My experience as a 7 time awardee of the Microsoft MVP Award

Ryan YatesConsultant

Just a dude in his 30's doing things in Tech & trying to break the stigma's around talking about Mental Health

I’ve blogged before about my involvement with the Microsoft MVP Program, always whilst respecting my NDA, over the years since I was first awarded on April 1st 2016 in the Cloud & Datacenter Management award category & no it wasn’t an April Fools joke. I then was awarded each year since then for the yearly award cycle, including the 2022 award cycle.

That said, this post will still respect that NDA to the best of my ability, even though I so could easily break it.

During my time as an MVP I was very lucky to be both invited to submit topics to present at events, including on Mental Health at Microsoft Ignite in 2019, as well as be able to give a significant amount of feedback over the years, across a number of Microsoft Products.

Some of those bits of feedback have been via public channels including

  • GitHub Repositories
  • Comments on blogs
  • In-person or remote public events including conferences like Ignite 2019 (Which I was lucky enough to attend & present 2 sessions at)
  • Social media (particularly Twitter)
  • the Windows Insider Program
  • other public programs

However a significant amount of feedback was provided via private means

  • In person & remote via the MVP Summit
  • Email
  • Teams & Skype for Business calls
  • Private forums
  • Private previews

That said, you wouldn’t be able to tell this today if you were to look at the Microsoft MVP Program site. This is because whilst it has a section that shows all current MVP’s, it also had a section where many former MVP’s could stay in touch with others via the MVP Reconnect program, which was a program for eligible former MVP’s (which I wouldn’t have been as you’ll find out why below), however this section has recently gone from the MVP Program Site. However on this section I am no longer there as I am no longer an MVP. My profile would be here if I was, however this can still be seen on The Wayback Machine’s archive of my profile

This is because I made a really silly mistake last August whilst trying to do some good by providing some critical but needed criticism via Email to 1 individual at Microsoft with 2 others cc’d at Microsoft, which unfortunately was choice of words to convey the message I was trying to get across. This is one that in 7 years I had not made in the many 10’s of thousands of other similar interactions with Microsoft via the MVP Program which included Product Group Members, MVPs and others across Microsoft as well as many other channels both for MVP’s or Partner’s or just open channels for feedback to Microsoft during my time as an MVP. Unfortunately this mistake was and still is a code of conduct violation. & well honestly, I’m not a fan of the wording of that code of conduct, as it’s flimsy and essentially makes it that MVP’s have to be better behaved online than Microsoft FTE’s.

Unfortunately, this occurred as I wrote and sent an email very quickly without reviewing it & then rewording how I initially had worded it. This is something that I had always previously done before sending emails by making use of my drafts folder, and have been doing this for well over 10 years now years. This has also included having drafts in flight for well over a year at a time before they were sent. I have however learnt to make more use of Outlook’s Read Aloud feature to review and reword emails now before I send them. This has helped me since in catch minor wording mistakes, where I’ve included a word that is close to the one I want & but spelt slightly differently, like lead instead of led as well as being able to catch words that need replacing as they don’t fit right for the sentence I am adding them into, or the structure sounds off to me, or was just a poor choice of words in the first place. This is something that I’ve actually added in to my process workflow properly this year, as to hopefully 🤞🏼 not to fall foul of this mistake again. I also took this feedback direct and privately to the individual after having gotten feedback from MVP’s on how I reacted to a post that another former MVP Adam Bertram had made a post that really got under the skin of many MVP’s due to it promoting Asshole mentality when he really meant to proclaim Family and financial stability as the proper message. I have always given feedback and accepted it too, and learnt that whilst sometimes you need to be cruel to be kind, it has to be done in the right way, and far too many people that can be brutally honest, haven’t learnt how to tame it into reasonable and actionable, but still honest feedback, which I certainly still sometimes fail to do in the right way, like in this instance.

I don’t disagree with the process to remove me from the program for that code of conduct violation, but I have been very annoyed at myself for letting it happen, particularly as it happened whilst I had been dealing with some extra stressful events off the back of my dad passing away last year and dealing with his estate and due to this I was dealing with lots and rushing through far too many things at once, and as such I made mistakes along the way. I am not saying this to try to excuse it, but to explain it, more to myself than outwardly to anyone reading, as writing things down is an incredibly good mechanism for understanding and processing things, which i’ve written about in It’s #TimeToTalk, But it’s also #TimeToWrite. This has annoyed me so much especially with the amount of good that I had done in the community, especially with conversations to the various product groups at Microsoft over the years & with so many great people across all the communities that I’ve been a part of & to be honest I feel like not only have I let them all down, I also let myself down too, however more on why I’ve been feeling that way another time.

It’s fitting that this post is going out not long after PSConfEU was on and I was unable to attend, much like I was unable to attend PSDayUK this year either as well as just after renewals too. Over the years the PowerShell Community, not just in the UK but internationally has gone from strength to strength and I am proud of the impact I had in helping get some of it going again in the UK from 2015 onwards. Of course I wasn’t the only one, and I am thankful to have worked with all that have helped over the years.

Code of Conducts for communities are hard to get right, I’ve written some, enforced others & adopted and agreed to many in my lifetime. This is especially for a program like the MVP Program which spreads across much of the planet & has the level of impact that it has & likely needs lots of lawyers to sign off on the wording of it. Certain aspects of this one, are, unfortunately, more restrictive on some than others depending on what laws those individuals are subjected to by their local/national governments.

As of writing this post (8th July 2023), the MVP Code of Conduct states (& has for many years)

  1. No disrespectful behavior. This includes threats, harassment, stalking, abuse, slurs, profanity, personal attacks, sexual remarks or innuendos, physical violence, public speculation about others, and any other behavior that Microsoft deems inconsistent with the MVP Award Program.
  2. No impersonations of a Microsoft employee, agent, manager, host, or another user.
  3. No illegal or offensive activities. MVPs will not publish, post, distribute, or disseminate defamatory, infringing, obscene, or other unlawful material or discussion. This includes, but is not limited to, child pornography, bestiality, incest, illegal drugs, software piracy, discriminatory/racist statements or images and harassment.
  4. Accountability. MVPs are fully responsible and liable for anything they say (whether orally or in writing) or do. This includes any actions taken based on advice or information received in online forums or elsewhere, how an MVP conducts themselves as a community leader, and interactions with other MVPs and the general public.
  5. No libel or slander against Microsoft or other persons or entities. Libel includes false statements made in written form, such as statements posted to forums or other publicly accessible websites, electronic mail, or any other printed form.
  6. No confidentiality violations. MVPs may get access to certain non-public information during their participation in the Program and are expected to honor their confidentiality obligations with respect to such information.
  7. No plagiarism. MVPs may only post their own original work or work that they have written permission to post. If an MVP cites another author’s work, MVPs are expected to provide any necessary attribution according to the requirements associated with the original author’s work. Learn more about copyright at:
  8. No discrimination or harassment. Microsoft is committed to providing a harassment-free experience to Program participants regardless of age, ancestry, color, gender identity or expression, marital status, medical condition, national origin, physical size, physical or mental disability, political affiliation, veteran status, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, or technology choices. Harassment is unwelcome verbal, physical or virtual behavior based on the characteristics identified above.
  9. No sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is unwelcome verbal, physical or virtual behavior based on sex and includes gender-based harassment of a person of the same or different gender. Examples of sexual harassment include, but are not limited to: Unwelcome sexual advances Sexual comments or inappropriate gender-based jokes Excessive, unwelcome romantic attention Offering or conditioning an employment benefit or preferential treatment, like a promotion or job assignment, in exchange for sexual favors Unwelcome physical contact Sharing or displaying sexually explicit content Using sexually degrading words

The wording reminds me of lawyer speak and I think could be better worded and modernised, as to give were possible the benefit of the doubt and also a clearer policy on how this is enforced. Areas like number 3 especially need overhauled to be a viable aspect of the code of conduct to have and try and enforce, because otherwise this basically means no MVP can even discuss these topics in the open for fear of being potentially ejected from the program. This as a component of the code of conduct, is one that is far too restrictive that it just realistically isn’t workable, and as such, in my opinion needs rewording as most of those topics need some level of adult discussion to happen around them, in the open, especially when it comes to understanding and reducing harms associated by some of these topics, which is a very different discussion to one promoting any of these topics. But that’s just my opinion, though one I am pretty sure others agree with, and is just one of many in opinions that I have used to form a compelling reason for Microsoft to make changes to their products, so that they can be better than they were before, which fundamentally is a core component required in being seen by Microsoft as having the potential to be an MVP in the first place.

I also wont name any names as I did give the benefit of the doubt at an event that I attended where an MVP & RD (who will know who they are if reading this) after 1 too many drinks did act inappropriately towards me, and as such I did not report it. I was also in the presence of another MVP that evening too, and if they are reading this they’ll remember that particular evening too.

It is always best not to assume ill intent, and give the benefit of the doubt in these instances. However the policing of Code of Conduct is always hard, never easy, and always going to end up upsetting someone along the way. This is especially true when under item 8 I know of many who have left or been ejected from the program due to a group that has harassed 1/many former MVPs. Some of that group may/may not be MVPs/RD’s or even Microsoft Staff. But I am not the right person to talk to about this in depth.

So as it had been coming up to & now passed the usual renewal cycle for everyone else, I am just sitting and constantly reflecting on all the good times that I had over the years as a part of the program. I am sad that I am not still part of it (along with some other areas of life) but on the whole there were so so many fun times, memories and friendships made that I will forever cherish.

But to sum up I leave this post with a quote from what was my MVP lead here in the UK Claire Smyth Your enthusiasm for community is infectious, someone that I definitely miss interacting with as Claire’s love of the community is just as infectious, much like Adam Jackson who was a true amazing cornerstone of the UK Developer community, and its such a shame they lost him and so many others in all the recent cuts, as it is of so so many others that I have interacted with inside & outside of the MVP Community too, which is why I think we are all drawn to connect as part of these communities.

This is entirely true, because without the communities that I have been a part of in my life (there are many too outside of tech) but particularly those in the world of tech, whether that be the SharePoint, Agile, SQL, PowerShell, Azure, the MVP Community or all the different conference and user group communities that I’ve attended over the years I may not have gotten though some difficult times & actually still be here and able to author this message, or more realistically I would not have had the opportunity to be able to reflect on what has been an amazing time in the tech world so far, most of that as a former Microsoft Most Valued Professional. It is a shame that some that should have kept in touch and helped me at my lowest have not done so, whilst many inside and outside Microsoft have as best as they can.

Would I love to have that title again, of course I would, as would many others too, like my recently awarded former colleague Dougie Wood, who I would have nominated if I could have been able to. This is especially ture as tehre are so many benefits that the award brings, particularly as an administrator/developer/architect who’s working with Microsoft Technologies, something that I can’t see myself not working with in some way or another in future, by getting a little bit closer access to the teams behind the products. Alas, I also know that my actions have consequences, and if it were never to happen again, then well I’m just glad for all the memories it has brought me.

All I know is that I try & be respectful, inclusive, friendly, open, and welcoming whilst leading with empathy & that whilst I can and I have made mistakes, I am thoughtful and will always reflect and learn from them, as that’s the only way we can grow as individuals. It does help when I have mistakes pointed out to me, as I can try correct them sooner rather than later,

no matter how brutal one feels they need to be with me about the mistake, as I am incredibly thick skinned and know that if someone is pointing out my mistakes, then it’s because they most likely care about me, whether they know me well or not. Or at least that is how I am to others.

I appreciate feedback & you can leave some via the comments section below or via this form if you want to give it to me directly and not publicly, whether anonymously or not.