Christian Buckley interviews Ragnar Heil

Christian and Ragnar discuss the process of becoming a MVP.

Video Transcript

Christian: Hey we’re coming back to you from the European SharePoint Office 365 and Azure Conference. It’s ESPC 19 come to you from Prague and I’m here with Ragnar how’s it going?

Ragnar: Thanks Christian for having me here it’s a pleasure.

Christian: How’s the event been for you so far?

Ragnar: Oh, pretty busy actually all of the people here great community I love it the city couldn’t be more beautiful so if you look outside the window, we can see beautiful Prague and I’m very excited to be here.

Christian: Well excellent well why don’t you introduce yourself, who you are your role kind of your background of the community?

Ragnar: Yeah so, I’m Ragnar Heil I’m currently working at Quest as a Product channel manager and responsible for the countries Germany Austria Switzerland and Benelux Netherlands. In the past I worked at Microsoft I think I had a 11 years history of Microsoft and several roles and then I left Quest moved to Metalogics who were acquired by Quest.

Christian: But instantly became an MVP that is the fastest awarding of an MVP after leaving Microsoft that I’ve ever come across.

Ragnar: I don’t forget this the second between when I left Microsoft and I joined one second later at Metalogics yeah and the reason and the reason why I was awarded as MVP is because even if when I was working at Microsoft as a full-time employee I had a really large passion for the community. So, I was organizing meetups, I was speaking and hosting so I so my heart was beating or is still beating for the community also in my…

Christian: It makes complete sense I’m just poking fun it’s you know I know it’s not the topic that we’re gonna we’re just yes here but you know there I get that question a lot as you know people ask well like well what’s the process to become an MVP and I guess there is no one answer for the process around that it’s really kind of it’s an award looking at what that person has delivered in that the year the years previous you know to the community and you did a ton for the community that was far above and beyond what your role was at Microsoft. So, it wasn’t really surprised from that standpoint.

Ragnar: But and I’m still there very grateful that that is that Microsoft gave me this this kind of freedom in my in my role helping process that I could spend so much time and traveling around and really connecting the dots here in the community and travel about the exciting things what we have.

Christian: Well what I want to talk about like your movement around and what’s happening within your part of the world and you know with some of the evolution of the technology I mean so we both come from the SharePoint space and of course Yammer, the social collaboration side of things as well you’ve been for most of your time inside Microsoft you were one of the more vocal people around the social collaboration technology. So kind of how is it evolving and changing within the region?

Ragnar: Well I have a big heart beating for Yammer and so I’m very excited also to see the big announcements hashtag year of Yammer and we are currently planning a few events around Yammer. So I very concrete plans around a Yammer event in February in Germany where we definitely want to watch each other all the other news and delivering the night highlights around Yammer but we also want to make sure to get better customer stories local from our regions. So not only that we have the technical news and updates but really want to make sure that customers understand the value and transform the features and new capabilities into their own business value. So I’m very interested to see more customer stories. I’m also a Yammer blogger and I also want to capture this kind of stories in my Yammer blog which I am committed to write like three or four times a year.

Christian: You know share the blog you like how do people find out?

Ragnar: This is the well on the only one hand there is the official one check community dot Microsoft dot com and I’m also blogging about Microsoft 365 at Ragnar Heil dot GE and I’ve got another one about headsets so but my official myself blog my first name last name dot GE.

Christian: So talking about some of the you know the evolution in the community and especially the this part of the region that you serve. So it’s an observation coming from the US so you have like of course for the last decade the SharePoint Saturday you know, events that which are still going on around the world but it’s really been expanding and growing in Europe and Asia where it has been you know constricting in some areas not all there’s still I think of like Twin Cities Minneapolis area it’s still going strong there’s still 400 500 people that show up twice a year to that event and in other regions where it’s doing but it’s just it’s booming still over here so what’s kind of the what’s the difference?

Ragnar: It’s a very difficult question because on the one hand I see events like which are booming like we had SharePoint Saturday Munich going on last week thinking with like 350 people in Munich big event you know with great speakers you know Dan Holme and so on we’re on stage. There were other events in in Europe which were not so well visited where we only had 80 which was a little bit disappointed. What is the difference? It’s very difficult to talk about all the differences what went wrong here and what is what went well here? As a sponsor you know we are we are at Quest we are sponsoring these kind of events sometimes we see a different kind of mindset that in some countries people don’t want to talk to sponsors and to in to vendors in other countries they’re super open man our booth is very highly frequented and we get a lot of visitors so sometimes I see that that that people are more open or less open to really have conversations and chats because that’s what we want we just want open more open conversations. On the other hand we are currently trying to increase the level or we want to we want to reduce the amount of no-show rates because in the past everybody was suffering on a high amount of no-show rates like 50 percent that’s something what we want to reduce by creating no-show fees let’s say hundred euros for a no-show fee which we are going to a to spend in charity or something else and we also want to offer more value and currently we are brainstorming so that’s completely under NDA we’re currently brainstorming with on Saturday northern Germany to add an additional day like Friday in in advance to offer a very cheap of technical workshop let me know.

Christian: We’re doing the exact same thing.

Ragnar: Yeah, we’re not preaching like one but we’re not preaching and we are having a very interactive session especially with coding and so on everyone to have people had taken all the laptops and really go into coding. So, that’s what we want to offer on a Friday and also charge for this special workshop because there’s a high value and we also want to bring more customers on the table because currently what I’m seeing is we have too many any MVPs which are always talking about the same kind of topics and I want to see fresh faces, new faces, new blood also customers on stage well let’s create something which I’m really wanted to change.

Christian: That’s actually a great topic for a lot of people that I know that are you know that are watching the live stream or the recording of this say you know I’d love to be able to get more involved and become a speaker, become an MVP but you know get more involved with the community and how to do that and then so every I mean certainly every SharePoint Saturday even this event I mean there is a public call for speakers for ESPC every year and anyone that has you know experience that wants to be able to share that experience and share kind of what they did has an opportunity to submit and that you know that content and you know it you know so a larger event like this it might be a little more difficult to get in you have to have some speaking experience but you know you have like the SharePoint Saturday movement where anybody can be involved. I know that it for us locally we actually give preference to local and new people over others. We try to have a blend but I mean it’s important but if we wanted to just have like just big-name speakers that we know are excellent speakers with that content we could do nothing more but fill that up but there’s not much community and in that global community for sure but you’re trying to build the local community and you have to identify those know people and which is as an organizer as you know it’s not that easy people don’t seem to submit for those events.

Ragnar: And that’s and that’s a that’s a very perfect point because see I’m very interested to increase the community work and I’m very I mean I’m working closely with all the organizers and in every single part of Germany to move an existing SharePoint user group, a SharePoint meetup group into a Microsoft 365 group which is not only talking about office 365 but also talking about the security and compliance topics. So actually I would like to have the whole M365 stack part of these of these user groups but sometimes it’s a little challenging because we still have people who are employed as an exchange specialist or as a SharePoint specialist and they are not interested in Azure ad security compliance because they’re focused on exchange so here it’s our challenge is to is to bring everybody in the room and to listen even if you’re still working on exchange topics this could be a topic we can grow into because we want to show horizon be able to show a future because can be that that job is going to be around in in in one year and then they see future in ad security and compliance.

Christian: So an example of that is if you own teams yeah well teams you know the workloads that power teams it’s there’s your point there’s exchange workloads there’s yeah all the team’s activities itself there’s all the former the Skype the meetings the rooms the you know that the broadcast capability being all of those pieces those used to be at least three different roles managing those things and so now it’s consolidated. So we’re finding the same thing where we’re saying look we want to be more you know a solution centric in the content that we’re providing now there are certainly there are deep dives into one technical topic, but we’re finding that people want to have that more comprehensive view yeah over a subject matter and it’s just it’s hard to jam-pack that into a day.

Ragnar: What we usually do is we create a kind of theme and topic let’s say the topic is M365 compliance and then we have a speaker’s slot forty-five minutes around the compliance and team’s next biggest slot is forty-five minutes the compliance SharePoint and the other one is compliance in around Azure ad and then we are three different slots and then we have another one of our for networking and drinks and food so catering is always very important. So we yeah we make sure that nobody has to leave the room hungry and that’s got to be that’s usually like I like over like four hour like four hour evening high quality content trade networking lots of space and room for questions every questions yeah should be heard and to be there so and this is something when people are ready and willing to invest these four hours in their spare time they get a lot of value back. It’s just we need we need more people who are yeah who say okay this is what I want to learn and I’m investing my evening.

Christian: Well you need to yeah I think this is I provide this this guidance you know when I was an employee at you’re the last couple big companies where like you own your career you’re responsible for your education, your path that forward and here there are resources that are available out there there’s a lot of great opportunities out there for the community to go and leverage but you as an individual need to step up and say this is what I want here’s the path is what I’m interested go and explore go to those different sessions ask questions.

Ragnar: I had a conversation yesterday okay oh I’m expected from him from a manager that my manager is going to create a training path for me. I said oh well I thought that these days are actually over because there’s so much opportunity now and also free content on the market that that that it’s not a manager of thing to organize a technical training pass into Microsoft 365 because this is something what I calls you know self-organized learning and this is a and then the best way how I’m learning is always this mix of notes also social media learning a lot of blogs and Twitter and LinkedIn and Instagram and Facebook I learned a lot there but also on conferences, commercial ones those free ones so I’m a big believer in the self-organized hybrid blended on-site off-site online offline learning.

Christian: Well the reality is that we’re you know but nobody learns through one channel one method you need a variety of different kinds of inputs sometimes in persons small group sometimes the classroom lecture style sometimes where it’s you know at your own pace reading watching videos that think so there’s any combination of those types of things. Which is another again another reason that there might some people that say hey I’d love to share my expertise but I’m really nervous speaking up in public you know did I just I don’t have that background I’m not maybe not interested in that but there’s many different ways that they can add their value.

Ragnar: And what and what I’ve currently seen is also our community what we all love is the perfect place to grow so it can be that you are afraid of public speaking in front of 5000 or in front of 500 people and there are events where you maybe have to have already 25 people in the room and then you can you can really learn these are rooms for practicing these are rooms which are safe places yeah the safe places 20 people in the room very willing very nice people and then you can learn and then maybe you were yet 10 presentations and then you can go into a larger one where you have 500 people in the room.

Christian: That’s a great place to kind of leave off it’s the you know it’s an iterative process as we learn to become maybe and we don’t be afraid to share your experiences share your you know passionate truth share your truth.

Ragnar: Exactly the most important thing is don’t be afraid you know we all had had horrible presentations we all had we all I did workshops which failed so don’t be afraid everybody failed somewhere but the most important thing is go your way, don’t be afraid, don’t be shy and join the community they part of them they will help you and they will also help you grow.

Christian: You don’t strengthen a muscle without tearing it down once in a while so as I fail you learn from those and for the mistakes and then you get better at it so but you’ve got to get out there and try so that’s a key thing. So, join the community come in you sign up you know put throw your hat in the ring to come and present to share to just contact your local user group you know you know submit it an abstract to a SharePoint Saturday event or two if you’ve got something that’s you’ve gone through that process you’ve presented a couple times you’ve refined it submit it to next year’s ESPC event.

Ragnar: And one thing which is a very important if you observe yourself that you don’t have time to join a community just think what is currently missing maybe the topics are too technical, maybe the topics are more for developers maybe you maybe you want to talk more about business topics then just add your own content maybe you could you a create your own user group where you invite your customers and your and your and your business people so in case something is missing just let us know and try to start something new. Even if it’s if it’s a small group even if you start with ten people but there but there are so many niches and so many gaps but we want to address and target your audiences that if you need new voices in here again don’t be afraid don’t be shy just go and start a movement.

Christian: I think my favorite presentations have been when there’s five to ten people where it’s more of a conversation and I’ve been able to you know to ask questions and then would get long responses back and kind of dig in the details of that that’s helped me refine my material so the next time I go where it’s more of me standing in front of a hundred people giving that presentation I’m able to give a more balanced presentation knowing those details those exact questions.

Ragnar I had this I had the conversation on the plane with Hans Brender also known as Mr.OneDrive he said when he has got a very important keynote or a larger room you know where you have like 1,000 the room he always picks the presentation he or a gave a few times he would never go into a very large room and do it for the very first time so he really want to be very routine or routine my routine and because it doesn’t make sense to to go into such a large room and do it for the, yeah I’m just talking about you Hans.

Christian: Okay there it is he’s up next yeah.

Ragnar: And that’s and that’s reason why-y-y those presentations they look so professional and so entertaining and so on and Hans got very good good feedback also from Microsoft management because he’s not doing this mistake and and go into a large room and do a presentation for the first time without rehearsals.

Christian: It makes it very appreciated. He’s a Hans is up next here so yeah well you wait well what Ragnar really appreciate your time and people want to get in contact how do they find you through social what’s the best way to reach you?

Ragnar: Just add my name to the to Google Ragnar Heil I’m on Twitter Ragnar H find me on Facebook LinkedIn group a blog and so on I’m yeah, I’m everywhere.

Christian: He’s tall it’s easy to see in the crowd as well.

Ragnar: Yeah exactly.

Christian: Hey well thanks a lot for your time today.

Ragnar: Thanks much Christian, thank you.

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