The Community - Why I love it!

As today is my birthday I thought I would write about something completely different to my normal more technical blogs. This is all about the Microsoft Community and why I have got so involved with it. Hopefully, if you're reading this and you've not taken that first step yet, then my aim is to help you take it.

A potted history

I first attended a number of SharePoint user groups in 2010, but at the time I was in a position where the culture of the organisation I worked for, was quite insular, and didn't really look outside for help. I attended user groups without really the understanding of what they were there for, how they could help and certainly had no interest in getting involved further. I admit, at this point I was only really interested in solving my own problems, getting the answers I wanted, but the more I searched for those answers, the more community began to help me out.

This was really the start of my change in attitude, as I don't like taking without giving me something back, so I started to try to answer questions on low level forums. This continued for a while but I must say that my contribution was quite minimal, and for a time non-existent as I spent a time in part of the world where internet was a luxury.

In 2013 I joined a local Microsoft Consultancy company who had a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP), Dave McMahon, working for them, and he really opened my eyes to what the wider community was about.

Eventually that company recruited a local architect called Charlie Lee (@SharePointWolf on Twitter) who was one of the regional coordinators for the SharePoint User Group, and so the user group started to be hosted at our office, so I had no excuse for not going along to support it. I don't know whether it was a maturity thing, or just that I was now more immersed in the technology that I was before, but I really enjoyed the user groups and just speaking to other people who turned out.

After a while I began to help Charlie to organise the User Group, and finally took the step to taking a session myself. I'd done presentations as part of my job, and even to my peers, but never to a group who were looking for me to provide them with that little snippet of info they needed to help them in their own lives. The whole thing, I found exhilarating, and so after taking that first step, I realised that this is where my passion for the technology was really nurtured. So from there, I really grabbed the bull by the horns and threw myself into the community.
From there, I began submitting to speak at other user groups, and SharePoint Saturdays, and was lucky enough to be selected to present at SharePoint Saturday in Leicester. Following that I branched out more into the Power Platform as well, not just focusing on SharePoint, and presented at the first meeting of the Nottingham PowerApps & Flow User Group. Thank you to both Brett Lonsdale and Tony Pounder for those opportunities.

After that my involvement in technical forums increased, as did my involvement with user groups and eventually led to me launching the Black Country PowerApps & Flow (now Power Automate) User Group.

As you can see, I have been on a journey that has taken me from being a consumer of community content, to being a producer, and I don't regret a single part of that journey.

Why you should get involved

What I  found, the more I did with Charlie and the User Group, was that I really enjoyed the feeling that you get when you help someone. Event now, when I'm presenting I'm always looking for that one light bulb to switch on above someone which shows that what I'm talking about is resonating. I actively encourage every person who has an interest in the technology to walk a similar path as there is always something you can give.

It doesn't matter how you wish to make your mark, whether it is on the speaker circuit beginning with User Groups and working up, or actively participating in forums, you can always make a positive impact to the community.

Everyone has different experiences, has encountered different problems and implemented different resolutions, so there is always something that you can bring to the party that others don't know or aren't aware of. Sometimes even just a different way of thinking about something can help others within the community.

Even if you don't find the answers that you're looking for directly, the contacts, and more importantly the friends that you make through the community I can safely say are second to none. They are the types of people that you may only see once or twice a year, but will always greet you with a smile, and quite often a beer! But those that you meet within the community will always go to the next level to help you with any difficulties that you may have.

No "Finally..." in this blog, I'm just going to leave it there for you to muse my ramblings. If you want to ask questions or would like some advice on how to take that first step, please don't hesitate to let me know. Just remember, that YOU are the key to the successful community, YOU are the reason it exists, and YOU can help its success in the future.