The Power of Community

This blog post has been a long time coming. As a matter of fact, it has been on my Todo list for about two years. I know I am behind :). While parts of this post might come off as bragging or boasting that is not the intent. The point I want to get across is how the community has helped me get to where I am today.

The Back Story

The journey started about 11 or so years ago when I first moved to Arizona. I had a few friends here, through my wife, and a job but I felt like I could not grow or expand in Arizona. I’ve spent most of my career building a name for myself in New York. After looking around at the technology scene in Arizona, there were a few groups around. AZGroups was the largest Microsoft focused group at the time. I decided to attend the meetings to network and to keep up with the latest and greatest in .NET. After a few months, I decided to, mostly because I didn’t feel like driving to AZGroups, to start my own user group in the Southeast Valley. Hence the “Southeast Valley .NET User Group” was started. This launched my public speaking “career”.  After that, I started to see how networking and the community could help me and others grow.  A little bit later I started Tech Lunch South, a weekly lunch for technology people in the Southeast part of the Phoenix metro area.  It was great because I got to meet and talk with people in technology outside the Microsoft world. A bit later, I helped out with Desert Code Camp and eventually became the sole organizer of it.

The Effect

At this point you are probably saying “Blah Blah Blah Joe, I can see why you think this could be interpreted as bragging” :).  Well, let me tell you the effect these community efforts had.   The first was more speaking opportunities, I was able to speak at other groups in Arizona and California, in addition to Code Camps. Eventually, I got to speak at paid conferences, although I think I have Hurricane Sandy to thank for that :(.   But the creating of the group or lunch or organizing Desert Code Camp was not the only reason for that, it was the networking.  Through the group, lunch, and code camp I have made a lot of friends and connections.  I also got a Microsoft MVP out of it which help improved on those connections. I also got to help people along the way.


As I eluded to earlier, these community groups that I started or continued, led to some really good connections.

Some of these connections helped others:

  • One of the connections I made from this, Mike Hamilton (@mikescott8), with a little bit of help from me started the Northwest Valley .NET User Group.
  • Another one, Barry Stahl (@bsstahl) was able to start AZGiveCamp
  • Worked with the International .NET Association as Directory of Marketing, Vice President, and President to help start other users and to help them and speaker grow.

Some of these connections helped me:

The Bottom Line

The moral of the story is to try and not be the “A-typical” developer and socialize at events. Use the user group, code camp, or conference to build up a network of peers to make you and them better.  If you are looking for help on how to socialize at these events, one of my friends and fellow speaker Jeremy Clark (@jeremybytesblogged about it.

Have a “Power of the Community” story to share, post a comment below.


So you want to be a Microsoft MVP

It’s very common for myself and other Microsoft MVPs to get asked “What does it take to become a Microsoft MVP” or “I want to be an Microsoft MVP, please tell me what I can do” when we speak at conferences or chat with each others on social networks. The short answer is most people outside of Microsoft do not know that the “secret formula” is. The long answer requires a little bit of understanding of how Microsoft evaluates potential candidates for receiving the award and what the propose of the award is.

The rest of this post is my opinion on how you can become a Microsoft MVP. To see what Microsoft says about how you can become a Microsoft MVP visit

In order for one to earn the Microsoft MVP award, Microsoft has to see the recipient as some one who provides value to the Microsoft ecosystem and is influential in the software industry. The award is given based on the previous years contributions to the Microsoft ecosystem and is from one of the product teams. Product teams include, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Azure, Microsoft .NET and many others. Each product group budgets for a certain number of MVPs a year, depending on the specialty, there can be very few spots to many spots available to for new candidates. In addition to this, you need to get nominated by a Microsoft MVP or Microsoft employee for Microsoft to consider you.

OK, so how can I provide value to the Microsoft ecosystem you ask. That’s the tricky spot, there are no fixed rules, minimum contributions or formula for getting in. That being said there are a few things you can do to get on the radar:

  • you can blog
  • speak at conference / user groups
  • respond to forum post on MSDN, Stack Overflow, C# Corner and similar forums
  • help out you local user groups and Microsoft Developer Evangelists at events
  • contribute to open source projects, especially ones that Microsoft is interested in 🙂 (Thanks @jamie_dixon for the tip)

My recommendation is that you do not make becoming an Microsoft MVP a goal, but let it happen naturally by doing some of the things mentioned above and even if you do not get the Microsoft MVP award, remember that you are still helping people with your contributions.