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Microsoft Regional Director (Redux)

I received a very nice email this week:

Congratulations, your nomination has been accepted to the Microsoft Regional Director program! I am pleased to welcome you back to this worldwide community of technology thought leaders and thank you for being a part of this community.

Just over 2 years ago, I first became a Microsoft Regional Director. This is a role that has meant a great deal to me over that time; it's not one you can sit an exam for and no amount of money will buy you one either. Like the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) role I've had since 2011, it's one that only comes from being an active member of the technology community and contributing to it in a meaningful way.

I still get a lot of questions from people about what the difference in the RD program versus the MVP one is so with the benefit of a couple of years' experience now, let me share those thoughts: The MVP program is awarded in the context of a technical discipline, that is a specific area of expertise you have a track record of delivering on in a community-centric way. I first received my award for "Developer Security", namely because I was writing extensively about building secure apps in ASP.NET. The RD program, however, is more strategic in its outlook and instead of binding you to a tech stack, focuses more on your broader view of the industry. Those of us in this program also frequently have the ear of technology leadership within organisations and sometimes the ear of government bodies as well.

Beyond that, the other major difference is in the mechanics of the respective programs and the numbers within them: The MVP award is renewed annually on the 1st of July whilst the RD program is biennial and renewals have obviously just taken place. There are several thousand MVPs and less than 200 RDs.

I completed all the documentation for both program renewals a few weeks ago now - yes, there's paperwork! It largely boils down to detailing what you've been up to since the last renewal and that's what's taken into consideration when the program managers assess candidates for the program. There's a whole heap of measurable metrics, some of which I haven't focused on much (for example, answering questions on forums), and others which have gone rather well. Here's what I put forward as my standouts over recent times (although this doesn't comprehensively cover the criteria for the programs):

  1. Blogging: By virtue of being here, you know what this entails! There's been 124 of those over the last year, including the weekly update ones.
  2. Speaking: I publish all my events both past and upcoming and include any evals I receive. Here's 2017, here's 2018 and here's everything that's been recorded since forever.
  3. Projects: Well, there's a little thing I've been doing called Have I Been Pwned. Couple of hundred thousand viewers a day last week too so it's certainly had impact.
  4. Media: This is a fun one and I suspect it was more relevant to the RD role than the MVP one. It was, uh, "difficult" to provide a comprehensive list of press pieces, so I just linked to a Google News search page with thousands of results.

Trust me when I say that nobody is more amazed by that last point than me! It's not so much "imposter syndrome" as some call it (a term I dislike, but that's for another blog post), but more that other super-smart people I'm surrounded by don't get the same coverage by virtue of their chosen discipline. I had an epiphany on this some years ago which boiled down to this: no matter how good of a developer or cloud architect or IT pro someone becomes, my parents aren't going to be listening to them on the evening news. As you'll see in the news link above, the infosec space transcends that barrier and by virtue of the industry I'm in, has given me the opportunity to leverage exposure in a way I never could have otherwise.

Then there was the US Congressional testimony in November. I never get visibility into how heavily each contribution is weighted, but I'd really like to think this event was a factor. I don't know how I can top it in terms of exposure and influence so I hope it played a part in the RD renewal, certainly it was a seminal moment in my own career.

And that's that - another 2 years of Regional Director and hopefully, another year of MVP come July. Microsoft doesn't pay me and no, I'm not an employee despite what the occasional angry person on the internet would like to think (there's an amusingly high prevalence of said angry people spelling "Microsoft" with a dollar sign...) I greatly appreciate the opportunity Microsoft gives me with these programs, but I also want to acknowledge that I wouldn't have even been in with a chance if it weren't for the support of the tech community. So, thank you for reading what I write here, coming along to my talks and helping me to get better at what I do such that I have these opportunities in the first place. You guys rock 😎