Reflection on the Microsoft MVP Summit 2016

Now that I have had the chance to spend a bit of time with my loved ones after the mentally and physically exhausting experience that is the Microsoft MVP Summit, I can share a few of my thoughts on this year's event.

Less Code, More Connection.

With Microsoft's move to open-source many of its development technologies, there aren't as many "new and shiny" announcements as one might expect over previous years. If you want to see the latest features coming down the pipeline, follow them on GitHub.

Code by itself isn't what the conference is all about, it's about connection.

While the sessions themselves consist of incredible content and engaging discussions that help shape the direction and future of Microsoft's development platform, the real magic happens after the sessions or in the hallways between them. I believe that Nick Craver of Stack Overflow summed this up in a series of tweets :

A big reason that this conference is so successful, is that the folks that attend the MVP Summit aren't your stereotypical developers.

A Confederacy of Extroverts

One common stereotype of developers is that they are introverted. Well if that was the case, then Microsoft might as well not even hold this conference.

If I had to think of a recipe that you needed to make someone a Microsoft MVP, it would have the following ingredients (in varying amounts) :

  • Passion
  • Community
  • Expertise
  • Extroversion (to taste)

While the first three on that list are crucial, I believe that being somewhat of an extrovert (or at least being able to switch on an extroverted aura temporarily) is even more so.

That's what makes the MVP Summit so special. It's a huge gathering of passionate, community-oriented experts that aren't your stereotypical introverts. Nearly every attendee in some capacity (and maybe with the help of a beer or two), wouldn't have an issue starting up a conversation or sharing an idea, or lending a helping hand.

When you have that many talkative and passionate people all in a single building, you can not only accomplish some incredible things, but you can also share a few laughs and make a few friends in the process.

With regards to accomplishing incredible things, this brings up another free souvenir that you may end up coming home with if you aren't careful.

Impostor Syndrome, Impostor Syndrome Everywhere.

The MVP Summit can be a bit of a red-carpet experience for developers, especially those within the .NET ecosystem. This can not only create a sense of being star-struck, but it can easily make someone develop a quick case of impostor syndrome and ask themselves "what the hell am I doing here"?

You would think that receiving the MVP Award would be enough to quell any feelings of inadequacy, but a conference like this can certainly change that. People do a variety of different things to become MVPs; some speak, some work on open-source projects, some answer questions, but everyone does these things because they care about the community.

But answering countless questions on a forum might seem a bit trivial when you are sitting next to James Newton-King, the creator of JSON.NET, or you walk down the halls and see Ben Adams discussing the black magic he uses to improve the performance of .NET, or Nick Craver talking about pushing the limits of scaling at Stack Overflow.

Seeing these uber-talented developers that build incredible things can be intimidating, but you have to remember that what you do has value.

Reiterating to yourself that what you do has value and that you are making a difference, regardless of how you do it, is important and can help keep any symptoms of impostor syndrome from popping up.

Exciting Times Ahead.

There was quite a bit to be excited about during many of the sessions at the summit. I'm obviously not at liberty to discuss any of the details (or the Microsoft secret police will be after me), but rest assured that the future is a bright one, for all developers.