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MVP Diaries - Chris Huntingford

Not too long ago I decided to share a deeply honest story about my journey into the Microsoft Community and MVP award. Being upfront and vulnerable about the challenges I faced was not easy, but it is an important legacy I feel we can all drive in the community. Role-modelling vulnerable leadership and relatable honesty above and beyond the technology excellence.

A seed was planted

Whilst there was an amazing reception for the blog post, one particular comment lingered in my head by Sharon Smith. As always, she was so eloquent in explaining how:

  • it can be daunting for people sometimes, just by the strict award definition, to aspire to it,

  • we are human after all, and anything can hit us: from imposter syndrome, not demystifying MVPs' normality, and the hardships they face navigating the same 24 hours each day,

  • People may not have the right support or mentors to explore new avenues and get their unique story heard

And a new blog series was born

So many stories have or are being told; from evangelizing about the technology we can harness, the amazing shiny moments of the community, to all the superstars driving them. But how can we make it all more accessible, relatable and inclusive when our common denominator is how human and passionate about tech we all are? In other words, how do we also share our challenges in navigating our path to trigger less that pesky imposter syndrome? And how do we still propagate that innate curiosity and creativity to drive technologies and communities?

Welcome to a new series of blog posts called “MVP Diaries” focused on different MVPs in the community. Here is what you can expect and will enjoy reading:

  • Their origin story from that first AHA tech moment to HOW and WHY they got into the community

  • WHAT has been rewarding about the MVP program and all interactions

  • The challenges navigating the industry, a career AND a personal life

  • How they celebrate new voices

  • Their ultimate WWE showdown moment between 2 Microsoft products

There has never been a better moment to get this started.

I present to you our first community unicorn – Chris Huntingford

Fun intro fact about badgers: They are shy, but they are also brave. They will fight animals much larger than themselves if needed. This is interesting if you consider that Chris is one of the founding members of the Badger community; a social and sanity pillar which started in the beginning of the pandemic. An IT Breakfast Club of a sort that brought many of us together.

Based on many interactions with Chris, I can definitely say he is an honorary badger; introvert at core but also super social and brave. He will speak up no matter what in order to support people and their unique superpowers. A true empath uplifting others.

This legend needs no further introduction, but here’s a short one straight from him:

“I’m a geek and proud to admit it! I’m also a rather large, talkative South African who plays drums, wears horrendous Hawaiian shirts, and has an affinity for engaging in as many social gatherings as humanly possible because, well...I want to experience as much as possible and connect with as many different people as I can! I am, unapologetically, myself! My zest for interaction and collaboration has led to a fixation on community and an understanding that ANYTHING can be achieved by bringing people together in the right environment.”

Origins: How did you discover your passion for technology and what was your first project?

“In high school, I started coding, and I LOVED it! I wrote a number of really complex solutions and couldn't get enough of them. I productionized my first ever coded solution in 2003 and am SUPER proud of it!”

Award: What are some of the most rewarding or impactful experiences you have had during your time in the MVP program? How did they change the way you learn and interact with others?

“I think that the program opens a lot of doors and I have been able to travel the world because of the opportunities I've been afforded. It’s been absolutely amazing to meet so many diverse people as well. This would not have been as possible without being a part of this community.”

Real talk: How do you balance work and personal life? Do you ever have to deal with imposter syndrome, and how?

“I struggle a lot with this. I have an incredibly demanding job and at the moment, I am in a very tough place. I have had to pause my studies because my job has been so demanding. I have a VERY regimented calendar and learnt that placing my energy into people that contribute back to me is important.”

Giving back: How do you support and uplift aspiring MVPs or Community members? How can we drive new perspectives, for example those with neurodiverse superpowers? Feel free to share your personal superpower stories.

“I’ve had a number of tough learning experiences in this regard because I sometimes invest far too much emotionally, which can erupt in different ways. I REALLY want to support people and ensure that they are successful, but this can be to my own detriment. I am an empath which means I truly empathize with people, their stories and life journeys.”

Fun: If you had a WWE-style smackdown between 2 Microsoft products, which ones would it be and why?

"Dataverse Vs SharePoint because SharePoint is not a real database!"

Reflecting and learning with a smile:

Learning from each other brings us all closer. Here are my top five thoughts from Chris' words:

  1. Being unapologetically yourself: Something to live by, albeit hard sometimes. There is no one else like us and we must celebrate that.

  2. Using ALL CAPS: At the right time and place, it holds its own power; a ZEST for life. I have recently adopted it by relishing in those passion moments.

  3. Being honest and humble: No matter how far and you get, remember your roots and opportunities given early on.

  4. Role-modelling vulnerability: We all go through hard times, but do not always speak about it. However, it is not only our shiny moments that inspire people, but also the way we open up about those tougher ones. From imposter syndrome to mental health and anything in between, always remember the 50 shades of your rainbow.

  5. Balancing social moments VS boundaries: Being an empath is an awesome superpower, and collaboration can indeed make so much happen. Nevertheless, without healthy boundaries to acknowledge our capacity we may burn out.

A massive thank you to Chris for inaugurating the MVP Diaries series. Cannot wait to hear your thoughts and AHA moments which inspired you. Feel free to also comment who you would like to hear from next!

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