A couple years back, my team posted to our company blog a brief
article on what it takes to become a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP).
While short on information, it has continued to be the most viewed
article on our company blog. Microsoft gives out these awards
quarterly as a way to recognize individuals for their past 12
months of technical and community excellence. In recent weeks, I've
had several conversations with fellow MVPs about their path to MVP
status, as well as questions from a few folks who would like to get
onto the path of earning their MVP, and so I thought I'd share my
perspective on the process.
There are incredibly smart, dedicated people out there who should
have their MVPs, in my estimation, because of all that they do for
the community, for their great content, for their amazing
presentations, and for the time (and personal travel funds) they
put into the SharePoint community. Mark
Rackley is one. Jason Himmelstein is another. I'd also put Richard
Harbridge in that mix. The fact is, there are quite a few folks
deserving of this honor who do a tremendous amount of work for the
larger community, most of them authors, presenters, community
organizers (the good kind) who are the first to step up to answer
questions, provide solutions, or point people in the right
direction if they don't know the answer themselves.
Why write about this? Because I'd like to see more people striving
to earn this recognition, filling the blogosphere with great
content, and see more people step up to present at community or
SPUG events. I am not afraid of a little competition. I write a lot
of content for the community, and am blessed to be able to travel
the world and speak at a lot of events, and give up many weekends
to help local communities grow. But I will continue to do what I do
regardless of my MVP status. I believe that having more people
strive for this goal means a better SharePoint community for all of
So what does it take? While there is no secret formula, no "best
practices" per se, but I do believe there are things you can do and
habits that you can form that will help you on your path:
Passion is key. Find the most vocal and energetic people in the
crowd, and you'll generally find the MVPs within that group. There
are some who quietly give back, but most are sharing their opinions
out front, encouraging others to participate in the community
Another consistent theme is giving time and resources outside of
work. While Axceler may cover my travel to events around the world,
I'm often giving up my weekends and working long hours so that I
can participate in community activities in addition to my regular
workload. We all have day jobs, some more community-focused than
others. But one of the distinguishing characteristics of an MVP is
going above and beyond.
- Be honest about what you don't know.
SharePoint is huge, and nobody knows everything about the
platform (well, I'm pretty sure Spence Harbar does), so you're
bound to occasionally get questions from the community for which
you don't know the answer. That's ok. The difference with MVPs (and
those who should be/likely will be) is that they'll help the person
find the answer, either through a peer or community member, or by
exploring the problem themselves, testing out various solutions
until they feel confident they can answer the question.
Let's face it - content is king. Some do this through the
forums, answering multiple questions on a daily basis. Others write
profusely through their blogs, and some are more comfortable
through video or tool development. The point is - share your
knowledge. Sometimes the most recognizable way is to present at
conferences, through your local SharePoint user group (SPUG), or at
a weekend SharePoint Saturday(SPS) event.
- Become an advocate for your local
Not every city or region has a SPUG. If not, help start one. If
one already exists, attend it on a regular basis. Offer to present,
to organize, to clean up afterward. Get to know the organizers, and
the people within your community, especially any local MVPs,
Microsoft Certified Masters(MCM), or Microsoft people, because
Microsoft will reach out to them for feedback should you be
considered for the MVP program. In short, be involved locally as
much as possible.
Be willing to share your feedback with the Microsoft product
teams, and with your regional Microsoft representatives. They want
to hear your specific use cases, your industry or customer
experiences. Get to know who they are, and develop relationships
with them. It is easy to criticize the platform for what may be
lacking, but you should focus on helping Microsoft understand the
missing use cases and features so that they can work to improve the
platform and/or documentation. If you do this regularly, you may
just find yourself developing relationships with members of the
product team, which is a good thing.
As an MVP, you are an ambassador for the community, representing
the technology and, to some degree, Microsoft. Expectations are
high for MVPs, both from the community and from Microsoft. Just
remember that people are watching - before you earn your MVP and
after. Be professional.
People can get competitive, especially if you work for an
independent software vendor (ISV) or a strategic integrator (SI, or
consulting company). Nothing wrong with a little competition, but
remember that you represent the community AND that Microsoft is
watching. The pie is huge, folks, and there's plenty for everyone.
Try to remain diplomatic in your dealings with competitors, even if
they are less than friendly.
- Take it to the next level.
Some regions have well-known and hard working MVPs, so simply
writing a blog and speaking at the occasional event may not be
enough to capture Microsoft's attention. Watch what is happening in
the community, and strive to do more. Volume of content is good,
but looking for ways to add additional value to Microsoft and the
community is even better. For example, I created my OneThingvideo
series, which now has over 200 videos in the collection. I think it
went a long way in helping me earn my MVP award.
You can nominate yourself, but its always more meaningful when
the nomination comes from someone else in the community -
especially if from a current or former MVP. I am a big believer in
paying it forward. Recognize others for their contributions to the
community, and learn from them, be like them.
My conclusion is that there is no single path to MVP, no set of
prescribed activities that will get you there. In fact, the rules
(if you can call them that) vary by specialty (SharePoint, SQL
Server, Office365, etc) and by region or country. Don't let that
make you feel like its a moving target - quite the contrary, what
this means is that there are different paths into this elite
program. Microsoft recognizes that we all have different strengths
and different ways of demonstrating our expertise. The one thing we
all have in common, however, is giving back to the community.
That's the key. The MVP award is recognition of demonstrated
excellence in the community.
Honestly, if you are doing most or all of what I've included here,
regardless of your MVP status - you will benefit personally and
professionally, and the community will benefit. So get started!
This article was first published on BuckleyPlanet. Check out
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