If you have ever taken any training modules or learned something new by going through the official documentation, the material you used was probably written or co-authored by one or many contributors. These individuals often are volunteers who offer their time and expertiseto cover knowledge gaps in our portfolio or to keep the existing content current.
In this series, we’ll be interviewing repeat contributors to the Microsoft Learn platform to get to know them better and to learn what motivates them to keep contributing.
In today's discussion, we have the pleasure of speaking with Ben Gribaudo, an accomplished independent consultant and trainer who specializes in providing technological solutions that align with an organization's strategic objectives. Ben is highly motivated by the challenge of turning concepts into reality, and he is dedicated to building strong relationships with his clients to gain a deep understanding of their goals. By doing so, he is able to design, develop, and implement custom solutions that meet their specific requirements. While Ben is well-known for his expertise in Power Query, he has a wealth of technical proficiency in a range of other technologies such as C#/.Net, Microsoft SQL Server (SSRS and SSIS), and Microsoft Power BI, which he tailors to fit each project's unique needs.
Ben is a highly valued member of the Microsoft Learn community and has earned the distinction of being the top contributor for Power Query and M language content on Microsoft Learn. His contributions have been exceptional, providing actionable feedback to others and going the extra mile by taking ownership of fixing the documentation through opening GitHub pull requests. Ben's technical expertise is impressive, both as a consultant and a power user of the products. He is not afraid to engage in healthy debates, even when differing expert opinions arise about how technology works and is always willing to work together to find mutually agreeable solutions to reach the best outcome.
Kiran: Hi Ben, it's great to have you here today. To start, can you tell us a bit about your background and experience?
Ben: My journey into the tech world started right from my childhood, way before I could properly read or write. I had a strong interest in computers, as you can see in a photo of me sitting in front of large, black and yellow screen computers at my father's workplace. As I grew older, I started to tinker with building computers and learning HTML. Over time, my focus expanded to include development, database engineering, BI, and architecting solutions, working on projects ranging from PHP module coding to enterprise migrations and using languages from C# to the obscure Zebra Programming Language.
Young Ben sitting in front of computers at his father's workplace
Kiran: Thank you for sharing your exciting journey into the tech world with us. So, you’re one of the top contributors in the Power Query and M language content on Microsoft Learn. Can you talk a little about what inspired you to start contributing, and what motivates you to keep contributing?
Ben: Sure, I’d love to! When it comes to contributing, both helping others and gaining authoritative answers to my own questions have been sources of inspiration and motivation for me. Specifically, I find it valuable to propose edits to pages related to functions or language features that I believe I understand but want to have confirmed by the appropriate Microsoft resource. Through the review process, I receive confirmation on the accuracy and completeness of my understanding, which allows me to improve my own knowledge and expertise. At the same time, others can benefit from the authoritative answer to the same question, saving them the time and effort of figuring it out themselves. Overall, contributing to the community is a rewarding experience that allows me to both learn and give back.
Kiran: That’s wonderful Ben, I specifically liked that your motivation not only comes from the satisfaction of helping others, but also that this process helps you to learn and grow too. Now, what advice would you give to people who want to start contributing to open-source content?
Ben: For those contributing content, it's important to be aware that the process can be impersonal, as you're proposing and discussing ideas with people you've never met in person, where you can't see or read body language. This can feel very different from the familiar experience of bouncing ideas off colleagues you've worked with for years. However, I encourage you not to let this hold you back. Instead, keep an eye out for areas that could be improved, then start by making a small edit or proposing an idea.
When submitting your contribution, keep in mind that the feedback you receive is likely to be succinct and focused on the literal thing you proposed. This can feel sterile, but it doesn't mean your suggestion is unappreciated or that critiques of your proposal are a reflection of your personal worth. Rather, people are working with you towards the common goal of creating the best possible and most helpful contribution.
On the other side of the equation, for those reviewing contributions, I would encourage you to look for opportunities to provide positive feedback to the contributor beyond just analyzing their work. Don't forget to say "thank you" for their contribution and consider including a brief comment on how you see their effort helping to improve the project. By taking the time to provide positive feedback, you can help contributors feel more connected to the open-source community and encourage them to continue making valuable contributions.
Kiran:Ben, I appreciate your insights into contributing to open-source content. Especially regarding collaborating with people you've never met in person. Now, moving beyond work, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Ben: Ah, yes! Outside of work, I am blessed to have a wonderful wife and family! Away from the computer, you might find me working on something around the house, out hiking, visiting a historic site or helping at church—and quite possibly with a few children tagging along.
Ben and his wife enjoying a hike!
Kiran: It's great to hear that you have a wonderful wife and family! It sounds like you have a lot of diverse interests outside of your work with computers. It's also great that you are involved in your community and helping out at church. It's wonderful to have a well-rounded life outside of work, and I'm sure your family and those around you appreciate all that you do.