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A Microsoft MVP's reflections on renewal

by AJ Ansari

This morning, I received the good news that my time as a Microsoft MVP was set to continue for a fifth year. The first thing I felt was joy. One might assume that is quite normal, but in years past, the first feeling I experienced was usually relief. Surely, there was joy in years past, but that always came after the sense of relief. Thinking back, I remember all too clearly that the days and weeks preceding previous renewals were also filled with constant stress.

Over the course of the day, I got to thinking, "What changed?" And when did it change? The second part was easier to answer: It was last year, when Microsoft made the decision to renew all MVPs who were interested in continuing in light of all the COVID-19 related disruptions. Knowing that I was going to get renewed allowed me to put all my focus on doing the things that helped me become an MVP in the first place: passion for Business Central and a love for being a community technology evangelist. I didn't have to stop and ask if I'd be renewed.

My first year as a Microsoft MVP was the toughest one. On the one hand, I was on cloud nine. Absolutely elated. It was immensely validating. I was grateful. On the other hand, I found myself asking if I truly belonged in this circle. I wondered if I had just slipped through the cracks. I felt like an impostor, unworthy and worried that I would be found out sooner or later. My biggest fear was being a one-term Microsoft MVP who didn't get renewed. What would it say about me if I was only an MVP for one or two years? Oh, the shame that it would bring. Yes friends, impostor syndrome is a very real thing.

I found myself struggling to find my voice around other Microsoft MVPs, especially those with longer tenures. It didn't help in that first year that most of the MVPs in the Dynamics 365 Business Central / Dynamics NAV world still had developer backgrounds and highly technical achievements to their names. And while I was a certified NAV developer, I am not a classically trained developer. My strong suit was functional knowledge of the application, and I was an early adopter and evangelist for Project Madeira, Microsoft's first SaaS edition of Dynamics NAV that would later become Dynamics 365 Business Central. I spent a lot of time on forums like the Microsoft Community answering questions from new users who found the documentation at the time either lacking in depth or context or just plain inaccurate. In hindsight, I had made the cut as an MVP for good reasons, but every time I entered a room - real or virtual - with other Business Central MVPs, I was quiet and deferential and constantly worried about saying something stupid and being "exposed."

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About AJ Ansari

AJ is a 'recovering consultant' with 15 years of experience working with Business Central and its predecessor NAV and is a Microsoft MVP since 2018. He is a prolific public speaker and has been presenting sessions on Business Central, Power BI, sales and leadership topics at Partner and User-Group conferences since 2012.

Before joining DSWi as a Partner and COO in 2018, he served as a practice leader, presales specialist and product evangelist at well-known NAV partners in North America. AJ is a member of the Business Journals Leadership Trust and a recipient of multiple accolades, most notably the BCUG / NAVUG All-Star and the Directions North America Under 40 Excellence awards.

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