The road to Microsoft MVP – Part 1

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series The road to Microsoft MVP


This is a post about me and my reflection on the Microsoft MVP award.
It basically is a rant.


Some history

Back in january of this year, out of the blue, someone in the community I’ve looked up to since entering the data world asked if it was ok if they’d nominate me for the Microsoft MVP award.

For those who don’t know, being awarded the MVP status is considered by many as one of the highest honors you can receive in the Microsoft Community.
Even more so when you know that there are only about 4000 MVPs worldwide in all Microsoft categories and even less (about 300) in the Data Platform / SQL Server category [*].
With only about 150 people outside of the US being awarded MVP for the Data Platform category, you can quickly see what an honor it is to be one of the few people outside of the US to receive this award.

Not so fast

As I said, I got asked if I wanted to be nominated back in january.
While incredibly nice, I didn’t put a lot of value on the award since I was just having fun meeting new people and learning from everyone I met.
On top of that, I didn’t think I was near worthy enough for this honor. However, just the thought of having been nominated by someone known over the entire world and generally considered a community leader was already very cool!

Long story short, I didn’t let this person know it was OK to nominate me until May and didn’t even complete the nomination until the end of July.

Nomination != Award

At the end of July I had spoken internationally at a bunch of events and had met a ton of awesome people in the community. Quite a few of these people turned out to be MVPs and during dinners before or after the events we’d talk about things ranging from beer and food to the community in general.

One person I was talking with dove into his journey towards becoming an MVP. The part of his story that stuck with me the most was how he had been very active and even respected in the community and it still took him over 5 years after his first nomination before receiving the MVP award.

I received a similar warning in January from the person who wanted to nominate me. They warned me that they could nominate me but this didn’t actually mean that much.
It’s still up to Microsoft to select you.
And that apparently is the hard part of becoming an MVP.

What now?

It quickly became apparent that while most of these people weren’t an MVP at all, they were still extremely enthusiastic about what they do and most of them had even been actively sharing their knowledge with the community for a long time already.
For me this blurred the line between what defines a non-MVP and MVP person. They both seem to do the same thing for the entire community, only one gets recognized and the other one doesn’t.
Although I’m probably missing a lot of important details when making this comparison.

So knowing that this nomination would probably not result in instant “MVP-ness” and most likely not even in the long run, I filled in the forms at the end of July. With that, I had officially accepted the nomination itself.
While I still thought that this one person I looked up to considering me worthy enough was more awesome than actually winning some award from Microsoft.
This initial consideration gave me a better feeling than the thought of perhaps, someday, winning some award.

Back to the real world

As time went by, I slowly kept filling in my community activities in the nomination form.
Near the end of 2017 the pressure started growing as I received more nominations, 6 so far.

And so far I haven’t received an award yet. Some might get discouraged by this, but again, for me getting nominated by more and more by people I look up to means more than receiving an award.
Partly because the award is meant to recognize the work you’ve done for the community and these nominations basically do the same thing in my opinion.
But also because by just being active in the community, you already receive a ton of recognition and you learn so much.

* the amount of MVPs worldwide was borrowed from Kevin Kline’s MVP blog post here.

The road to Microsoft MVP – Part 2

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series The road to Microsoft MVP


This is a less ranty than my first “road to MVP” post.
I’m finishing this post at the end of december. And while I know there’s already a 3rd part as well, I found it important to continue with my original plan for these posts. Which is, to document my journey towards becoming an MVP, no matter how long it would be or even if it would ever happen.
I do hope you as a reader have use for these posts, either way, don’t hesitate to contact me through the comments or on twitter or even linkedin if you have any questions.

Previously on this blog

About a year ago, I made a post about my experience and feelings about getting nominated for the MVP award by quite a few people I look up to.
I ended that post stating that while it had been 1-whole-full-year-omg-so-long of being nominated but not awarded, the fact that I had gotten nominated by people I look up to and the feedback I received from people in the community meant a lot to me. Maybe even more so than an award.

Fast forward a full year

Almost a full year has passed since that post.
I didn’t pay much attention to my MVP nominations anymore and when people asked if they could nominate me, I’ve been declining their offers. I’ve been declining nominations because this year, for me, was about getting even more involved with the community and just having some relaxed fun.
Due to all my new activities, this blog didn’t receive much new content, although I have quite a few new drafts ready!

Presenting at conferences & user groups

In 2018, I kept speaking at conferences and user groups, kept meeting people and most importantly, kept having fun. I’ve met so many great people and learned a ton from them in the past year.
Only issue I had, is that working full time as a consultant AND speaking this much tends to become a bit much. So I stopped all speaking engagements in october, with SQL Saturday Holland being the last event I spoke at.

Microsoft Advanced Analytics User Group

In the Microsoft Advanced Analytics User Group I organise, We’ve held 10 meetups in 2018, with quite a bit of wraps and pizza being eaten. Come join us if you’re into Big Data, Machine Learning, IoT or any related technologies

Power BI User Group

I started a Power BI User Group because we don’t have that yet in Belgium. We had 10 awesome meetups and I got to know a lot of great people who work with Power BI in Belgium.
Come join us next time if you’re working or even thinking about working with Power BI!
Our audiences tend to be a mix of everything in between deeply technical and pure business users. That tends to mean everyone wins as we can learn from each other!

Power BI Days conference

As we did our Power BI meetups, I got feedback from people. People who couldn’t make it during the week but also from people outside of Belgium who wanted to attend some meetups. So I started a free conference in september, and people seemed to enjoy it. One day in Belgium and one day completely virtual.
We had quite a few people for a saturday, but what surprised me was that the virtual event on Sunday had a ton of people as well!
Simply amazing to see how speakers and attendees invest in their future by attending events like this in the weekend.

Next up: Power BI Days 2019-01, come join us, either in Mechelen or online!

Rest of the year

For the rest of the year, I haven’t planned much. A couple of user group meetups, catch up on work and just spend some time with my girlfriend.


It’s been a very busy year, i’ve met ton of new people, I did way too much and by september I was already telling people that I’d be scaling back on speaking at conferences due to my personal life getting much busier in 2019.

Either way, It’s been worth every minute of my time and I’ve had a blast doing all of this.
I can only say that you should try to speak at as many conferences and user groups as well. If you’d like some help in any form, let me know. From coming up with an idea together, to practicing your session together, I’m here for you. Others are here for you as well, check out

The road to Microsoft MVP – Part 4

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series The road to Microsoft MVP


This is a post about me and my reflection on the Microsoft MVP award.
It basically is an incoherent rant, written while I’m thinking, without editing. So continue at your own peril.

Previously on this blog

At the start of 2017, someone I’ve been looking up to in the community told me they wanted to nominate me for the MVP award, and they did it in front of a program manager from Microsoft. I felt honored just for being able to talk to these people, I felt not worthy of even being considered for an MVP award.

At the end of May 2017, I finally took that person up on their offer.

On December 1st 2018, I got awarded with the MVP award which lasted until the annual re-awarding on July 1st.

Am I still an MVP?

This blog post is something that I’ve been thinking about for a while.
I honestly don’t know at the time of writing and nobody knows until well into July 1st when the mails get sent out.
It also shouldn’t matter as there are plenty of people doing great things who don’t receive the award.

My thoughts on the MVP award are still that it is an incredible personal achievement.
When I first received it, I didn’t advertise receiving the award to the world until I got called out by someone else a week or 2 later. And I don’t believe I ever flashed the fact that I’ve received the award except in the last second of my introduction during presentations.
I’ve now gone so far as to remove myself from the website as well. While being on there is very useful for some people and a door-opening career boost for others, I don’t believe it makes that big of a difference for me personally.
For having achieved the things that I have and the possibilities before me, I feel that being on there, even purely for past awards, doesn’t serve humility or selflessness. And removing myself could help highlight the people who are still on there.

But, I do still feel I haven’t done nearly enough to be worthy again for this award. Looking at it in raw numbers, no matter from which way you look at it, I’ve done much more than ever before. Having said that, nobody knows what exactly to do to qualify as an MVP.

There is however, plenty of speculation about what you actually have to do for that MVP award.
And looking at all the feedback I’ve heard before and during my time as an MVP, it seems to come down to this:
Spent time (and often money) to help others learn and have an impact with Microsoft products and do this in an open and altruistic setting instead of a closed and commercial one.
There’s of course the official explanation as well, which can be found here:

Types of MVP

Just as there are different types of people, there are different types of MVPs. Some are great people, some aren’t. Some have very altruistic intentions, others are in it for “fame and glory”.
From what I’ve heard and seen in the last year and a half, there are many more awesome MVPs compared to the other kind. On top of that, Microsoft does seem to make an effort to throw bad apples out of the MVP pool as soon as they’re identified.

I can only do my best to be one of the good ones and hope that my intentions are perceived as they were meant.

The money question

There’s quite some blog posts on this topic already, just Google it with Bing or Bing it with Google 😉

Some people still think that MVP’s are paid by Microsoft or that part of the award is a big check.
Neither of these statements are true, but MVP’s have found ways to monetize the award.

This money most often comes from rate increases for consultants and a raise/bonus by an employer.
Extra customers purely from the MVP title seems to be a rare phenomenon according to the people I’ve talked with in the past 18 months.
Amazingly enough however, extra customers (and the “big money” with them) do tend to follow from your long term community engagement. That engagement that you already had, even before that award was given to you, it actually has a lot of value! And companies are starting to discover that!

Some employers will still tell you multiple times that they don’t care about investing money into any activities outside of your very local market. They’ll tell you that your award means nothing to them. And that’s very understandable from a short term commercial point of view.

Some employers will see the long term opportunities this brings.
They’ll celebrate the employee’s achievement with cake, a bonus, cover all future expenses or at least give a monthly “expenses budget” to help pay for travel and more.
These smart employers will actually use the employee’s achievement for marketing and technical purposes. They’ll increase their technical knowledge and impact in projects as they now have basically a direct line to people inside the Microsoft product teams. And while they gain all of this, they show appreciation by investing and supporting the employee.

For me, it’s been an expensive journey that I’ve been paying for with my own money.
I’ve spend more money on travel than I ever thought I would spend in my life, but it’s been worth it!
As a result I’ve met great well known and unknown people and have undergone personal growth on levels that I never thought was possible. And it’s all thanks to the amazing people i met at conferences all over Europe (and outside of Europe!).

The real question

No matter how your employer reacts to your award (or re-award), there’s ONE thing I believe that you have to keep considering.
Even if you’re self-employed, you’ll have to consider ONE thing.
And if you’re not awarded, then there’s still this ONE thing to consider.

If you’re completely honest with yourself, what are you trying to achieve with your community activities?
Whether it’s online, in-person, an evening meetup, a huge conference, a one on one mentorship or a very popular class, you have to consider why you’re doing things.

Are you in it for some award?
Are you in it for the fame and possibly some money?
Are you in it to help your employer?

Or are you in it to help other people learn and grow?
Are you in it to help someone else? Someone who you don’t know yet and who by themselves might not be able to easily get to the same place in live where you are currently at?

Supporting community or growing it?

There’s quite some organizations and companies out there who are making money from community events.
From non-profits set up purely for legal protection, to non-profits paying their board members and crew to full on for-profit companies and many other setups in between.
Opinions are divided on the organizations running these events and communities.
Just look at the recent PASS news and the Dynamic Communities news that followed it.
And that’s just the surface from the Microsoft community, there are many more smaller “companies” running “our community”.
Now imagine that there is basically a community out there for almost every product and technology that you can imagine. That’s a huge business!

Often, the companies running these events do tend to have a positive impact on the community.
They’ll grow it because they need the money.
And each of these communities and all organizations/companies associated with them have their own cross to carry. And they tend to know it, but as all organizations that need money, they won’t show support unless they think it’s necessary for financial survival. And we can hardly blame them, or can we?

But forget about all that “drama”, it’s not worth your time.
What are YOU doing to grow your local community?
How are you uplifting other people who otherwise might not get a chance?
When was the last time you personally uplifted someone through a one on one mentorship?
When was the last time you sacrificed financial gain/status quo to help uplift someone you didn’t know yet?
When was the last time you didn’t care about “your event” and “your community” but instead cared about people outside of that bubble?

Your mission, should you choose to accept it

Do something that scares you.
Look for existing initiatives and programs for increasing diversity, even if it’s outside of your regular crowd.
Help existing mentorship programs, without promoting anything else.
Have your sponsors pay for scholarships for unknown speakers and have known speakers pay for themselves.
Do anything that could have a direct positive impact on people without also having a positive impact on you and “your things”.

And after you do that, keep following up with these people instead of “dropping” them after they served their short-term purpose to you.
Yes, it will probably limit your impact initially and it might get you booted out of that award program you love.
But in the long run, getting new and diverse people into our community, even if at our own expense, will be worth it.

As always, should you or any member of your team do the wrong thing at the wrong time, your local or the global community might ostracize you for acting recklessly.
But you’re still encouraged to take that first step and break the cycle!

Good luck!

/End of rant

The road to Microsoft MVP – Part 3

This entry is part 5 of 4 in the series The road to Microsoft MVP

In the previous posts, I’ve told you how I got my first MVP nomination, what i’ve learned from others about the MVP program in 2017. Next I’ve updated you on my activities in 2018, a post I originally started writing in october.
Now we’re december, and it’s time for the 3rd part of this installment!

Let me take you on a short journey

Imagine this.

Very busy year behind you.
You’ve seen a ton of “SQLebrity” people.
Kevin Kline came to your session (and didn’t leave!), you even had a great chat afterwards that HE initiated!
Steve Jones “crashed” your session, made you nervous by standing behind you during your presentation and you had to ask him to sit down.
And of course you’ve met Jen Stirrup again and had a great talk with her that almost made you late for your own session 😀
Let’s not forget Stephanie Locke who taught you a lot about diversity in tech over pizza and beer with Alex Yates, Rob Sewell and others
You’ve spoken to so many people who inspired you throughout the year.
And I mean, really inspired you. You’re so inspired that you could just as well be on fire.

Your year has been so awesome that you’ve actually stopped thinking about the MVP nominations during all of that. And then, on a saturday morning, after a tiring week you open your eyes. You’ve just slept great, birds are chirping outside and because you’re a bit lazy, you pick up your phone to check it in bed.
You’re not wearing your glasses and with your phone about 10cm from one eye, you’re looking at it. Because that’s just the way badly near-sighted people do that.
The next bit all happens in about 5 seconds.

You notice you’ve got some new mails as usual.

One of them is from Microsoft.

It’s from the MVP program.

“Must be some random notification again.” You think to yourself.

But before deleting the mail, you open it anyway. Because you’ve always been curious like that and you have time to kill on this lazy day. And who knows, maybe it’s actually a mail from a Nigerian prince!

But then you see it…

BAM! You’re awake!

You double check to see if it’s actually what you think it is.

Your heart starts racing and you just want this moment to never end.

Snap back to reality

I’m extremely happy and grateful to have been awarded Microsoft MVP in the AI category. It’s an incredible honor to be in that very small club of excellent people.
How small? Currently I’m the only one in Belgium.
And there’s 8 of us if you count all neighbouring countries (Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and France).
So out of 179 million people in those countries, only 8 got awarded in this category. That’s mindblowing.

Counting all categories, there’s 55 people who currently are awarded Microsoft MVP in Belgium.
And counting all neighbouring countries, we’re 8 MVP’s in the AI category out of a grand total of 417.
That’s really special!

However, all of this doesn’t change who I am, what I do and why i do the things that I do. It doesn’t change why people like or dislike me. It doesn’t change the fact that I value openness and helping others over other things. And it certainly doesn’t change the fact that i value the people in the community and their opinion more than any award.

Let’s not forget that there are still a LOT of people out there in the community who deserve this honor, maybe even more than me. And in the way (I think) I’ve learned how the program works, I’m sure they’ll be awarded as well in due time.

But why so quiet?

People have been wondering why I’m not screaming the news that i got awarded from the rooftops. I’ve actually had a lot of linkedin/facebook/twitter private messages and people tweet at/about me as well. All of them asking this question or making a remark about it.
The thread that below screenshot came out of was a nice example.

I’ve sent private mails and messages to the people who’ve been supportive with a nice “thank you”. But i didn’t feel the need to make a big deal out of this.
One reason is that there’s a lot of people out there who don’t like to see all the “OMG, I got awarded” messages every month, either because of various good or bad reasons.

Another reason is that, although I may be loud at times, I’m not someone who goes around and “promotes” himself.
I’ve learned to use all media to get content out there, but i still feel bad about talking too positively about myself.

What’s next?

I’ve realised several things shortly after i calmed down again.

  1. I might not be re-awarded. Since before october, I’ve been telling everyone i was scaling down on the amount of talks i’d be doing in 2019. There’s a lot of stuff coming towards me, and i just don’t have the time or the money to be on the road for almost half of the year.
  2. We’re not even in the new year and i’ve already submitted to 13 events. 10 of those are in the first half of the year. But i’ve been pickier with the locations of the events. Let’s see how many accept me as a speaker.
  3. My MVP award means I’ll have my first ever award to put on display! Where will i put it?!
  4. I’m not sure what caused me to suddenly be worthy of the MVP award. And I’m still pondering about it. Since october, i didn’t have any activities anymore. Some people have told me to just accept it as one of the strange mysteries of the program and just do what I do as people at Microsoft seemed to have liked that.

I’m starting technical blogs again as well, so you’ve got that to look forward to.


Since december 1st, 2018, i’m proud to call myself the first MVP in the AI category in Belgium. 

Turns out, i do have some value 😉

I’ll just keep doing what I love doing. Helping others and ensuring they grow as tech workers, as speakers and as a person. If i get re-awarded or not, i’ll still be part of this great community, which is more important than any award.

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