The Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award is a prestigious recognition bestowed by Microsoft to individuals who have made outstanding contributions in the technical community. I am honored to have received this award continuously for the past six years. In this article, I will share my understanding of the MVP award and its impact on both myself and the community.
(Figure: Microsoft MVP Award Trophy)
Since my childhood, I have had a strong interest in computers. In the summer vacation of 2008, I took advantage of that time to self-study .NET programming, preparing myself for the upcoming college life. During that period, I primarily relied on tutorials provided by the "MSDN Webcast" website, and I distinctly remember that before each lesson, the instructor, Mr. Su Peng, proudly announced his title: Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) and Microsoft Invited Lecturer.
Upon entering college, I realized that the course content was far from sufficient to meet the needs of real-world programmers. As a result, I personally purchased the book "C# and .NET 3.5 Advanced Programming" and was pleasantly surprised to see the Microsoft MVP logo on its cover.
(Figure: Pro C# 2008 and the .NET 3.5 Platform book)
The first year after graduation, being a passionate Microsoft fan, I spent half of my monthly salary to attend the TechEd 2013 technology conference. To my delight, I discovered that many of the speakers were Microsoft MVPs. The title "Most Valuable Professional" continued to shine brightly in my heart, filling me with deep admiration.
A Good Person's Recommendation
Although my college life was ordinary and unremarkable, I have been fortunate in my journey in the field of technology. My first job was at Infosys, an Indian software outsourcing company. While it may not have the same reputation as BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent), my colleagues there were all exceptional individuals. Among them was a person known as "Loushang Nage Shushu" (Zheng Xing), who crossed paths with me on the same project. At that time, Microsoft's Windows Phone was rising rapidly (although it eventually met its demise), and Zheng Xing, with his unique talents in Windows Phone development, won the legendary "Microsoft Most Valuable Professional" award, which deeply impressed and inspired me.
I developed a habit during my college days, which was to write technical blogs. I built my blog from scratch using ASP.NET, allowing me to learn, practice, and document my experiences simultaneously. Since I didn't have a girlfriend and had plenty of free time outside of work, I dedicated a significant amount of time to technical research. Every month, I managed to produce 6-7 articles, unaware that this was already a substantial output. Little did I know that writing blogs was considered an important contribution path in the evaluation process of the Microsoft MVP program.
In 2015, the release of Windows 10 once again ignited the excitement within me as a passionate follower. I stayed up late, tirelessly engaging in UWP (Universal Windows Platform) development and accumulated a substantial amount of blog content and a few popular applications (although Microsoft's product line in this area did not ultimately succeed). One day, Zheng Xing suggested that I consider applying for the Microsoft MVP program, and he recommended me to Christina Liang, the MVP lead for the Greater China region. At that time, I didn't have high expectations. After all, I was just an ordinary person from a second-tier university, working in an average company. How could I possibly be on the same level as those experts who write books and give speeches?
To my surprise, after several months of communication and evaluation by Microsoft's headquarters in the United States, I was successfully awarded the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) title in October 2017, focusing on Windows development technology. This news caught me completely off guard and left me speechless.
Now I believe even more strongly that education is just a phase in one's life, and that skills and abilities are lifelong assets.
Two years later, I shifted my focus away from Windows and delved into the field of cloud computing. I applied for the Azure MVP and was successfully awarded the title, a recognition that continues to this day.
The enthusiastic community and top-tier technical circles
One month before the official announcement, Christina invited me and a few current MVPs in Shanghai to meet up. During this process, I gradually learned that Microsoft MVPs have their own activities, such as the MVP Global Summit, MVP China Summit, and they often send out small gifts. They also form a close-knit community, where they can organize and participate in technical events, and deliver speeches at conferences. All of this surprised me greatly and left me in awe, as I had previously mistakenly believed that becoming an MVP was like passing an English proficiency test and that was the end of it. In reality, after becoming an MVP, I realized that I had become part of an active technical community.
(Figure: 2017 China MVP Community Connection)
This technical community is unlike any I have encountered before. Compared to the dull and traditional programmers, this community is filled with enthusiasm and a positive atmosphere. This is precisely the spirit of Microsoft MVPs: not only possessing technical expertise but also being eager to share it.
Due to the community members coming from all over the world, diversity and inclusion have become particularly important. Regardless of gender, race, skin color, beliefs, political views, or even physical and mental characteristics, MVPs prioritize mutual respect. In the Chinese MVP community, there are even some who have met through this program and eventually entered into marriage.
(Figure: China MVP at Tech Summit 2018 conference)
One of the most unforgettable experiences during my time in the MVP program was attending the MVP Global Summit at the Microsoft headquarters in the United States in 2019, which I mentioned in an article before. This annual event brings together MVPs from around the world, gathering at the Microsoft campus to listen to Microsoft's untold technical secrets and share their own research achievements. In the Microsoft campus, every step you take could potentially lead you to encounter globally renowned tech gurus. Some of these gurus have created programming languages used by 40% of programmers worldwide, and some have released software packages with download counts about to exceeding the maximum value of a 32-bit integer. MVPs had the privilege of taking photos with them, creating a rare and shining moment in their lives.
(Figure: My photo with Scott Hanselman)
Even more enviable is the opportunity to personally meet Microsoft founder Bill Gates and CEO Satya Nadella. However, as a homebody, I deeply regret missing out on these two chances, and the feeling of remorse fills me with regret.
As the saying goes, a person's social circle is crucial as it determines their knowledge and perspective. The Microsoft MVP community is a top-tier social circle in the field of technology. Compared to the demanding 996 work culture, being able to join this community is like a true blessing earned from past lives.
Making friends with open-source software
Before becoming an MVP, I had reservations about open-source software. Until 2014, Microsoft itself was widely criticized as an adversary of open-source. However, through interactions with the MVP community, I began to embrace open-source and gradually changed my perspective.
The very first program I chose to open-source was one of my Windows 10 UWP applications that led to my MVP recognition. One of them, "Character Map UWP," received significant contributions from the community after being open-sourced. It not only made great strides in terms of functionality and performance but also achieved tremendous success among professionals and a large user base. The app has surpassed millions of installations, and it is even being used by employees of Microsoft's Windows product group. Such achievements would not have been possible without the support of open-source.
(Figure: Character Map UWP Application Rewritten by Community Experts)
Another highly successful open-source project of mine is my technical blog. In 2018, when I chose to completely rewrite this project using ASP.NET Core, I also made the decision to open-source it. I integrated it with my technical expertise and incorporated 14 Azure services. However, I also listened to the community's feedback and avoided vendor lock-in, making my blog system capable of running independently of Azure. This decision was well received by users, and the community provided support for non-Microsoft platforms such as MySQL and MinIO. Now, numerous technical professionals both domestically and internationally, including Microsoft employees, use my blog system to build their own blogs. Without open-source, none of these achievements would have been possible.
By leading my own open-source projects and contributing to other projects, I often encounter issues related to the .NET and Azure platforms and can provide constructive suggestions. I communicate with Microsoft's Product Group (PG) and utilize this feedback channel to convey these issues and suggestions to them. This is also one of the daily responsibilities as an MVP.
I have witnessed the power and flexibility of open-source software and its positive impact on the technology community. I have started actively participating in open-source projects, contributing code and documentation, and collaborating with other members of the open-source community. This mindset shift has not only expanded my technical horizons but also made me more open and inclusive in embracing different technology solutions.
Today, open-source software has become an indispensable part of my daily work and life. It has become a valuable asset that I have gained in the MVP community.
Fame or profit
The book "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" provides a deep analysis of the open-source model, pointing out that in this model, the hacker spirit seeks a "gift culture" that goes beyond monetary rewards. This culture is more inclined towards gaining reputation and status within the technology community. People do not contribute without reason, and this is true for MVPs as well. Apart from the benefits such as genuine software provided by Microsoft and its partners, we do not receive monetary rewards but rather a sense of honor.
I come from humble beginnings, without a prestigious education or wealthy background. However, becoming a Microsoft MVP has been the sole title I proudly hold. Having the honor of being a Microsoft MVP undoubtedly provides me with many advantageous opportunities in my professional circle. I owe this to the reputation established by the veteran MVPs for this brand. Within my company, my colleagues trust my technical abilities more because I am an MVP. In my daily life, when I introduce myself to others, I often receive appreciation for the title of Microsoft MVP.
I deeply admire Microsoft's mission. From the initial goal of "a computer on every desk and in every home" to the current mission of "empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more", these great objectives drive the continuous progress of human civilization. Becoming a Microsoft MVP allows me to be a part of this driving force behind the mission, and it is something I take great pride in.
Compared to those who earn their living through performance and eloquence, it is not shameful for technical professionals to pursue fame and fortune through their intelligence and skills. This is another important asset that the MVP program possesses.
Always be humble
Despite receiving the Microsoft MVP award, I always maintain a humble attitude. I understand that the significance of this award lies in my contributions to the technical community, rather than just personal honor.
Firstly, six years in the MVP community is not exceptional, in fact, it's relatively short. MVPs worldwide undergo a renew process every year, where Microsoft in the United States reviews the technical contributions of each MVP over the past year to ensure the quality and value of the program. If we become complacent and fail to persist in learning and improving, we run the risk of being phased out. Therefore, the six years of MVP experience are also a continuous growth process.
Secondly, in the field of technology, the more we learn, the more we realize our own ignorance. Take my award category as an example, Microsoft Azure has hundreds of products and services, and I am only familiar with a dozen or so. In the programming industry, we often encounter people who think they have mastered the entire software development just because they can write CRUD operations. I have also had this arrogant stage when I was young, although I have now left the realm of being a "frog at the bottom of a well", but I am well aware that the land and sky I see after climbing out of the well do not represent the entirety of the world. There is still the Earth, the solar system, the Milky Way galaxy, and the entire universe. The more we look outward, the more we realize our ignorance and insignificance.
I will continue to dedicate myself to sharing knowledge, helping others, and driving technological progress. I believe that humility is an important quality for a successful technical expert. It keeps me eager to learn and grow, and constantly reminds me that there is always more to learn.
Several years ago, Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) set an excellent example for me in the technical community, which ultimately led me to decide to join the program through hard work. The Microsoft MVP program has allowed me to enter the top-tier technology circle, meet various outstanding talents, and has brought me abundant benefits and reputation. It has also changed my perspective on open-source software. I sincerely appreciate Microsoft for providing me with such a platform; it has been a crucial experience in my life. I will continue to remain humble and contribute to the technical community through my passion and abilities.