Here’s the 8th post in our series of guest posts by Microsoft Most Valued Professionals (MVPs). Since the early 1990s, Microsoft has recognized technology champions around the world with the MVP Award. MVPs freely share their deep knowledge, real-world experience, and impartial and objective feedback to help people enhance the way they use technology. Of more than 100 million users who participate in technology communities, around 4,000 are recognized as Microsoft MVPs.

This post is by Eric Boyd, who became a Windows Azure MVP in April 2012. Thanks, Eric!

clip_image001Starting at an early age, I became very entrepreneurial and also quite intrigued by technology. I grew up in a hardworking, blue-collar family. My brother and I were loved very much, our mother worked very hard to provide opportunities for us, but we didn’t live a life of luxury. In first grade, my school had a fundraiser offering an 8-bit Nintendo with Power Pad as the grand prize. I immediately set my sights on winning that Nintendo and over the next two weeks, I sold 1136 candy bars door-to-door and won. The second place winner came in around 400 and he even organized a sales team, he and his twin brother worked together. So from an early age, I was entrepreneurial, hardworking, and interested in technology.

During the years that followed, I had multiple non-tech ventures across a range of markets from travel to overstock merchandise and I planned to go to law school to be an attorney. But in the 90s, I had an instructor introduce me to the web and HTML. I was very interested in programming the web, which led me to build some websites for my school and then I started a regional web design firm. In the late 90s, while running my web design business, I was recruited to join a VC-backed dotcom. Working for this dotcom was a blast. I was a member of an awesome team of developers, led by a great leadership team that taught me a lot. We created an ecommerce property with Microsoft technologies, including ASP, SQL Server, IIS, COM+ and MTS, and I quickly learned the value of community when pushing the envelope using cutting-edge technologies. During the few years at this dotcom, I absorbed a massive amount of knowledge and I attended many events, trainings, and conferences. I learned greatly from being in the trenches while collaborating with others in the community solving similar problems and struggling with similar challenges. After the dotcom boom became the bust, I founded a software company, served as a technology executive for many years, and now own a management and technology consultancy in Chicago called responsiveX.

Having been a participant, receiving benefits from the tech community for so many years, I have made an effort over the past few years to give back to this community that has been helpful throughout my career.  Out of my experience with startups and being a technology executive and business owner, I have developed a great appreciation for Cloud Computing. As a result, I regularly present Cloud and Windows Azure at local, regional, and national events, including user groups, code camps, and conferences like Visual Studio Live and Cloud Connect. I am also currently helping organize a couple of Midwest conferences, including That Conference in the Wisconsin Dells and CloudDevelop in Columbus, Ohio. And I frequently get involved in app-pitch contests and hackathons in the Midwest. I really enjoy seeing brilliant ideas and businesses take shape during short evening and weekend hackathons.

Over the past couple of years, there has been a lot of exciting innovation from Microsoft, including Windows Azure, Windows Phone, and Kinect. The next couple of years should also be very exciting with new features coming to Windows Azure, Windows Phone, and Windows 8. In May, I and a group of Chicago community leaders are organizing a Windows 8 app-pitch contest and hackathon called “A Date with 8.” This event should be a lot of fun, and I’m excited to see what attendees dream up for Windows 8.

I currently live between Chicago and Milwaukee with my wonderful wife, Shelly, and our two sons, Jaxon and Xander. My oldest son, Jaxon, is three years old, and he loves computers, phones, and tablets. Xander is less than a year old, but I’m thinking he’s going to quickly follow Jaxon’s lead and want gadgets of his own.

If you are in the Chicago-Milwaukee area, we are likely to bump into each other at CNUG, LCNUG, WI-INETA, Chicago Windows Phone Developer Group, Chicago Cloud Computing Meetup, Chicago Mobile Meetup, or one of many other groups. If we run into each other, feel free to strike up a conversation and let’s chat about new and interesting projects we’re working on, as well as the challenges and struggles we’ve recently worked through. If you want to connect online, you can find me blogging at http://www.EricDBoyd.com and I’m on Twitter at http://twitter.com/EricDBoyd.