5 Things I need you to do if you want me to nominate you for an MVP Award

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It’s great to see so many people want to participate in the MVP Program. I find that I’m being asked fairly frequently at the moment – say, a couple of times a week – by community individuals if I will nominate them.

Here are some disclaimers:

  • I have no influence over the MVP Program at all
  • I consider myself lucky to be part of the Program. It is a gift, not an entitlement, and it can be gone at any time.
  • The people who nominated me were not my friends, apart from one person (thank you Andrew!). These were generous people who gave their time to nominate me, and it turns out I was nominated by a lot of people, over a period of time, before I got the Award.

I tend to be happy to nominate people if they ask me; after all, it’s not my decision and it may be good for the Program as well as the individual. From my experience, it wasn’t my community ‘friends’ who nominated me, it was people who didn’t know me very well but they could see that I was making a positive difference in the community. I see the MVP Award as a ‘golden ticket’ to do even more positive things for the community; it is about being other-centered, and not self-centered, I think.

OutliersI don’t see that I am an expert now I’ve been given an Award. Throughout his book Outliers, Gladwell repeatedly mentions the “10,000-Hour Rule”, claiming that the key to achieving world class expertise in any skill, is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing the correct way, for a total of around 10,000 hours. What he doesn’t say is the next step: the world is moving so fast, you have to keep working all the time to stay on top. So that means that other things sometimes have to be let go.

My brother, a wise man, once told me that ‘it’s lonely at the top’ when I complained about the number of ‘real’ friends I’d lost, particularly over the past two years. Although I don’t see myself at the top of anything (unless it is a complete mess) I see that, sometimes, other people do; and that’s why they ask for the nomination. If I can inspire someone to do good things for the community, then that’s a good thing for me. In fact, leaders should leave a plan and a structure behind them in their trail; good leaders look at what they leave behind them, as well as looking far forward into the future.

I do nominate people myself, and sometimes I’m lucky that they get the Award after one or more nominations e.g. Stephanie Locke, Mark Wilcock, Ryan Adams and Mark Broadbent, but sometimes I nominate and it doesn’t happen for the nominee. I do try to nominate people who I can see are in my ‘trail’ and hopefully, if anything, my life will serve as a cautionary tale and a ‘teachable moment’ for others.

So, what do I need you to do for me? Tell me, in your own words:

  1. Your community activities. Please list them out for me. Don’t assume that I know. I don’t remember what I did, last week. I certainly will have very little clue what you did, even if you were with me.
  2. What you think you’d contribute to community life for Microsoft, their product groups, and the people who work at Microsoft. They are people too and I love most of the ones that I come across. Be generous with your time with Microsoft people too; don’t assume that, because they work for a massive company, that they aren’t under pressure or really busy. Trust me. They are. Don’t criticise without offering to help first.
  3. The area of expertise you think you bring to the MVP Program. I know we are all Data Platform these days, but it makes things simple.
  4. What would you like to do for the Program?
  5. Tell me more about you. Help me to find a thread that makes you unique, and stand out a little.

I know it seems a lot. I’m busy and i need help filling out the form, and I want to do a good job for you. If you can’t be bothered to give me these things, well, you can’t really expect me to spend hours collating all of this information for you! I can tweak it so it’s good English (for example) but you will help me a lot of if you can be your own voice. I don’t want to miss something out, because I forgot to put something in.

What you could do in return; say thanks to me, ask other people to nominate you too, and, most of all, nominate people yourself. Be generous with your time.

Help me to help you.
Image from page 311 of "Greek athletic sports and festivals" (1910)

Jen’s PASS Diary: The Happy Prince and the Swallow

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Picture Credit: checanty

Oscar Wilde was well known for his writing for adults, but he’s probably less well known for his excellent children’s writing, too. He tackles strong themes, and they are well worth the read for adults as well as children. In one short story, The Happy Prince, Wilde writes a rather sad tale about a statue of a Happy Prince, who is somewhat misnamed because he’s never really known true happiness. In the tale, there is a swallow who was left behind after his flock flew off to Egypt. Saddened by what he saw around him, The Happy Prince tasked the swallow with giving everyone the jewels of himself, until, eventually, there was only the basic iron left. The swallow flies around, giving out the precious stones in the statue, but eventually dies, breaking the Happy Prince’s heart. There’s more to it than that, and it’s a sad tale, and for various reasons it has always been special to me.

I think that being on the PASS Board is a bit like being both the Happy Prince and the Swallow. Like everyone, I have talents, experience and wisdom in some areas, and not others. I happen to try to use my talents, small as they are, for the benefit of SQLFamily. I have won both of my PASS elections outright as the winner with the most votes. This means that SQLFamily gave me a position, but also a mandate to try and help the community via PASS. I am a volunteer and I try my best, and I give my ‘jewels’ away for free where I think they are best needing to be spent, and I am also the messenger that takes them there.

It’s a lot of work, however, inside the tent. I’d like to explain a little about how much effort I put in normally. Since I’m in Europe, attending PASS calls means that I’m on the phone late in the evenings. If I have a few calls a week, then that takes out a few of my evenings. It all adds up, and anyone in IT knows it’s not just about the meeting, there is work outside of that as well. If I was based in the US, I’d take the calls during my working day; however, it’s a different story when you have your evenings taken out. I’m just putting that here so people understand that being on the Board, from this part of the world, is actually a huge commitment and this is my third year of doing it. Fortunately I am single so it’s not impacting time with a spouse, although it does impact my newly-found Netflix addiction.

What am I working on? A few things:

There’s a difference between PASS BA the event, and PASS BA the strategy. Both require a lot of work. Vision is ‘why’, strategy is ‘what’, and execution is ‘how’. The strategy is a follow on from a vision, a mission statement of where PASS would like to go. This diagram might help, and I sit along all three of these elements:

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Credit: Goulston Group‘s image.

The PASS Mission Statement has to translate into a strategy, which then translates into execution plans. Execution is crucial, but it shouldn’t be mistaken for a strategy. A strategy is all about making a decision about where to play, and the way to play. A strategy tackles more fundamental questions:

  1. What organisation should PASS be?
  2. How does this add value to PASS?
  3. Who are the target audience for the PASS BA proposition?
  4. What are your value propositions for the BA audience?
  5. What capabilities are essential to adding value to the PASS BA organisation, and differentiating their value proposition?

In future blog posts, I will try to speak to each of these questions from my input as the PASS Business Analytics portfolio holder. A strategy provides a foundation for decision-making. It’s a garden for growth and where to cut costs, and determining priorities. The strategy gives a signpost and a guide to prevent drift, or scope creep. Personally, I have never seen scope ‘creep’ – it usually gallops! So there is a lot to think about, as I try to help PASS continue to be successful, and move forward to further success.

A strategy is particularly critical in volatile environments, and there is none more volatile than the world of data at the moment. You just need to see the Apache top level projects at the moment. Apache Spark is à la mode, but now there is also Apache Flink and Apache Arrow to consider, which also play in some of Spark’s space. Also, you could consider Apache Apex which is designed to improve the performance and speed of big data components that work together as part of a larger system. How would an architect decide, and put these bits together?

I am continuing to make sure that my voice is heard and I’ve already made the following points:

  • Strategy – I have been working a lot on the PASS BA strategy. More details on this will be ongoing, but here are some details which I’ve previously posted. I’m supporting the team as we move forward to tell our story, and that’s involved a lot of research and teamwork. Thank you Teresa C for your help 🙂
  • PASS are working on the BA Marathon, as promised in the last blog post. I’ve been having input on that.
  • I’ve raised the question of greater engagement and activity outside of the US. I’ve sent through my thoughts and ideas, and hopefully that will lead into more growth in that area, through strategy and execution. This is crucial; growing PASS will mean greater support and engagement outside of the US. My EMEA seat is supposed to give the ‘voice’ outside of the US to the rest of the Board, and I’ve already made these points on a number of occasion. In my own capacity, I spoke at SQLSaturday Vienna, SQLBits and I’m speaking at SQLSaturday Paris and SQLSaturday Dublin in June. I’m also speaking at Digital Pragmatism: Delivering Real World Improvements in Mental Health. I also spoke at Microsoft TechDays, a UK event.
  • Also, I’m supporting SQL Server Geeks in my own capacity and I’m delivering a precon for the team out there in India to help support their wonderful event and community. How much do I believe in the SQL Server Geeks event? I have 100% faith in the team out there – and SQL Server Geeks is going to be the highlight of my year.I’m delighted to see the growth in the community there. Amit Bansal, Manohar Punna and the team are doing a wonderful job. Pinal Dave runs a wonderful blog out of India. These are only a few people in that part of the world who are doing wonderful things, and they all contribute to make the Data Platform world better, both in person and online.

So, that’s a roundup. As always, please feel free to get in touch at jen.stirrup@sqlpass.org