Many in the community ask me what the benefits are of working for the community. Most community activists, I believe, including myself, do not work for any tangible benefits, rather from sheer passion and love for the technology, although I do not find anything wrong if you intend to obtain something in return from your community involvement. Since you asked, here are some of the pragmatic outcomes that history has recorded being observed, and many of them are from my personal experience. If you consider getting a job at Microsoft is a success, you may want to take this blog post as a blueprint of that success from an Architect/Engineer community folk’s shoes.
Before I got a job offer from Microsoft, many already knew me. And it is one of the thousands of stories at Microsoft. The principle is very simple – you work on Microsoft technologies, you spread your work among the community online/offline, get recognition for your dedication, and then discover yourself popular inside and outside Microsoft. We cultivate this culture very strongly. When I was MVP (more on this later in this post) for years, I had easy access to Microsoft’s key strategists in DPE, and my input was always considered valuable for the improvement of the community. Essentially, in many ways, MVPs build up the community from ground up.
Working in the community provides with ample opportunity to make new friends. They not only help you when needed be it Workflow troubleshooting, complex LINQ queries, Service deployment scenario, Script debugging, etc., but also will take your help as well when needed. Once you have made enough friends and names in the local industry, it often helps with finding new opportunities as well. Being out there and connecting with peers is a great way to excel in your professional career growth. Many of my friends ended up being a consultant and instructor besides their day jobs, after their years of sharing expertise among the community for free.
Software professionals usually like to be with likewise people. They prefer to chat, hangout, discuss usually with their peers, sometimes even more so than the opposite gender. What do they talk about anyway? Simplest answer is: Tech. When you sit down with bunch of people from various different kinds of work areas, interests and industries, you know already it is not the same as sitting with your coworkers who you work with 5 days a week solving the same/similar problems for the company. People from various roles and backgrounds, be it SQL DBA, Web Developer, Apps developers, Service developers, Architects, Designers, Testers, Managers, Decision Makers or IT Pros, you get different perspectives of software and services production and management. When you get to engage them online, it’s the same experience, so the community as vibrant as Microsoft’s is never a boring place.
Before you can stand in front of the audience, or write an article, blog post, books, or open source projects, you really have to do your homework. Personal branding is something you cannot compromise with, because opportunities will come and go, but it will last forever, and there’s only one chance for making a mistake. Therefore, equipping yourself with the correct technical knowledge, right point of view, be able to answer audience questions, and what not is a good and systematic effort to learn even more on the technical side. Sometimes we learn more from delivering technical content than receiving. Apparently, Personal branding can help you to go a long way, which starts with recognition.
Recognition is the by product of the consistent community contributions. If you continue to work on what you love the most about Microsoft technologies and start to share your expertise and experience with the community, you automatically gain respect and recognition as a result of your hard work. There are thousands of Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVP) awardee across the world since its inception who Microsoft awarded for sharing their world-class technical expertise among the community folks. By the way, MVPs such as myself are no longer eligible for the award while we work for Microsoft. Only a handful people Microsoft recognizes as MVP, but there are always many who are almost there. They have been identified by both Microsoft as well as the software producers of the industry who work on Microsoft technologies. Combined with the edge of internet, you always stand a good chance for new opportunities. In Bangladesh, local Microsoft community activists shine and thrive in the local software industry until they relocate to pursue foreign opportunities.
Every business requires technical expertise. If you are one of the recognized technical individuals, businesses are already knocking your doors because they need your help to sustain and grow their businesses. Many top community contributors that I know have to constantly refuse proposals of new jobs and business opportunities, because the demand is just too overwhelming for one person. Here’s an interesting fact of life: if you are already one of those top contributors, companies literally crave for you behind their closed doors, whereas you might be skeptical whether you yourself are qualified for such large/top class organizations or not. The truth is – sometimes they themselves become skeptical whether they could house a star expert like yourself for their companies at all.
I have been in the industry for quite some time. My last employer was British Telecom, where I served as a Technical Architect for 3.5 years, and my passion for the community was my after-work activities, but in the end I ended up being so much in love with sharing technical expertise, that I took it as the primary career in my life, starting my journey at Microsoft as Technical Evangelist (TE) for Bangladesh. What does a TE do anyway? A TE is responsible for planning and executing strategy for building capacity of a country’s developers and technical students. On behalf of Developer & Platform Evangelism of Microsoft, s/he helps out local technical community to succeed with Windows applications, services and experiences on cloud powered devices, built by our tools.
Sounds exciting, isn’t it? It, indeed, is! Do you want to be a prominent Microsoft community activist in Bangladesh? Shoot me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org