect after 10 years (or so) of contracting. That was my second stint of contracting which has always lent itself well towards my community efforts, and is why I did it for so long.
As a contractor, you tend to write off expensive trips (including your time) from your own company outgoings without little thought of what the full financial impact of it really is, but as a FTE you understand the impact of these things better.
My first day on the job also coincided with the dreaded July 1st MVP renewal cycle, and I remember sitting there at my desk thinking that my day could end disastrously badly if Microsoft had felt that my community efforts over the last 12 months had not been deserving of a renewal. Thankfully, the renewal did come through and I had another 12 months of thinking of ways to give back to a community that I have personally benefited from in so many ways on my journey of personal growth.
I confess that I had hoped that my new company would have actively supported my community journey a little better in the following months ahead but I was under no illusion that it was obligated in any way to do so before I started. All I was sure of, was that one way or another, I would continue contributing to community efforts as best I could.
When you think that a single event might require 1-2 days off work, you are already potentially hitting 20 days off work (using your own holiday) without really trying and it can be really really hard attempting to juggle your own time and personal expense between community and family. Attendance of the MVP Summit alone can burn five days of your own personal holiday and £2,000 to £3,000 in travel costs.
Getting to the point
Why am I saying all this? Well, hopefully, it is fairly clear that the last twelve months of my contributions have not come without any personal compromises. I wanted to keep up my efforts made from previous years since I love being part of the extended Microsoft family. I decided to use my holiday where needed for community events (this left me with approximately 10 days for family holidays), and to accommodate expenses out of my taxed income. I have obviously tried to do this on a budget and save money where possible for flights, accommodation, parking, days required, and other things. Contractor ME would stay in a nice Hotel room with no expenses spared. Full-time employee ME stays in the cheapest room I can find and cheap flights (last year I even stayed in a dirt-cheap AirBNB shared with complete strangers – something I’d have never done before :)).
With my changing circumstances, I have still tried to give community 100% of my time -and on the whole, have succeeded. But I can always do more and will keep trying to improve and do new things. If all this wasn’t enough, the lockdown resulted in at least 4 in-person events I was scheduled to present at to be canceled. For this reason (and the others already mentioned) I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little nervous about this year’s renewal.
Despite a few blips with the MVP Portal which I confess gave some heart-stopping moments several times (note to self: next year go on holiday rather than hitting F5 every few minutes), I was very pleased to be awarded for my 5th year as an MVP (technically 5 and 1/2 but we are splitting hairs there!).
My challenge this cycle is to ramp up my efforts even further, think about different ways that I can contribute, try and make a bigger difference, and hopefully benefit the community in a positive way.
It is probably worth ending this post in saying that I am by no means unique in any way shape or form. I am just one of many many people who give up their time and money to benefit worthwhile causes. Most of these people go completely unrewarded and unrecognized. In these current times, it is worth just thinking about that for a second, and feel grateful that they exist despite not having a badge to show it.
So because of this, I am grateful that Microsoft does try to recognize community efforts and honored to receive this award again. I would like to thank everyone who is involved in the MVP Program for feeling that I (and the others like me) was worthy of it.
However, as a closing thought, I’d just like to mention that for every single MVP, there are thousands of people whose efforts have not yet been picked up, so if you have missed out, please keep doing what you are doing because you really do rock!