If you’re not familiar with the Microsoft MVP program, it is a reward and a program that’s built around the reward that’s presented to IT professionals, software developers – different people from all walks of life, around Microsoft products. They’re especially focused on various categories in Microsoft.
When I first was an MVP, I was a PowerShell MVP. Then, we all got moved to the Cloud and Datacenter Management MVP. There’s also MVPs for Microsoft Office programs, Office and Productivity Programs, Xbox, Azure, Cloud, and Datacenter Management. There are dozens of categories out there that you can become a Microsoft MVP in.
It is awarded to community experts that provide value to the community for whatever category they’re doing. For me, I blog; I do Car Talks, YouTube videos, and Twitter; and I answer questions in online forums. I’m out and about active, available on the Internet in many different ways, speaking about a topic and answering questions about it. My topic is mostly PowerShell, but now it’s more DevOps, the Cloud, and Datacenter Management piece.
Microsoft was notified of me a few years ago when somebody nominated me. You can nominate anybody you want for an MVP award. Nominees go through the process every three months, I believe. It used to be every year, but now it’s more often to where Microsoft gets together, the MVP team gets together and says “Well, this guy needs it; this girl doesn’t; this girl needs that; this guy doesn’t” and picks who should get the award.
You get a nice plaque and trophy when you are presented the Microsoft MVP award which is good for a year. The year after that, you need to keep up your progress by sharing your knowledge, getting involved in presentations and user groups, as well as writing and blogging.
You have to keep your MVP profile up-to-date. We, the MVPs, have an MVP profile on https://mvp.microsoft.com/. The website also shows you the public activities that we do so we can prove to Microsoft that we’re continuing this effort. We have to continually submit these activities so Microsoft can know other things that they haven’t heard about and the contributions that we’ve done to the community.
As part of the Microsoft MVP program, we also have a yearly summit called the MVP Summit. It happened in May this year at the Redmond Campus, where we talked with our various teams. Usually, there are tracks for each MVP category, and we get together with the other MVPs and the product teams, then we give feedback to Microsoft about what we are seeing, what we have seen in the community that is being well-received, and what needs to be worked on.
Microsoft provides every MVP with a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), which then we can get more insight into what Microsoft is coming down the road, so, that we can prepare for ourselves and others in the community.
The MVP Summit is great for it has hundreds of different sessions, mostly provided by Microsoft employees. The various product teams get a good insight into the strategies, the things that work, the things that don’t, the things that have, and the things that are coming down the road.
Being an MVP awardee also gets you discounts on subscriptions and makes various third-party vendors give you free products. For example, DigiCert. I love the company because it gives out free certificates to Microsoft MVPs every year. I just recently took them up on that offer to get a free public certificate.
Other than those, there’s a lot of different perks that aren’t necessarily obvious. For example, you, a Microsoft MVP and someone who is not but is more experienced go into an interview, who do you think will get the job?
The Microsoft MVP award is not only good for all the perks and the connections you make, but it also makes you stand out above everybody else when you are applying for a job. A lot of employers/companies love to see that logo on your resume. They go “Look! This big company has awarded this Microsoft MVP award. If they think he’s worthwhile, then he has to be good.” It’s like Microsoft vouching for you.
There are different ways you can become a Microsoft MVP, it’s all up to the selection committee. First off, in my experience, you need to be in front of as many people as you possibly can – that is the most popular way.
You can answer all the questions on Joe Bob’s forum that has five users on it, but it’s not going to do you any good because you need to get more exposure, you need to put yourself out there, and help as many people as possible.
You can do the following instead – answering questions on Stack Overflow, Server Fault, and other prominent forums (it will get you views); doing presentations at conferences and user groups (the bigger the meeting, the better it looks for the selection committee); and writing articles.
I do a lot of writing as this is my thing, as well as training and other online stuff. I don’t do a lot of offline stuff like public speaking because it’s not my thing. Getting millions of eyeballs online is more important to me than getting a few hundred in a conference hall.
Get as many eyeballs as possible. A few ideas: blog as much as you can, get as much exposure to your blog as you can, and do forums training courses. I did training courses through Pluralsight and Udemy. It’s all about doing the training around the particular products. I do freelance writing for 4Sysops, Tom’s IT Pro, InfoWorld, CIO, and many other websites. Also, get involved organizing a community event.
There’s no formula for it. People have asked for a formula forever, but there’s really no formula. It’s all about getting out there and getting in front of as many people (IT professionals, in my case) as possible that are in the category you’re looking for, evangelizing Microsoft products. You’re just like the unpaid Microsoft evangelist.
Some people don’t like that they aren’t paid, but in my opinion, a good MVP doesn’t do it just for the program. For instance, if I lost my MVP award today, I will still be doing the exact same thing.
To me, the MVP award is a byproduct of what I just love doing every day, and it will be a lot easier versus “I’m gonna go out and get this MVP award, and then I’m just gonna do the bare minimum. I can’t stay onboard.” That’s not the way to go, just keep going.
If you haven’t started already, you’ll eventually say “Wow! The MVP award is great and rewarding.” But I’ll do it regardless, anyway.