Four years an MVP: what I’ve been doing, and what’s next?

Four things a woman should know: How to look like a girl, How to act like a lady, How to think like a man, and how to work like a dog.

I attended an event recently at which I was speaking. I met a few nice attendees who were new to the SQL Server scene, and I introduced myself briefly and listened whilst the other attendees talked. We had a nice chat, and one of them said, “it’s funny you’re called Jen Stirrup and you’re in BI…. There’s this MVP called Jen Stirrup that blogs about BI and she’s speaking here, and it would be great if I actually got to meet her’. I didn’t know what to say and whether to own up to being the one and the same. After a polite amount of time, I exited the conversation and moved gracefully on.

When I walked away, I was actually pleased. It seemed to me that the ‘actual’ Jen Stirrup was not the ‘perception’ of what these nice people thought that I should be: an MVP, a speaker, and perhaps not accessible because of these things.

Yes, I’m an MVP and a speaker. I’m delighted that I won the Microsoft MVP Award for the fourth consecutive year.

However…. Let’s get a sense of perspective. I don’t save babies. I don’t hold the hand of the dying. I don’t heal. I’m proud to say that members of my family do this, and when I think of what they do all day as part of their jobs, I’m immensely proud of them and I really do so little in comparison, and I am humbled by it. Their work makes mine look like nothing. 
I’m a volunteer for the community. I am not denigrating the Award; I am simply adding perspective. I’m happy (and extremely relieved) to have been awarded for another year. I spend all day on 1st July checking all my email accounts to see if the email has come in. It is the only email of the year that I call the email. It is a gift from Microsoft and I do value it immensely and consider myself extremely lucky.
I volunteer to serve the community. I don’t walk about like I own the place because I volunteer and do these things. I don’t want to be inaccessible. I recently held a Twitter surgery hour so folks could ask questions, and then Tom  LaRockand Denise McInerny from the PASS Board took the baton so we were available for an extended period of time. Truth is, I have great fun doing all this. My work is my passion, so it doesn’t feel like work. I’m writing this at 1AM on a Saturday night when most people are with loved ones, socialising or whatever. My work is my social life, my passion, and my hobby. I love what I do, and grateful and blessed.

When you attend an event, folks should definitely go up to speakers and chat. Speakers, by definition, like the sound of their own voices. We are not inaccessible and we love SQL Server, data, Excel and all sorts of techie stuff. So, what do I actually do, then?

Well, since elected for the PASS Board, I have done the following things as part of a team (i.e. not just me! I’m not a fairy with a magic wand).

  • I’ve brought the first Business Intelligence edition of a SQLSaturday to Europe.
  • I’ve brought the first Business Analytics edition of a SQLSaturday to Europe (more on this soon!)
  • I’ve done lots of internal PASS work on planning, strategy and so on, which is pretty invisible.
  • I’ve taken over the helm looking after the Virtual Chapters from Denise McInerny. Denise left the portfolio in such great shape, so this was easier than I thought it would be. Specifically, I have helped set up Global Hebrew, In Memory, Global French, Excel BI and I have also streamlined a few Virtual Chapters into more solid VCs. I’ve also worked on rejuvenating the Azure VC – now rebadged and reworked as Cloud VC. The Oracle VC is getting the next treatment.
  • I’ve spoken at lots of different events in the past year. I’ve spoken or helped at presentations and conferences in Amsterdam, Exeter (UK), Vienna, Bulgaria, Germany, London, Budapest, Cambridge (UK), Charlotte BA Edition, Paris, and of course SQLPass Summit in the US.
  • I also run my own User Group in Hertfordshire. I gave it the cute name HUGSS – Hertfordshire User Group for SQL Server. Nice, right? We could all do with a SQL hug now and again.
  • I also help Julie Koesmarno with the BI VC. Julie is an exemplary VC lead and I love working with her.
  • I also helped run SQLRelay last year, organising an event in Hertfordshire.
  • I’ve also run Women in Technology sessions in Lisbon, Exeter and we held our first one in Denmark this year.

I see the MVP Award as a gift from Microsoft. It is not something to be earned.

I do see it, from my perspective, as a pass which I use which makes it easier for me to do good things for people in the technical community. It simply makes things easier for me to speak to Microsoft team members and other people in the community. I gladly accept the MVP Award, and I do something with it.

So I don’t sit on my laurels when I look at the MVP Award. Instead, I think of what I’m going to do next that will be a community good.

I thank the great team at Microsoft for giving me this gift. I hope that I repay their trust by taking this Award and trying to do good things for the SQLFamily.

That does not mean I always get things right. I know that I don’t.

In case you want to email me about any of these comments, or anything about PASS in particular, my email is jen.stirrup@sqlpass.organd I look forward to hearing from you.
Last but not least, I have a whole group of people to thank:
The PASS team: Lana, Vicki, Amy L, Elizabeth, Karla and Carmen – for keeping me right and having endless patience with me, and for being tremendously smart. You know you get email from people and you think to yourself “that’s really clever, why didn’t I think of that?” whilst giving yourself a facepalm? Well this great team does this to me every week, at least once. Usually much more than that!
The PASS Board: the whole team. They continue to inspire me with their leadership and commitment, and I remain overawed by how smart they are.
People who put up with me: Allan Mitchell, my business partner for endlessly humouring me (although he puts  the word long-suffering in front of the title ‘business partner’ and I have no idea why), Mark Broadbent (who genuinely is long-suffering with all the patience he shows me, and I’m so very grateful for his help. He knows I’m terrible at delegating). James Rowland-Jones for constant wisdom and a great ‘ear’.
And of course Microsoft. They really care about users loving their products and I hope I can help users to learn how to do stuff better. Oh, and have fun with data.
And my son. The most kind-hearted, gentle, precious boy who is turning into an upright, steadfast, responsible young man. He didn’t have the best start in life due to various illnesses, and there were times when I (and the doctors) didn’t think he’d make it through the night. But he did, and he deserves everything good I can give him.
I am sure that there are others! All these events and activities: I could not do these without lots of other people. Thank you for putting up with me.
What’s next? Well, a SQLSaturday Business Analytics edition. You will have to watch this space for more details.


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