How can I become a Microsoft MVP?
From the outside this is an extremely logical question to ask an existing Microsoft MVP. If they are an MVP that means that somehow they got there and therefore they should know the process and others could follow the same process.
There are several reasons however why this isn’t an easy question to answer:
- Each MVP has taken a different route to get there so there is no “prescription” to become a Microsoft MVP. I am currently a 7 year MVP and my route was to be nominated by another MVP after I had been blogging and writing on Operations Manager for a long period of time.
- Microsoft chooses the MVP’s, so setting a career goal to become an MVP is somewhat akin to trying to get struck by lightening (or if you want to be positive you could look at it as winning the lottery). So while MVP’s are accepted into the program, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they know why they specifically were chosen for the program. I was notified of my nomination but I wasn’t accepted as an MVP for 18 months after my nomination.
- My personal advice is to forget trying to become an MVP and focus on being a contributor to the technical community.
There are however, some commonalities to all Microsoft MVP’s from what I see from a process perspective:
- Community: A focus on sharing with the community is a core to the Microsoft MVP program. The best way to be considered for MVP nomination is to share your best and to share it frequently. I’ll discuss this later in the blog post but sharing with the community can span a variety of methods depending upon where your skills and interests lie. The best MVP’s have built the technical community into a large part of who they are so it’s almost part of their DNA.
- Nomination: MVP candidates are nominated to become part of the program. Microsoft provides information on MVP nomination at: http://mvp.microsoft.com/en-us/nominate-an-mvp.aspx
- Acceptance: When MVP’s are accepted they are notified via email, and MVP program acceptances are done on a quarterly basis. Recently MVP renewals have occurred on April 1st, July 1st, October 1st and my yearly renewal cycle is January 1st.
- Yearly benchmark: Each MVP is benchmarked yearly to validate if they will be continued in the program once they have become an MVP. Each yearly benchmark is based upon the contributions of the past 12 calendar months.
What are the benefits of being a Microsoft MVP?
- Yearly MVP Summit: Once a year Microsoft provides an MVP summit which provides a gathering for Microsoft MVP’s and the product teams to meet for the better portion of a week. From my personal experiences, this has often been the most important week of training that I have had the privilege to be involved in.
- Meeting with the product teams: The primary benefit to the MVP program is a chance to interact with the product teams. Meeting these people in person is key to being able to understand the product and to develop the networks required to really work with these teams. There have been a myriad of times that I have been blessed enough to know the right person at Microsoft to ask a question of which has resulted in a huge win for my clients. In turn, I try to provide useful feedback on the product and insights into what is most important from our client’s perspective.
- Being part of the team: I consider the Cloud and Datacenter MVP’s to be more than colleagues – many of these MVP’s (current and former) I also consider to be friends. The level of knowledge represented by these individuals is vast and I’m honored to be considered as a peer within this team.
- Credibility: MVP status conveys a level of credibility to the individual that they have been recognized as having provided “truly exceptional, voluntary contributions to Microsoft-related social and technical communities, coupled with outstanding community leadership and a willingness to freely share deep technical knowledge with others” (per http://mvp.microsoft.com/en-us/nominate-an-mvp.aspx)
- Others: There are several other benefits beyond the ones listed above but I consider the ones above to be the most important to myself personally.
What are the costs of being a Microsoft MVP?
- Time: It all comes down to the time required to commit to the program. MVP status represents hours of work on a weekly basis spent on learning and sharing with the technical community. And this time occurs in addition to the normal day job that the MVP’s are working.
For Microsoft’s information on the MVP program and how to become one see: http://mvp.microsoft.com/en-us/becoming-an-mvp.aspx
That’s all nice Cameron, but that’s not what I asked. I asked “How can I become a Microsoft MVP?”
The unfortunate but quick answer on this is that I don’t believe there is such thing as a prescription for this. The better answer may well be rather that there is a better question “What is the first step towards becoming an MVP?”. My best answer to this question is to recommend taking the first step.
The first step to becoming an MVP is shifting focus from using resources that others have provided in the community to becoming a contributor in the technical community. This is not to say that you must become a “Microsoft Community Contributor” first to become an MVP, but both programs are designed to recognize contributions to the Microsoft technical community.
Let me try this as a fishing metaphor. Microsoft is in a boat and they are looking for fish. They fish where and when they choose to fish but unless you are in the water you aren’t going to be the fish that they catch.
There are a variety of ways to contribute to technical communities and community contributors are those personnel who can potentially be tapped by Microsoft to be an MVP. Prime areas of community focus often include:
1. Microsoft forums
2. Non-Microsoft forums
3. Web sites and blogging
4. Writing books and articles
5. Public speaking at conferences and user groups and coordinating user groups
Per http://mvp.microsoft.com/en-us/becoming-an-mvp.aspx: “There is no set benchmark for becoming an MVP, in part because it varies by product and product life-cycle. Some of the criteria we evaluate include the impact of a nominee’s contributions to online forums such as Microsoft Answers, TechNet and MSDN; wikis and online content; conferences and user groups; podcasts, Web sites and blogs; and articles and books.”
If you want to take the first step forward on the path to potentially become an MVP, I recommend that you start with these six tasks:
1) Open your calendar and put a weekly reminder to find a way to contribute to the technical community. Block and dedicate time on a weekly basis to doing this task.
2) Find the existing MVP’s who work in the area that you focus on and start following what they are working on (blogs, twitter, forums, etc). If you are attending a technical conference make a strong effort to meet them in person and introduce yourself. There have been several MVP’s over the years who I have met at conferences and were delighted years later to see them join the team!
3) After three months, put a second weekly reminder to find a way to contribute to the technical community. Block this additional time so that now you are working on this at least twice a week.
4) Yep, you guessed it. Three months later put a third weekly reminder to find a way to contribute to the technical community. Block this additional time so that now you are working on this at least three times a week.
5) Take this process forward as you can. Make the effort to change the perspective from having to dedicate time to giving back to the community to building how you give back to the community in your DNA. When you hit a problem that you haven’t seen before and you know that you should share it – DO IT! When you find a really cool trick that people should know about – SHARE IT!
6) On your calendar and a add a reminder 12 months from today to re-open this blog post. I hope to see you back in 12 months at which point I’ll post the second half of this blog post!
Call to action: The technical community needs people who are willing to spend their time to help others! How many times have you gone to your preferred search engine and found the answer because someone else spent the time to explain how to address that question? Or how many times have you fixed something, forgotten what you did and then had to figure it out all over again? By sharing your lessons learned you not only help the community, you may be helping yourself!
I have found that often in my life I don’t know the entire path that I need to take, but I do know the right first step. After taking the right first step the next one often becomes apparent.
How to become an MVP or MCC: http://social.technet.microsoft.com/wiki/contents/articles/4827.how-to-become-an-mvp-or-mcc.aspx