REDMOND, Wash. – Feb. 28, 2011 – Richard Campbell’s technical résumé is a lengthy one, stretching back to when he was a tot. His father was an electrical engineer who put a soldering iron in his hand when he was 6 years old. By 10 he was tinkering with microcomputers.
Richard Campbell is a Microsoft ASP .NET Most Valuable Professional, Internet talk-show host, speaker and entrepreneur.
These days, Campbell’s schedule doesn’t leave much room for sleep. He hosts a weekly Internet talk show for IT professionals and co-hosts another for .NET developers. Regular speaking engagements take him to every continent but Antarctica. He has written more than 500 articles in the past 10 years, and he’s an entrepreneur to boot. But what really drives him is the opportunity to share his knowledge and expertise in developing countries with young people beginning to explore technological possibilities.
This week, Campbell, a Microsoft ASP .NET MVP (Most Valuable Professional), will join roughly 1,600 of his fellow MVPs in Redmond for the annual Microsoft MVP Global Summit. The summit gives Microsoft employees a chance to interact directly with outside experts, and gives MVPs a chance to provide insight and feedback to the company, as well as find out what’s new and on the horizon at Microsoft.
As the Vancouver, B.C., resident likes to joke, “I’m harnessing my ADD for the forces of good.”
He’s actually busy harnessing what he calls his true skill – storytelling. Despite more than 30 years of coding and IT work, Campbell sees himself first and foremost as a storyteller who helps people understand technology.
“We’re all better when we help each other get better,” he said. “It’s a ‘raise the tide’ type thing.”
Richard Campbell (back row, green shirt) on a 2008 trip to Egypt with conference speakers and attendees.
That passion is why he’s traveled the world for almost a decade doing the job he loves most – building communities of developers in developing nations. Every year Campbell co-hosts conferences in regions such as the Middle East to talk with young developers about the opportunities that technology can offer them. His message: you don’t need to come to America to work. If you have electricity, an Internet connection and a laptop, you can start building a better world for yourself and others as a developer.
“We live in a flat world, in Thomas Friedman’s line, where everyone can reach everybody else,” Campbell said. “It doesn’t matter where you grew up – creative minds are valuable wherever. Technology is purely a vehicle to let them express that creativity, and I’m just there to help them see what’s possible.”
Campbell’s relentless efforts to help others harness Microsoft technology make him the epitome of the company’s Most Valuable Professional Award program, said Toby Richards, general manager of Community and Online Support at Microsoft.
“We have 4,200 people like Richard,” Richards said. “Technically they’re the best and the brightest, but what sets them apart is their passion. They spend their own time sharing their knowledge to help others.”
The MVP Award Program, now in its 18th year, is Microsoft’s primary way to recognize outstanding contributions from experts who teach, write about and discuss Microsoft products, providing a credible, independent voice about Microsoft to consumers, Richards said. The MVP Award recognizes their efforts and supports their work. At the MVP Global Summit they meet with Microsoft employees to get greater insight into Microsoft products and talk about how the company’s technologies are used in the real world.
Toby Richards, general manager of Community and Online Support at Microsoft.
While Campbell is active in the technical community in a variety of ways, he’s perhaps best-known as the co-host of .NET Rocks!, the Internet Audio Talk Show for .NET Developers and host of RunAs Radio, the Internet Audio Talk Show for IT Professionals. He is also the co-founder of Strangeloop Networks, a business that helps companies boost Web site performance.
But he says what he enjoys most is his work creating developer communities around the world. The project began in 2001. Campbell was hanging out with friends from the technology speaker circuit and they asked themselves a question: What would you do with your storytelling skills to change the world?
For Campbell, it was a pretty easy answer. “Speaking in North America is fun and easy, but developers there need it the least,” he said. “But in developing countries you found young people really interested in technology but didn’t know what was out there. They could really benefit from being shown what’s possible.”
So Campbell and a few friends started working in countries such as Egypt and Pakistan, putting on small conferences that were often sponsored by Microsoft or by the local government. He remembers one conference in Karachi, Pakistan, that took place in the city’s largest hotel. The venue had seats for 3,000, and tickets sold out in two hours.
Campbell tries to show that young developers don’t need to leave their own countries to work. “When they stay, all of a sudden you’re creating a middle class,” he said. “That is the revelation. Then they start looking out the window and think about how they can start changing their neighborhoods. So I’m just out there to explain what’s possible and inspire them to do it themselves.”
He said he’s starting to see some of those young faces surface in the international developer community, filling speaker slots at events such as Microsoft Tech•Ed. Ultimately, he hopes those conferences transform into self-sustaining communities.
“Our goal is to teach them to teach each other,” he said. “It’s like a perpetual motion machine. We want it to keep going on we’re not there. Once we don’t need to be invited back – success.”