One of the most common questions we get at the Champion program is "What are you looking for that makes a person an IBM Champion?"
This is a more complicated question than it seems.
To begin with, most of the IBM Champions are actually nominated by the community - almost 60% of Champions have their name submitted by one of their peers from an online community or at work. The other nominations are either from people self-nominating, or through IBM recommendations. Generally IBMers support the nominations that have been submitted by the community. The IBM Champion program leads do not nominate or look for Champions on their own - we'd be biased during the selection process if we did.
During the nomination process, the IBM Champion program and the selection committees are looking for exactly that - people who champion IBM when they have the opportunity. This almost always boils down to being active with social media, having gained or developed significant expertise within their specialty area, and/or given back to the community in some way.
When the program first began, we were really just hoping to find members of the community who were technical experts - people that could be counted on to give the correct answer when a problem arose. What we found was that the community leaders of the IBM ecosystem were much better than that, and we had to re-think what was really a Champion.
- We had Champion nominations who were incredibly social adept - active on Twitter, with developerWorks, or writing blogs and creating podcasts of their own. Many of our nominations were staple figures of the online community, and IBM needed to recognize that through being so dedicated to spreading the word online, they were championing IBM in a very relevant way.
- We also had Champion nominations who were absolute technical leaders. Champions who had been using IBM products since their inception, and had developed or helped to develop some of the defining features of those software offerings. These Champions who would give a session that was the equivalent of a master class at a conference - incredibly knowledgeable and helpful. In some cases, these Champions weren't the most socially present - and that was okay. There was a great deal they'd done for the community, and they'd passed on a lot of their knowledge through their work and contributions.
- Lastly, we had Champions who just plain-ol' loved to talk about IBM. These were Champions who would go out of their way to make their opinion about IBM known, and that they were impressed with what IBM had done with their offerings. Not being immune to flattery, we definitely felt that this sort of behavior fit the description of being an "IBM Champion". If there were people out there defending IBM against our competitors - then this was almost the definition of "championing" a cause. It wasn't a fanatical zealotry, but just a logical train of reasoning that these people had developed as to their choice of working with IBM. Sp. there also arose a need for us to recognize these members of the IBM community.
With such pools of candidates, it is always incredibly difficult to make decisions as to who is to be selected to be an IBM Champion. To choose one great candidate also means that we have to make sure that all this person is truly a better Champion than the ones not chosen. And that line is constantly shifting as the program grows, expands, and evolves over time.
But there has always been a constant - every year we receive a few dozen nominations that are truly stellar - members of the community who have been consistently advocating for IBM, are connected to the social community, and have gathered a vast pool of knowledge about their work. We have Champions like this already, and each year we find more. Some are Champions who have stepped up their activity in the year, or others who have just learned about the program. Regardless, nominees who have this combination are always considered incredibly seriously.
Maybe that clarifies things a bit for people who are wondering "What makes a person Champion material?". We hope to see many of your nominations in the future!