My Journey to becoming a Microsoft MVP

By Rory Monaghan

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I know this has been done a thousand times already by pretty much every other MVP out there, but I think every story is different and we’ve all been awarded this huge honor on our own unique merits and offerings to the Online IT Community. With this blog, I try to have little bits of humor thrown into my posts but by their very nature, they are technical and don’t show much personality. I want this post to be different. I want to convey both my sense of personal accomplishment and my professional accomplishment. About four years ago, I was going through a tough time personally. I needed a distraction, any distraction. I guess many turn to things like sports or travelling in these types of moments as an escape, others unfortunately turn to alcohol or some other substance in order to cope. For me, I decided I was going to throw myself into my work. I decided to look internally in my workplace for ways to progress in my company and stand out.

At this time, I was just promoted to the position of Transition Manager, but I didn’t want to just stop at this. So, I discovered thanks to my colleague Ann, that there was an internal knowledge base system that was used company wide. You could submit How to’s, White papers, Tips and Tricks and articles to this system. Each would have to be peer reviewed by two others and comply to the company criteria and standards. I was informed that if you get nine or more of these published you would get rewarded and recognized ,also each month the top contributor would also be recognized. So that was my goal. I worked for weeks and produced what I thought was twelve very good posts and submitted them for peer review. And I waited and waited….and waited some more. Nobody peer reviewed these posts, so I then actively pursued people to review these for me and right as my first post got reviewed, A company wide e-mail was received by everybody, informing that this system was being taken offline and discontinued for an undisclosed amount of time. Ain’t that a pisser?

I was very frustrated. This all culminated at a time when I actually received a job offer from a company in the UK. At this time I was living in Galway, Ireland. The place I grew up in. Taking this offer would have meant moving to Manchester and also going to a direct competitor of my then current employer. Even through some ups and downs, I really loved working for my first employer, I loved working for my then manager, he was and to this date still is the greatest manager I have worked for. No offense to my other managers, but he gave me great opportunities, believed in me and also was there for me in difficult times. I never had any inkling to move to Manchester or London or really anywhere other outside of Ireland, other than America. This is because I was born in New York City and the way of life in the US was something which I had figured was a birth right of mine and something I should experience before I take my long dirt nap.

I decided then and there that I wanted to take this time to use my leverage of this job offer to secure a transfer to the  good ‘oul US of A. I made my managers aware of the job offer and told them, I did not expect for them to be able to compete with the salary but I would make a deal with them. I said I didn’t want to leave the company, I loved it there. I told them, I want to try living in America and this is a global company. I said I would stay if they could promise to hook me up with a job in America in 9 months down the line. I told them I would stay and not only continue my current role but also help to transfer my knowledge to others as to not leave them in a hole. In fairness to them, they told me they could not guarantee me a job in the US but that they would try their best. That was enough for me and I agreed to stay.

After this point, one of the most senior Architects in the company sat down with me and wanted to help map out my future progression, See what interested me and point me towards where he thought I should go. He told me then that ‘the money’ is not in the Tech work, you need to sharpen your business skills. He had told me he would teach me the business side more, doing things like writing up proposals, quotes and invoicing. He told me this would help steer me to a more senior management role in the company. I respectfully declined and said that I understood that this plan would be good as a more sure way to make a good living but that I was more interested in the Techie side of things. He tried to persuade me that this could be foolish as the money may not be great. I told him at that time, that it wasn’t all about money for me and also, the money may not be too bad if you become one of the more respected techies in your field. It was at this time, I told him that my goal was to become a Microsoft MVP. I respected the MVP program, I had attended webinars and a couple of in person seminars presented by Irish and English MVP’s and they were people who knew their area inside and out, they could answer all questions put forth. That was my goal. Not for money, but for a sense of achievement and pride. You may as well do your job to the best of your ability! He responded to this by informing me that he actually knew an MVP who worked for the company, he told me to contact him and ask him for advise on how to become an MVP. So I did and this is the advise he gave me:

  • Register on Technet. Stay active in the Forums. Try to provide answers every week. Answers get you points and points get you recognized. For anybody who aspires to be an MVP, Check out the forums HERE
  • Create a Twitter account and network with fellow Techies.
  • Start your own blog and ensure to tweet the links so the people you network with can read it and share with others. Personally I use WordPress for my blog. It’s simple and free. When you are confident that being a blogger is for you, you can upgrade to professional and buy a more formal domain name e.g. go from rorymon.wordpress.com to rorymon.com like I did
  • Present at seminars, conferences and\or webinars. I worked with a great company called BrightTalk and hosted webinars for them which you can view on my site. There’s lots of different platforms for doing webinars. Once you’ve got yourself some recognition from your blog, reach out and see if they are interested.
  • Get published in articles, guest blogs for sites, white papers and\or books. I worked with IEITPro in Microsoft to publish a couple of guest articles containing App-V tutorials, I also collaborated with Ruben and Jurjen on the Application Virtualization Smackdown Whitepaper.
  • Get involved with a User Group. If one doesn’t exist for you, create one. This one has still escaped me, I have attempted to setup multiple user groups but thus far have not had much traction. I am still trying and if you are interested in joining please check out our site: HERE
  • You need to be nominated. Somebody who appreciates your work enough needs to nominate you in order to receive the award. But the nomination isn’t worth much, if you don’t have at least some of the above to back it all up as you will be measured on your level of contribution and shown expertise.

I lived by these pointers for the last 4 years. I had a Technet account already which to that point in time remained idle. I started actively browsing on the forums, answering questions, reviewing blog posts and gallery items. Below you can see my progression over the last few years.

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I created my Twitter account and connected with my first fellow Techies Jurjen and Thomas within hours of creating my account. Their first tweets to me were messages of encouragement which is really representative of all that I have received from people on Twitter, nothing but good!. I can not recommend this enough, I have ‘virtually’ met some really great people who have not just supported me but have also actually helped me out on numerous occasions. I’ve got people to collaborate with and hopefully some day soon meet up with and have a few beers with!

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Honestly for the rest of the points listed, for getting published with a White Paper, for starting a User Group and for presenting webinars. I really just got fortunate. Again Twitter was a big help. I saw a tweet regarding help required for the White paper and signed up. I discussed a User Group on Twitter and decided to work with Nicke on that. I got contacted by Bright Talk about possibly hosting a webinar. I actually now get contacted by many vendors who would like me to review their products for my site. It’s a form of marketing for them I’m sure, but it’s also a great learning opportunity for me and also a chance to contribute to the online community. Something which I did not mention is obviously work ethic, all of this requires a lot of time and effort. I use to play video games a lot, I use to play soccer and go for walks etc. I find I have replaced all of that with researching and learning. I’m somewhat addicted to it! Which actually hasn’t been great for my health but that’s my own fault and something I am working on fixing! Watch out for that pitfall, ensure you keep a good balance for yourself. Fortunately for me, my desire to move to America actually came to fruition. I did not get the chance to move with my now past employer, but once my nine months were up, I moved to Phoenix, Arizona and took a new job. Phoenix has brutal summers, you just can’t go outside and so I spend a lot of my time indoors working in my computer lab. Which I’m sure has helped keep me active and skilled up!

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I had never been as proud of myself as when I received that e-mail on October 1st, 2013. It was not just validation from an organization whom I have a great respect for but it was also the culmination of years of hard work and effort, the realization of my own personal goal and the start of a brand new challenge. I will be attending the MVP Summit in Bellvue, Washington in a few weeks time, ironically this will be my first proper conference, Ever! I can’t think of a better way to get that ball rolling. I now also have to work to keep this title. MVP’s are under review each year to determine if they should remain an MVP. In this vain, I am currently working on updating the Application Virtualization Smackdown white paper with my colleagues, which may actually also be released as a book for the first time. I am possibly going to be presenting a webinar on App-V 5.0 SP2, but this is pending on an official release of this version by Microsoft and the hope that the timing doesn’t conflict with my vacation time (which has been a long time coming!!). I will be updating my App-V Decision Matrix with this release also, which is one of the most popular posts on this site. I also intend on contributing more and more posts not just about App-V but about many different technologies. I will be doing all in my power to ensure, I retain this title as it’s a great point of pride for me and gives me a keen insight and contact with the real brain-trust of App-V. Please keep watching this space, as I plan on having another very active year 🙂

Thanks to everybody who has frequented my site and those who have offered me such great support.

Go raibh mile maith agat,

Rory Monaghan

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