2012 was a stressful, but rewarding year. Those who know me know I love to speak at conferences and user groups. Just how much do I love to speak? Check out my SpeakerRate profile. Last year I had 20 talks logged at SpeakerRate, 28 talks in total. Most of those talks were local user groups and local techfests, but I finally managed to hit the national spotlight with one talk at Agile 2012. I know this pales in comparison to some technical speakers, but it’s not about the quantity - it’s about the quality. I put a lot of time preparing my presentations, as I want my audience to not just be encouraged, but to be motivated to take what they’ve learned in my sessions and implement them tomorrow.
The last quarter I eased back on my speaking engagements, largely because I needed to spend more time with my family and because conferences are fairly light in the third quarter. Nevertheless, I woke up on January 1, 2013 to a rather pleasant e-mail - I had been awarded a Microsoft MVP in ASP.Net/IIS. To say this came as a surprise would be a lie, but I had been skeptical if I was going to get the award, given how competitive the awards are. There tens of thousands of professionals all over the world vying for one of these awards, and in some categories (C# and SharePoint, in particular), you have to go through multiple vetting cycles before you end up receiving the award.
For those unfamiliar, an MVP Award is given to exceptional technical community leaders who actively share their high quality, real world expertise with others. . No doubt, that’s how I see myself (though a little more modest). I realize that there are some people who only care to get awards such as these as yet another way to pad the resume. Those individuals most definitely do what they do for the wrong reasons.
I do what I do for a number of reasons. First, I love to hear myself talk. Just kidding. Those who know me know I can be (somewhat) shy in the company of others, and never as boisterous as some of those in a clique (I’m looking at you Devlin and Bud :-P). That said, I do love meeting new people. I’ve forged some really great relationships with people in the community that I would love to work with (and some of them now do!). Even if I never have that opportunity, being able to meet for beers after work with these people is a whole lot of fun.
But, while meeting new people is fun, I consider speaking as a selfless act. I don’t speak for myself - I speak for you, the community. If nobody wanted to hear what I had to say, then my conference rooms would be empty and I’d likely stay behind my computer or doing other things to help out. However, the fact that I’ve concentrated on putting together such high-quality, passionate talks on a variety of different technical and professional areas has proven to be useful to many people in my audience. What matters most is having an impact on at least one person’s perception of a topic, whether that’s opening their eyes to a new technology, providing a different perspective on how to write software, or simply inspiring them to try again at something they previously failed at - that’s what I really love.
How I View the Award
Some people see the award as an affirmation that they are the most elite, technically proficient individiuals in the world. I won’t lie - that’s how I’ve always percieved Microsoft MVPs. Some of them are stellar individuals who really are at the top of their game. However, to assume that I’ve reached the pinnacle of my technical abilities is far from the truth. I thought I was a hot shot coming into Improving Enterprises; working with such a talented, professional, and wonderful group of technologists and mentors has really helped me remain consistently modest about my technical abilities.
In our field, there are experts, people who cannot achieve a level higher than they are already at. However, those individuals are experts on such a niche topic, that field itself is already evolved to its maximum potential, allowing for experts to finally attain their place. However, I see myself as extremely proficient in a lot of the areas I work - SharePoint, PHP, ASP.Net, and systems administration, in particular. That said, because each of those areas are so broad and have so many different uses, it’s impossible for me to become an “expert” in these fields. It’s hard for anyone to become an expert in these fields. If you come across anyone who claims to be an expert, I guarantee you’ll find gaps in their knowledge somewhere. That’s how I view experts - people who know everything there is to know.
With that said, I am humbled to know that Microsoft does see me as not only a skilled technologist, but that my contributions to the community are useful. That’s ultimately how I view this MVP Award - it’s affirmation that I should continue to do what I’m doing. It’s Microsoft willing to expend resources and provide me with information that will continue to help me educate my audience.
I don’t (and won’t) hold my MVP award above anyone else - that’s just not the type of person I am. Instead, I proudly wear this badge of honor as a beacon for others to reach out to ask questions. I’m always interested in helping people out - that’s why I work for Improving Enterprises. Their motto directly aligns with my goals - Improving - It’s what we do.
I would not be receiving this award if it weren’t for the help of Improving Enterprises. The company actively encourages community participation, and goes above and beyond to help each other out with mentoring, guidance, and access to some of the best people in our area. There are two people from Improving who have been great motivators and put their necks on the line to vouch for me - Devlin Liles and Tim Rayburn. You guys rock and I love working with you both! Allen Hurst, my mentor for the last two and a half years, has truly been an inspiration, and has become one of my best friends. Without him, I likely wouldn’t have been such an avid speaker. Zain Naboulsi and Chris Koenig, both from Microsoft, were also a great help towards getting me vetted through the MVP process and deserve major kudos.
Of course, I would not be nearly as successful at the things I do without my family. I thank my father, David Weldon, for showing me the way early in being a speaker. For as long as I can remember, my father not only attended medical conferences, but was frequently a speaker at them, and often times went out of his way to make sure that I could attend to watch him speak. While I rarely ever understood the material, his charisma and style of presenting have rubbed off - in a very positive way. Thank you, dad.
Finally, to my wife, Melissa, and son, Tristan, you both deserve the sun and the moon. You both motivate me to continually be a better person, encourage me when I am under stress, and are understanding when I am not around. I am often times not around or am too busy to spend the quality time you two deserve, and for that I’m sorry. I shout from my proverbial mountain top how much I love you both, and how much you both mean to me, and thank you both so incredibly much for being such a wonderful and patient family.