Contributing to the Microsoft user community is second nature for Paul Keely, a 13-time Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) and chief cloud officer for Open Systems. Because he’s solving problems and improving the security posture of Open Systems customers every day, Paul provides feedback and insight to the Microsoft community regularly, and he leans on the community for support, as well.

This year, Microsoft’s MVP Program introduced a new category focused specifically on Security, and Open Systems is proud to say Paul was recognized by Microsoft as one of only 40 individuals worldwide who were awarded the Microsoft MVP in Security. This new Security category includes cloud security; identity and access; and SIEM and XDR.

Microsoft’s MVPs are “technology experts who passionately share their knowledge with the community,” according to the MVP website, with the MVP award given to “the best and the brightest technical community leaders.”

Paul was first named an MVP after years of sharing his security expertise by providing educational support to the community, engaging with colleagues on forums, and participating in Microsoft events. With his deep technical expertise in Microsoft products and services, Paul has traveled around the world speaking with Microsoft professionals about the importance of leading with security. He is part of a global community of more than 4,000 technical experts and community leaders, always willing to share their expertise.

The Meaning Behind MVP

There’s a difference between being Microsoft certified – which is important on its own – and being an MVP, where your hands-on knowledge and contributions to the community establish your credibility in the security space.

As an MVP, Paul says he’s had the opportunity to meet and talk with the Microsoft product teams. He’s had in-depth roadmap conversations with product managers. Paul having a view into what’s happening at Microsoft, understanding the reasoning behind the plans, and getting a preview of what’s coming up and what to expect, has been a tremendous benefit to Open Systems customers.

More importantly, it gives Open Systems security customers an informed insider’s perspective on what’s on the horizon and where they should focus.

That focus on the benefit to the customer is inherent in Paul’s approach. He literally wrote the book on security: Microsoft Cloud Security for the C-level: Protect, Detect & Respond with Azure Cloud Security, which was purchased for all Microsoft security reps. Most likely because Paul’s book flipped the typical feature discussion on its head by talking primarily about use cases and benefits, in a straightforward way that appeals to readers.

Paul compares the Microsoft-MVP relationship to the famed hockey player Wayne Gretzky’s saying: “I skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.”

“By working with Microsoft as an MVP, you get a head start for your customers by knowing where the puck is going to be,” Paul says.

Microsoft MVPs as a Force Multiplier

Microsoft’s MVPs are a select group of “bleeding edge” professionals, among the first to get their hands on modern technologies to solve real-world problems. By virtue of their connections to the larger security community, MVPs spread the word about how to use a product by sharing their expertise – all in the service of providing better outcomes for customers.

The same applies for Paul, who turns to his fellow MVPs and community members when he gets stuck researching a problem. It’s a give and take, where in some instances he’s the one contributing to problem solving. Because giving back benefits the entire security community.

While Microsoft notes that “security is a team sport,” Paul builds on that metaphor by pointing out “Since security is a team sport, we need to make sure we’re focusing on coaching our teams.” Employees need to understand, for example, why a company has chosen to use MFA (Multi Factor Authentication), or how to discern the real emails from the phishing tests IT sends to keep everyone alert. And that takes education.

In the meantime, MVPs like Paul will continue to share the insights they’ve gained, helping others improve their security game. And at the same time, Open Systems customers can rest assured, knowing they’ve picked the right team to get the coaching they need to be ready for the big game.