Sunday, April 06, 2008

Heroes Happen {everywhere}

Two significant events happened this week which impacted me directly in my chosen field of information technology. One was the CIPS and ICTC Heroes Happen Here Community Connection Event co-sponsored with Microsoft at Conestoga College on Wednesday evening (2-Apr-2008). The other was receiving news that I had been awarded Microsoft's MVP designation in the category of Windows Server Customer Experience for 2008 (my MVP profile is located here).

Events like this have certain prerequisites, one of which is vendor representation and sponsorship. It couldn't really be otherwise. In fact, without Microsoft's involvement, events like this would be far more difficult to organize and to attract attendees. One obvious reason is the swag. You can depend on getting information, sample software, pens, booklets, thumb drives and other assorted goodies at virtually every event. You may not end up using them, but the bag of "stuff" still is an attractor. And some lucky people are always rewarded with door prizes (assuming the event is not too large to make door prizes unmanageable).

But the other key to events having vendor sponsorship may not be as readily noticed but is even more significant - networking with other IT professionals. In the Waterloo Region, for example, information technology professionals number in the thousands. But because we tend to be spread out over thousands of organizations as well, there is a need to see and hear what others are doing and thinking with the same hardware, software, services and architecture. These networking opportunities can either confirm your current practice, or, as is so often the case, open your eyes to other ways of doing things. And, of course, the original attractor in this case is the tools and technology offered by the sponsoring vendor. That's the initial draw, followed by the opportunity to network.

This event had the moniker (promoted throughout similar events in North America and elsewhere) of Heroes Happen {Here}. With IT attracting fewer students out of high school into computer science, systems engineering, and programming in universities and colleges across North America (a legacy, probably, of the Dot Com bust), recognizing and celebrating the contributions of IT professionals becomes even more important. It's true that computer technology is pervasive and that virtually all professions now depend on IT as a commodity (which might also help explain why students are less inclined to view IT as a career choice; after all, everyone has to be knowledgeable to some extent about IT just to get the job done). But the IT men and women in the trenches still deserve recognition.

With IT seen as a commodity by many, recognition outside your place of employment might be critical to your self-esteem. If you're involved in a company where IT is seen as a strategic asset, as a means of establishing a competitive speed-to-market advantage, then your contribution may already be appreciated and recognized internally. But the general public is probably still mystified by what you do and why it is important. Thus, recognition and awards do matter.

And so it was with real pride that I received the Microsoft MVP designation this week. At the same time, events like the one I attended this week and the experience of everyday life in a superb IT organization make me continually aware of just how many heroes there are out there, labouring away and achieving remarkable things, most of the time without the full recognition they deserve. And so I raise my glass both to those, like Microsoft, advancing the profile of IT professionals and to the unsung heroes in the trenches making life and work better {everywhere}.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A Proud Moment - MVP: Windows Server Customer Experience

I received notice today that I have been awarded a Microsoft MVP in the category of Windows Server Customer Experience. Never having been an MVP before, I'm not exactly sure what to expect, but right now it's just great to have the recognition that some of what I have done to build the IT Pro community in the region of Waterloo has been appreciated. I am especially grateful for the nomination and support of my good friend, colleague, and co-founder of the Waterloo-Wellington IT Professional user group in 2005, Ruth Morton, IT Pro Advisor at Microsoft Canada. If she didn't work for Microsoft, then she would be my first choice as an MVP nominee.

It's funny actually. Now that I've been officially notified, the first thought that comes to mind is "OK, so how can I continue to earn this." The most obvious answer to that question is to continue serving the IT pro community regionally. WWITPRO continues to have excellent leadership with Peter Piluk now serving as President, along with a group of directors who have all served our community for over two years together in our official capacity as executive members.

But there are other opportunities available now as well. Microsoft Canada always needs the participation and advice of IT professionals involved in their respective regional communities, and our local charitable organizations are thrilled to have us working with them. Groups like the Food Bank of Waterloo Region, for instance, will be working with us directly in providing services to those organizations and individuals both contributing to and receiving services from the food bank.

I'll continue with my writing, speaking and professional activities, of course, but I am also looking forward to developing new areas of technical expertise, one of which is to continue learning about and using PowerShell. Building knowledge of SQL Server and C# will also be useful to my employer and to my colleagues within the WWITPRO community. So, I look forward to the next year as a Microsoft MVP - an excellent challenge, honour, and opportunity. This will be a very good year.