How I Became a Microsoft MVP in a year

On July 1, 2020, I was awarded the Microsoft MVP in the Data Platform category. That was a truly elevating moment for me and this blog post is intended to share my journey over the past year.

Before I get into the details I will first start with a disclaimer:

This blog post is not a guarantee, or a “how-to” on attaining the Microsoft MVP award. This blog post is intended solely to share my personal journey.

My Journey

I will not bore you with details about what is an MVP, or what it takes to be an MVP, etc. as you can find all that information here.  My personal journey to the award started approximately two years ago.

In hindsight, I didn’t even consider the MVP award until it was brought to my attention by a fellow friend and MVP, Anthony Nocentino, at SQL Saturday Baton Rouge in 2019. He attended my first session called, “Big Data Clusters for the Absolute Beginner” and asked if I thought about becoming an MVP. At the time, I really had not thought about it as it was some “distant unknown process” that I didn’t care much to ponder. I was too immersed with learning and presenting about Big Data Clusters than to start spending my energy and time on what/how to become an MVP. In addition, I was an active participant of the Big Data Clusters Early Adopters Program (EAP) and met a ton of people who worked on the BDC product team, as well as other MVPs around the world passionate about BDCs like me.

Over the next couple months, prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, I presented on Big Data Clusters both in person and virtually. When the pandemic nationwide lockdown (towards March 2020) commenced, everyone was forced to present online and so I, too, started to do virtual presentations. A very cool thing happened when a fellow MVP and friend, Benjamin Weissman, requested if I could be a technical reviewer for the 2nd edition of his book, “SQL Server Big Data Clusters”. I was honored and of course accepted. (You can purchase his book here). Ben ended up nominating me for the MVP award in March of 2020 and on July 1st 2020 I received the highly anticipated email:


The initial time I publicly spoke on Big Data Clusters was at Saturday Sioux Falls (August 2019) and by July 2020 I was generously awarded the Microsoft MVP award in the Data Platform category. Below is a list of my community activities within that timeframe:

3 Tips on Getting Noticed

In hindsight, getting noticed for what you do is only half the journey. In my case, the better part is the second half of my journey, developing the passion for cutting-edge technology. So below are my tips, based on my journey on getting noticed *and* hopefully getting nominated:

    1. Find a Microsoft technology you are passionate about – preferably cutting-edge. For me, it was Big Data Clusters (duh).
    2. Get active on that technology in any way you can – For example, join the Early Adopters Program for that technology and start engaging with the Microsoft product team. Learn everything you can. Blog about it. Create videos, etc.
    3. Engagement – Once you have a couple blogs and/or videos up, it’s time to start the engagement process. Create an hour long session and go present. Sign up for user groups, SQL Saturdays, etc. and start presenting on your newest passion.  If it’s cutting-edge technology and the majority of people are not familiar with it (as in my case with Big Data Clusters), so create a “beginner” session to educate the attendees.

These above three steps helped me get noticed and eventually nominated.

Just the Beginning

I hope my journey helps spark a passion in you to go down the path of learning, teaching and community engagement. My original goal was not to become an MVP, but to learn as much as I can with the new technology. Now that I have been granted the MVP award, it only sparks a bigger fire within to keep diving deeper into BDCs and sharing what I learn with a worldwide audience via my blog and social media outlets. This award is just the beginning. More to come!

Mohammad Darab MS MVP
Just the beginning!

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