I discovered the world of Microsoft in 2001: I was a student at an engineering college, which was not particularly geared towards Microsoft technologies, when I saw Visual Studio for the first time plus the very first beta version of the .NET framework in action. I plunged into it and have never left it since!
At that time, like now, the Internet and the communities have been one of the essential drivers helping me extend my skills with these development technologies. I was lucky enough to have a group of graduating colleagues who were also using .NET, and the way we helped each other and exchanged knowledge really was at the heart of how I learned. Everything we didn’t know could be discovered on the Internet: newsgroups, forums, blogs and so forth. It’s impressive - an absolute goldmine of knowledge available from your keyboard. The websites and blogs of the CodeS-Sources network in particular are where I first learned and then contributed in my turn. In addition, sharing and helping each other and discussing the various topics created opportunities to meet other technology aficionados at events such as DevDays in particular. Some of them later became work colleagues and some even became friends.
But it was from 2003 onwards, and 2004 in particular, that my involvement in the communities took a significant turn. At that time, I took part in what would nowadays generally be called a “hackathon”: Unlimited Coding. Designed and held in France for the first time by Microsoft, “Unlimited Coding” was the first edition of the international competition now known as the Imagine Cup, which is being held for the 11th time right now. A weekend of non-stop coding in an exceptional setting - the best students from the biggest IT colleges: that was what the Imagine Cup started as. Having come second in 2003 and then first in 2004 with my team, I had the chance to go on to the world final and fly the flag for France in Brazil. And it was mission accomplished - we won the competition in July 2004!
It was an unforgettable experience: what I had seen in France was there in spades at the world final. Meeting so many brilliant people is really impressive, as well as being very exciting at the same time. When I got back, I told myself I should share this experience and should above all help students who wanted to take part in this adventure, so that they could also benefit from this unique experience. So I kept on blogging and I had the opportunity to facilitate technical conferences about .NET and Visual Studio, as well as the Imagine Cup. This competition became a lot more widely known and I did not hesitate for a second to go round various schools in the Paris region - and elsewhere in France as well - in order to make the maximum number of IT students aware of this opportunity. Since 2006, both Microsoft France and Microsoft Corp have given me an opportunity that is just as wild as the first one: being part of the team organising the Imagine Cup. Aside from the responsibilities and the personal commitment that involves, I was genuinely able to get more involved in the competition and help it progress. Moving to the judges’ side is impressive and awe-inspiring: so many innovative projects and so much passion all together in one place - the Imagine Cup is the only place where you can see that! I’m still amazed by the innovation you can find in some of these projects today!
I’m involved in the Imagine Cup all year long: helping every team with its project (both at the technical level and in terms of the ideas themselves) requires stamina. The high points of the competition - such as the boot camp - are also an opportunity to give sessions on technical subjects to help their projects progress further more rapidly. The best reward is to see a project go from being a basic idea to becoming a funded project or even putting together a startup company in some cases!
In parallel with the Imagine Cup, my job as a consultant has let me discover exciting topics and technologies that I have put efforts into beyond my working time: .NET to start with, then Team Foundation Server and the Visual Studio ALM suite in 2005, and Windows Azure in 2008. Every time, I succumbed to the charms of the technology and its potential... and every time, I used the same logic: discover, learn and share. For all of this, I had the great privilege of being nominated as an MVP for these various technologies in turn since October 2004.
Being an MVP is not an end in itself. On the contrary, it is the beginning of even more intense and interesting collaboration with impassioned people and experts in their fields. Community spirit means that a very friendly and good-natured atmosphere prevails between the MVPs and everyone in this big family is ready to help everyone else.
The community of MVPs and the big gathering at the MVP Global Summit in particular is similar to the Imagine Cup: a large gathering of world-class enthusiasts and experts in their respective technologies! In addition to the exchanges between MVPs, being an MVP adds a completely different dimension to the exchanges between product groups. That point is probably the key thing that is important about the title for Microsoft: the exchanges are not mere courtesies - they are genuine constructive discussions about future aspects of a technology or a product. Over nine years, I have had the honour of taking part in several discussions that very much helped structure things for the product teams, and I was able to see the benefits of these exchanges in the later versions.
Enthusiasm, sharing and support for each other - that is what the MVP status is all about!