Today was my renewal date for my Microsoft Valuable Professional (MVP) award. It’s a day when I’m normally quite tense because I don’t take this recognition for granted. Sure, I work hard, but I do rub a few people the wrong way too. It’s a day when I’m tense, and even though my profile might get updated on the MVP site, I stay agitated until I get the notification email. And then it’s all smiles. Today was different.
Looking back, I’m only here where I am, like many people, thanks to my parents who struggled and sacrificed while I was growing up.
My Dad lost his father when he was young, and never had to opportunity to go secondary school. Instead he went to work to support his mother and younger sisters. Later he joined the army, worked with horses, and became a pretty good shot. Later in life he had a check-box on his license to qualify him to drive just about any kind of vehicle on the road. He went to night schools, learned electric and car mechanic skills. While Dad might not have been a stockbroker or doctor, I never wanted for anything growing up. Unfortunately I never got to know Dad as an adult; he died when I was 18. But I did pick up something from him: never stop learning.
Mom also left school young as was the norm at the time, before having an opportunity to sit her Leaving Cert (a state exam at the age of 17/18). She moved to Dublin, worked in bookmakers (able to quote and understand all their numeric language), and it was in Dublin that she and Dad met. Both my Mom and Dad were products of 1950s Ireland, a time when our country was an agriculture-first, third-world nation. Government policy was to encourage emigration because there was no future here for most people, and the nation could not sustain our meagre population. They emigrated to England and that’s where my sister and I were born.
One of my earliest memories is learning to read. I was reading books before I went to school, thanks to Mom. I have this vague recollection of picking out books in a local store when I was really young, or walking to the local library with her, and always coming home with a pile of books. Later on, I was reading books on BASIC programming years before I would ever own a computer. Only a few weeks ago Mom told me how my first school teacher thought I would be bored in school. I was constantly encouraged to learn and discover; apparently I was one of those kids who sat on the bus asking “Why? Why? Why?”. When I wanted to do something because the other kids were, the lesson was to think independently; would I jump into a fire because everyone else was? I was taught to be tolerant … in the early 1980s when (according to The Commitments) the north-siders of Dublin were the racially downtrodden of Ireland. I was taught the value of an education, at a time in Ireland when going “on the dole” was the destiny of everyone who stayed in the country, and most of my class dropped out when they were 16. I was taught not to be afraid of standing out from the crowd, in an area where being different (and in my area, that was trying to be something) was frowned upon.
That’s my memory of my Mom. Dad provided, and a lot of what I am came from him. Mom taught me. I am what I am, not just because of genetics, but because of the environment I was raised in. I’m a MVP because my parents gave me a chance. They told me to try, to learn, be independent. I could have jumped into the fire with everyone else. I could have shut down the computer at 17:30 every weekday. No, I worked late or studied at home. I could have accepted my “fate” in 2001 when I was made redundant. I studied, sat exams, and got my first MCSE instead. I could have said “no” when I was asked if I’d be interested in presenting at the Irish launch of Windows Server 2008. That was my first presentation in Ireland in years, and set me off down the community and MVP track. I could have chosen the same product as everyone else when something new and interesting came along. I think regular readers know how that went. By the time I left home, I was wired to be who I am today.
I never got to thank my Dad in person. Knowing him, he’s cobbled together a computer of some kind, and had fun doing it, in the great big cloud in the sky & read this. Mom is still with us. She’s struggling at the moment. It’s been a particularly rough day. I might not be as productive as normal in the next few weeks. She might not get this whole me, Hyper-V, and Microsoft thing, but she knows that … well … things are good. Thank you, Mom.