This week I am back at Microsoft for the MVP Summit, learning about things that by the end of the event will make my head hurt and meeting up with friends new and old.
The MVP program, is almost a surreal experience – it’s the one where Microsoft puts people in a room (or many rooms as there are a few of us around) and provides some opportunity to give feedback and ask questions about what they might have been thinking when they did X or Y or Z.
Almost all of the content presented at the summit is content covered by an NDA – this makes the only rule, much like the first rule of Fight Club – “We don’t talk about Fight Club” and the sharable content pretty much the menus from restaurants around the area. Even though the content is shrouded in secrecy, the event is pretty amazing – getting the opportunity to meet the people whose books you have read or blogs you follow. The networking with people from all over the world who are considered to be your peers is pretty stunning.
How does someone who does X or Y with technology become an MVP?
Becoming an MVP is an interesting exercise. You have to make an effort to do things that help the community. The technical community, the community around you, the community at your grandparents retirement complex – just the community… for now (I’ll come back to this in a bit).
Microsoft is like any company and they value their customers and want these people or businesses to have a good experience. You may be able to help with that experience – if you fix a problem for a customer and take a few notes about the issues that were happening, maybe you can create a forum or blog post about the things that were going on and how to correct them.
Maybe there is a product you have been using that is in need of further explanation – the documentation is unclear for one reason or another and the product is not straightforward – put in the time to teach yourself how it works and share this with others – now you can edit the documentation created by Microsoft on GitHub to help them help their customers.
So I have a bunch of blog posts and community things now what?
Someone, either an MVP, or a Microsoft employee will need to nominate you for the award. Put your content out there, make noise about it – tweet, blog, facebook, linked in, Friendster, Instagram, all the social channels… then follow up to help get the word out. Does this ensure nomination? Nope – but helping get your content out to the masses certainly cannot hurt.
Keeping after it, writing blogs and participating in the community is key. In addition, you would do good to keep a list of the work you do and the dates that it publishes – you likely wont need this until you land yourself in the nomination process, but the list will help keep track of what you are working on and that is helpful no matter what you are working on.
The long and short of it is this – work with the technology that you love, write content, teach classes, tweet about it, and work to ensure your work gets out there. Help those you know and those you don’t with technology and tell the story. You never know where it may take yo.
What does it bring me to be an MVP?
Truthfully, there are a number of technical benefits, because of the current agreement I have with Microsoft I won’t list the benefits. In all honesty, the networking with other MVPs, the sessions about …. things, and the time spent in Seattle and just getting to know others in your new found peer group are the biggest benefits. Sure you might get asked by the community and by Microsoft to provide feedback, remember that doing these things are the best benefit you can get. It is all about learning and opportunity, at least for me – and the friends I have made over the past few years have been great.
There are technical benefits that come with being an MVP, but these aren’t what the program is all about – relationships with other MVPs and Microsoft employees to help us get questions answered. For me, that is the biggest benefit of the program.
Is it a certification? I am not sure I get it?
The MVP is an award – they give it out to community members who do more to help Microsoft customers and people using Microsoft (and other) technologies.
You cannot take a test for a dollar or whatever and be an MVP – and this is a good thing – Microsoft picks the people who get to be MVPs. I heard something this week that is just plain cool…. “MVPs are the top 1% of technical users of our products” and while I am not sure if that is the actual number it is still pretty bad ass that the MVP community sticks out that much.
While it isn’t a certification and it is reviewed every year, it is really a fun experience and is worth all of the work. While I have not put together the ultimate list, or the perfect list, or even a good way to do whatever it is that needs doing, I hope these things pique your interest in the program. I am happy to answer questions, please comment. This is just something I thought about for a little while and wanted to put out ether – Enjoy newly minted MVP!