Interview with a Microsoft Integration MVP: Michael Stephenson

We're continuing our Monday series, "Monday - Community Interview". Today it is Michael Stephenson!

Above is Michael Stephenson, Microsoft Integration MVP from the United Kingdom. I have met Michael a few times and he is very passionate about Microsoft technologies. Like and many other BizTalk community members he supports TechNet Wiki and contributors.

Who are you, and what do you do?

Michael Stephenson:  I am from Newcastle in the UK and work for Connected Systems Consulting Ltd, which is my small freelance consultancy specializing in integration projects using Microsoft (and associated) technologies. I have been a Microsoft BizTalk MVP for a number of years and more recently have moved to the new Microsoft Integration MVP encompassing BizTalk and other Microsoft Integration technologies. I'm also part of the Microsoft Advisors program for Connected Technologies and Windows Azure.

I usually work with customers in either an Integration Architect, Technical Team Lead or Integration Delivery Manager capacity and have worked with a number of organizations in the UK mainly in the Financial, Public sector, Healthcare and Supply Chain areas. I come from a BizTalk background, but strongly believe that these days to be a Microsoft Integration Specialist you need to work with BizTalk and an increasing number of other technologies which form the core part of your integration tool kit. Recently I have been involved with a couple of customers working on hybrid integration solutions using Windows Azure Service Bus. 

What do you do with TechNet Wiki, and how does that fit into the rest of your job?

I have been a contributor on TechNet Wiki for a while now which first started when I was writing papers around some BizTalk topics. At the time I wanted to write a white paper, but Susan Joly at Microsoft who at the time coordinated the BizTalk Developer Centre on MSDN told me about TechNet Wiki. I really liked the idea of having something published a little more formally than a blog post but still had the flexibility to be changed and enhanced without a long review process. I also like the way TechNet Wiki allows others to contribute to an article you may write.

TechNet Wiki is a great way for the community to develop complementary documentation and articles alongside the official documentation produced by the Microsoft product teams. The various contributors to the BizTalk community on TechNet Wiki did a fantastic job of putting together the BizTalk section on TechNet Wiki which inspired me to do something similar for Windows Azure Service Bus. I recently was working on two projects involving Windows Azure Service Bus and although the product has been live for some time I found that there was a lot of fragmented information out there in the blog world which was very useful to us and I thought that we can help ourselves on this project but also others if we pulled together this content and made it available from a single place. My view is that MSDN would be the place for official documentation and TechNet Wiki would be the place for community content to support MSDN.

How did you become an MVP? Do you have any suggestions for other community members who hope to eventually become MVPs?

I was very lucky and surprised when I became an MVP.  I believe I was nominated by a couple of people based on my involvement with the UK Connected Systems User Group and also my other community contributions around blogging and speaking. I was fortunate enough that when my contributions were reviewed they must have been pretty good.

I think the best suggestion for anyone who would like to be an MVP would be to have confidence in yourself and not be shy. When I first became an MVP I used to look at some of the other MVP's and think there's a room full of people a lot smarter than me, do I really belong here?  The truth is that what makes the MVP program so successful is that everyone has their own unique experiences and interests and this broad range of experience is what is most valuable to Microsoft. If you would like to become an MVP you have to get out there and tell people about your views and opinions through articles or speaking at events.  If no one knows you have these interesting opinions on something then it's unlikely you would get nominated to represent the community as an MVP.

What are your favorite articles you've contributed?

I've always been interested in the articles where you can talk about design choices and architecture rather that walk-through type articles. I find it interesting to explore the different options and considerations you might have. Fortunately in systems or integration architecture the answer to most questions is "it depends" which leaves plenty of space for articles like these.

I think my two favorite articles on TechNet Wiki that I have contributed to are:

1. Windows Azure Service Bus Resources

This resource pulled together a lot of the community content we had used in a simple to use page rather than spending hours searching for things.


2. Behaviour Driven BizTalk Development

This article pulled together a number of resources by myself and others around Behaviour Driven Development for BizTalk. The article was also a TNWiki Article Spotlight a few months ago.

I think one other old article I wrote for TechNet Wiki, which I quite like was BizTalk RFID and NServiceBus. These are two technologies I like and in the case of RFID was one I had never used on a proper project. It was fun to explore the possibilities of this technology.

Do you have any tips for new Wiki contributors?

A couple of tips I would suggest for new contributors would be firstly to use the comments section.  It's always good to have a discussion associated with an article you have written and it’s a good way to enhance the articles with other experiences.  You will also become familiar with others who are active in the community.  A second tip would be to ask other authors.  In my experience most people in the community are very friendly and happy to engage.  I'm sure if you wanted someone to give you feedback before you published your article a lot of people would be happy to help.