Inside Track: Rising to the challenge of the Microsoft MVP award

Posted on Friday, December 04, 2020
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By Lance Williams
Head of Services Market Development

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What do a Sony Walkman, a flower decorating oasis (the green stuff you stick flowers in), Microsoft 365 and the most prestigious Microsoft individual contributor award all have in common? The answer is, Softcat’s Peter Rising.

What is a Microsoft MVP?

Those in the product development world understand an MVP to be a minimum viable version of the product they’re developing. In Microsoft’s world, however, an MVP couldn’t be further from the same! Standing for ‘Most Valuable Professional’, this title is saved for only the best of the best - “technology experts [who] have an unstoppable urge to get their hands on new, exciting technologies and love to share their knowledge” (MVP.Microsoft.com).

Introduction to Softcat’s Microsoft MVP

Meet Softcat’s recently awarded Microsoft MVP - South Shields born, father of two, husband to one, Microsoft Senior Technical Consultant - Peter Rising. Sitting before me on Microsoft Teams (arguably the perfect platform for interviewing a Microsoft MVP) Pete regales me of a career that started out in tech, albeit in the TV & Audio section of John Lewis in the late 80s selling Sony Walkmans, before hopping into IT while in a law firm “office junior” role thanks to the then IT Manager, Deborah Hayward. Pete stayed in internal IT roles until 2014, when he made the leap to IT Solutions and into the world of Microsoft 365. Pete eventually joined Softcat in 2016, where he has shifted his focus to Microsoft 365 Security & Compliance and Collaboration.

What does it take to become a Microsoft MVP?

According to Pete, it’s a bunch of encouragement, a nomination from someone at Microsoft or a current MVP, a well-fed reservoir of enthusiasm and drive to help others and a very understanding family. Earlier in 2019, Pete had started writing a book (now published and available on Amazon.co.uk), when his then boss, Gareth Bowen (now at Microsoft), suggested he might extend his enthusiasm for Microsoft 365 to work towards an MVP award. Pete’s a humble guy and said to me that, initially, he couldn’t believe that “little old me” could take it on. But he did. His nomination came from former colleague and long-time mentor, Andy Kemp, who also introduced Pete to a host of current MVPs. Pete was immediately stunned by how incredibly friendly, supportive and generous everyone was with their time. That was it. If Pete had any lingering doubts, they were gone.

Pete’s next 12 months were made up of employing his, as he called it, “addictive personality” to Microsoft community contributions. This included answering forum questions, writing and sharing blog articles, event guest speaking, event moderating and generally being a very, very excellent human being to everyone and anyone he could help in the Microsoft community. It’s not all about sharing though, as Pete stressed the importance of getting “noticed” by Microsoft UK’s MVP Community Programme Manager. Pete and the UK Programme Manager caught up every 3 months or so and Pete updated her with everything he’d been up to. After 6 months, Pete was put forward to the MVP panel in Redmond (USA) for award consideration.

On the 1st October 2020, almost precisely a year since embarking on his journey, Pete arrived at destination “MVP”. As it was so close to the end of Microsoft’s Ignite event, he didn’t expect it, but at 4pm an email dropped into his inbox and his laptop hit the roof (figuratively speaking)! In Pete’s own words, “I was truly, truly honoured and humbled by the award”.

Summary of the MVP award process

1. Decide you want to do it and believe you can

2. Find a sponsor at Microsoft, or in the MVP community

3. MVP programme team send you a whopping great form to complete 4. Email [email protected] with the whopping form completed

5. Get noticed by Microsoft UK’s MVP community programme manager

6. Get busy – forum posts, blog articles, event appearances and moderating

7. Check in every 3 months or so with the community programme manager on what you’ve been up to

8. After a year or so, wait every month with excitement to see if you’ve made it (Microsoft award MVPs every month, on the 1st of the month)

9. Celebrate when it happens! You can do it!

Some closing ‘words of wisdom’ from Pete

I asked Pete if the MVP award is something anyone could go for and he said, “Yes, great things come out of the MVP title and it’s all through giving back. If you’re not sure, just ask yourself ‘what is the worst that can happen!?’” Whether you’re an MVP or you benefit from one, it’s all about community and giving back in all the ways described above.

And for those still wondering what the green, flower arranging oasis mentioned at the top has to do with Pete, I’ve deliberately left that unanswered so that you have something to ask him when you connect and chat!

Finally, Pete “Rising” has risen to the challenge of the Microsoft MVP, so what’s next? I have it on good authority that Pete is already starting work co-authoring a new book with publisher ‘Packt’ – a MS700 exam study guide. So, watch this space!

What next?

Thanks for listening/reading and if you’ve got this far, your reward is to find out that Pete, in his MVP capacity, mentors on Microsoft exams and careers so go and connect with him on LinkedIn! His MVP profile is also available here. Pete is also part of Softcat’s professional services cloud practice, so if you think you’d benefit from some support with your Microsoft 365, please get in touch with your Softcat account manager today!

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