Microsoft Certified Professional and five-time recipient of the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award, Michael Jenkin, was nominated for - and won - a prestigious SMB150 2012 international award, recently. The senior systems engineer is one of few Australian IT professionals within the SMB sector who was up for the award. He spoke to ARN about his professional achievements and voluntary work before the list of award winners was announced.
Hafizah Osman (HO): What was the SMB150 2012 award all about?
Michael Jenkin (MJ): The SMB150 award is run by a combination of a few companies, the biggest of which is SMB Nation, a resource company founded many years ago as an organisation that gave presentations on small business IT to customers and other IT partners. Two years ago, they decided on running this award to get nominations from around the globe of people who work in the SMB sector. Nominations can be given by IT partners, employees, clients, or anybody. These nominations go into a pool of nominations and the top 150 then receive an award. The award is a BlackBerry Playbook, so they are getting behind the sponsorship side of it. Plus, there is a big meal at a fancy event in Los Angeles [on May 16]. As far as IT goes, it’s a very big thing.
I have been a Microsoft MVP five times before but that had a Microsoft slant to it. The SMB 150 is more about getting your hands dirty, getting into servers, fixing problems and making sure everything works, keeping customers happy, as well as making sure relationships are maintained. We don’t actually find out who nominated us and also who voted for us.
From around the world, there are about 350 nominations so far and I sat at position two for two weeks, I’m currently at about position six. The award is announced via Facebook, Twitter and general email. You have to have more than one nomination to be on the list. So, as far as nominations go, it’s getting very popular and a lot of people are beginning to pick up the information and appear in magazines.
HO: What is the process in selecting a winner?
MJ: Initially, there is a public voting stage. There is a website that people can go to and they can vote anonymously by finding the person’s bio and clicking on the vote button. They can also register and then click to vote. If they register, they also go into the prize pool. Once that’s over, they then take all those nominations and they’ve got a validation board where a number of people sit down and go through them, looking at the comments, trolling around the Internet for histories, bios and resumes, because the online voting is only 40 per cent of the overall score. Including their 60 per cent score, you then get your overall ranking.
The person being nominated has to have a public profile. If you’re a silent person sitting in a corner wanting to do your own thing then I guess it’s very hard to get into this list.
HO: Who are the other Australians on that list?
MJ: There are a couple of other Australians on that list as well. Wayne Small and Hilton Travis are the other nominees. Both of them are also Microsoft MVPs.
HO: How do you feel being nominated for the award?
MJ: It’s fantastic because much of the work I’ve done over time doesn’t get much mention. When I’m sitting in a very large conference room in America, there is a very small proportion of Australians amidst what is usually about 5000 people, most of whom I don’t know. To be nominated and to see others being nominated is fantastic because it means that Australia is finally getting out and saying “we are world leaders, we are out there doing all these things”. I feel it is very appropriate to champion Australians making it big in the wider world. Australia is usually missed by such opportunities and we fail to rate. I’m not just saying this for myself – it’s from discussions that I have had with other Australians at such awards.
HO: What are some other awards you have received before?
MJ: I received the Microsoft MVP award five years in a row from 2004 up till 2008. It is for working in the Microsoft products community. It’s somewhere where you have to show your high technical skills. I was putting out small business servers and was in the newsgroups and forums answering questions, when then led to me getting the first award.
I also received the Premier’s award, from the South Australian premier, for my work in Information Technology. I’ve also had other much smaller awards and other things along the way. The awards led to many other things, things I have never thought that I will be involved in.
HO: What sort of things have you been involved in as a result of the awards?
MJ: Things like the 2004 Australian Scout Jamboree in South Australia, I was the IT person and had to take 65 hectares of land and turn it into an IT area for 11,000 people. We had to bulldoze the area, put in power and data and all kinds of things – that was sponsored. It became a very large event and took three years. More community work came out as a result of the awards. Volunteering is a fantastic way to start new skills.
In 2005, I then provided the IT infrastructure for the Uniting Church Youth Group – it’s an annual get together attended by about 2500 people with computers. Then in 2006, I donated IT services to the SA films and helped create a movie. For that I became the executive director of the movie. Also, I help out annually with all the IT scouts events and presentations for rotary groups and interest groups. One in particular is the Australian Legal Practices Management. I spend a lot of time on the Internet forums and blogs answering people’s IT related questions. I also run my own website where I get a lot of queries from around the world that I cater to.
So, most of my volunteering is alongside other larger volunteering groups. At one point, there was a program from Microsoft called Connecting Up, which was about getting non-profit people talking to IT experts and trying to leverage the relationship and help the companies get better IT. That went on for quite a while as well. My biggest volunteer job is being the Asia-Pacific chairman for the Global IT Community Association (GITCA). I look after millions of IT user group members in the region, with the rest of the regional and global team. This is almost my second job.