How to become a Microsoft MVP – Most Valuable Professional?

‘How do I become an MVP?’ is one question which keeps ringing in most of our minds. Quite a few of you had also sent me an email asking the same. Well, I must agree that the awareness of the MVP program is less among the tech folks. Let me start explaning.. The thoughts which are mentioned in this article are just my understandings about the program, being an MVP for few years!

Update: 9th March 2016: Microsoft plans to shuffle up the MVP program, and its for good! – Read more here.

If you are looking at Springboard Series Technical Expert Program, read here

First of all, Most Valuable Professional (MVP) is not a certification., Its an Award! – Its a mode of recognition which Microsoft gives for individuals who are technology experts and most importantly, who play a role and are keen in sharing their expertise with the Community. So if your question is, “I have completed my MCTS or MCAD.. what are the next steps towards being a MVP?” – You must re-think on your question.!

MVP LogoMVP awards are usually given every quarter and it’s an annual award, which means that your award is valid only for a year. At the end of the year, your contributions of the previous 12 months undergoes a strict validation process before you are awarded again. MVP awards are given in various categories and technologies. The product teams in Microsoft evaluate your expertise and contributions; Once they feel, your contributions are vital and important.., you are awarded an MVP!

MVPs are definitely not a part of Microsoft. MVPs are independent of Microsoft, with separate opinions and perspectives, and are able to represent the views of the community members.

I would recommend, Identify your strong technology and work towards it.  As I mentioned earlier, being a Tech expert is one of the important parameters.  Let me not comment or give you ideas on how to improve on that. However, I would like to emphasize on other factors which you can work on.!

How to Approach an MVP Award

Sharing Knowledge – Is one important ‘Mantra’ for being an MVP. As far as I have seen, people choose any of these below methods to share their expertise.

Contributions which Lead to be an MVP

1. Technical Forums – This is one of the most common places where a lot of people discuss about technology. It can be on Issues, Current Trends, Cutting Edge Technologies, Queries etc.. Contributing in this portal always has an edge; as you know that, the solution which you provide is validated and implemented. You also get a chance to solve real world scenarios and problems.  There are many Tech Forums, but notables ones are MSDN, TechNet, Appdeploy, Windows Club, Neowin etc.. I would recommend, you take part in these discussions, provide solutions to people and gain a good online presence.  You can also choose to play a role in filing bugs and fixes in Microsoft Connect website.

2. Blogs / Website – I don’t need to explain the significance of having a blog, as most of you know how important medium it is. However, one point which I would like to emphasize here is – Blogging is not just mere sharing your thoughts / comments. You should also be concentrating in providing solutions to people like writing a code snippet, How To Articles, Technology Reviews, Case Studies, Design Solutions etc.  This will help in valuing your expertise.

Also, It’s always good to have your own blog. However, if you are not keen on maintaining one, you can also choose to write on some popular portals. This way, you can ensure that.. your solution reaches those developers / IT Pros / Consumers who are looking for information!

The points discussed above mostly concentrates on your online presence. However, if you do not want to be an online person, UG Communities is the way.

3. User Group Communities – User groups are typically independently run, volunteer groups that meet on a regular basis to discuss and share information on a variety of technical topics. Participation in a user group is an excellent, inexpensive way to receive technical content, education and to meet with your peers to get more out of the Microsoft platforms, products, technologies, and resources which you are interested in. Most of the cities have an User Group Community which does regular meets, sessions and events covering various technologies. In Bangalore, we do have BDotnet and BITPro which are one of the top UG communities in India.

I would recommend, Identify the Local User Group in your city, (..and if you do not have.. you can indeed start one too.! ) You can contribute by taking sessions on Technology Concepts, Productivity Tips etc. Also participate in regular discussion meets and share your ideas and experiences. This will help you go gain an offline presence in the community.

4. Books / Guides – There are very few people who write and author books. This needs great expertise in technology and you should know the right approach in writing the same. If you are skilled in it, contact any of the publishers and write a proposal on what technology can you write on.  You can also prepare How to Guides, Author White Papers, Podcasts and Screencasts. These materials can help a lot of people, who are in need for guidances.

These are just few contributions which i can think of; if you have any other approach towards sharing knowledge.. thats appreciated too!

Potential MVPs are nominated by other technical community members, current and former MVPs, and Microsoft personnel who have noted their leadership and their willingness and ability to help others make the most of their Microsoft technology.

The moment you feel, your presence among the community is valued and many people are benefited from your solutions, you can apply for the MVP program. You can choose to submit the nominations yourself or even send it across to an MVP who can pass your nominations to his lead.!

Advantages / Benefits of Being an MVP

Though the award, memento, certificate and the recognition itself is a biggest asset, you do get some nice benefits from this program once you are an MVP.

MVP Award Kit

Following is a brief introduction to them. I would also put across my experiences which I had.

1. MVP Open Day (Depends on your region) and Global Summit – You are exclusively invited to meets like this, where you get an oppurtunity to learn and connect with lot of like minds. You also get a chance to interact with the Microsoft Product Teams and they are really interested in taking your feedback about their products. Also, you are involved in various discussions about their future products and technologies.

Last time, when I had been to the MVP Open Day, I did get a chance to be a part of the round table meet with the Windows 7 Product Team guys, to be specific the team which brought in the WindowsXP Mode. This was one very important discussion for me, where I could understand the future plans of the Windows Operating System. (Ofcourse, its NDA and I cannot share it here..)

Engaging Oppurtunities - Virtualization Team - The team behind WinXP Mode

Also, I had this opportunity to discuss with lot of other bloggers /Experts like Amit, Pinal, Suprotim, Anand, Ramesh etc.. This below picture was taken during the South Asia MVP Open Day, which was held at Microsoft IDC.

South Asia MVPs Meet during the Open Day 2010 - Microsoft IDC

Summing up, Networking and meeting people is one great benefit being an MVP.!

2. First hand Access: Being an MVP, you do get access to first hand information and Technical previews of softwares.

3. MSDN/ Tech Net Subscriptions: MVPs are given one-year online priority access to products and expert advice. There are also few other softwares which you get as a part of the 3rd Party Offers.

4. MVP Product Group Interaction (PGI) Feedback – allows MVPs a direct channel to submit comments, suggestions, and reports of abnormal behavior or potential viruses related to Microsoft products and technologies through the MVP Member’s Web site.

5. MVP Private Newsgroups / Discussion Lists – This provides forums for MVPs from around the world to share ideas on Microsoft products and technologies with fellow MVPs and Microsoft employees. You also get access to virtual learning center delivers timely instructor-led online courses that help Microsoft MVPs gain more knowledge.

6. Being Valued – This is something which i found really impressive.  Being an MVP from past 2 years, i did get an opportunity to attend various technical conferences like Tech-Ed. One point to mention is, during both the Tech-ed events (Hyderabad ’09 and Bangalore ’10), MVPs were given free entry to this event and to add, we had 2 Rows Seats Reserved for us. We are sitting right in front during the Keynotes.  This was a “aaha” moment for most of us.

I did take this below picture during the last Teched., where I was watching Soma Segar giving his keynote address and launch Visual Studio 2010.

Watching Soma Segar's Keynote at Teched India 2010

Microsoft MVP LogoThese were few of the benefits which I got being an MVP. There are many more recognitions which you get. Keeping it simple, you are valued for the contributions you make..! If you have made some kind of contributions and you think, you deserve this award; apply for this award now. You can also contact me, and I will pass your nominations to my lead.

If you are looking at Springboard Series Technical Expert Program, read here

LinkedIn and other Discussions

I had also posted this on LinkedIn Discussions and have got some quality responses for the same – I will extract some information from there and post it here so that, you can get all the information at one single place.

“If there is anything that I have learned over the last year and a half since Microsoft awarded me SBS MVP, the award has very little to do with me and everything to do with how I participate in the community as well as what I share with the community. I see the award as Microsoft’s compliment for all of the above hard work that I have been doing for about four years now … well before any hint of an MVP award coming my way. However, the hard work has nothing to do with the MVP program and everything to do with sharing the knowlege gained over my years as an IT solutions provider. Ultimately, the hard work is based on an attitude. There is no real way to explain that attitude, but it is somehow tied into a feeling of being rewarded when I know someone has been helped both directly and indirectly by my various knowlegde sharing efforts.” Philip Elder | SBS MVP 2009+

“I have noticed that many try to ‘work towards’ getting the MVP Award. I dont think it works. There are no shortcuts ! Microsoft sees a persons last 12 months community participation and decides to award outstanding leaders the MVP Award. So my advice to all – forget about the MVP Award; just blog or participate in communtinty activities! If you do it from your heart with a passion; the MVP award will come walking to you! Anand Khanse | Desktop Experience MVP

“I’ve been one of the early Microsoft MVP nearly 15 years ago after Bill Gates released the Microsoft MVP Program in 1996. It changed during this years until today. MVP@work Corp was an initiate in 1999 to concentrate the business opportunities Microsoft MVP have worldwide. In the past years the approach for Microsoft MVP changed more to community activities. In the early days supporting Microsoft customers was the primary goal. So you knew you could rely on your MVP fellows regarding knowledge. So this was the basic of founding MVP@work Corp. I agree with several comments on the post in the other LinkedIn groups, that it is not the best approach to do what needs to be done to become a Microsoft MVP. But to catch the spirit of what it means to be a Microsoft MVP and to take part on one of the most successful technology environments, is what it makes. If you are or have been a Microsoft MVP, when people asking more about to become such, it is also a honor for a Microsoft MVP to encourage people to work for the community and give them a helping hand to find out what is the best way in their area.” Thomas K.H. Bittner | Windows Server System Reference Architecture (WSSRA) Expert

“I started working with the CRM 1.0 Beta. The deployment instructions were not very clear and after all it was a beta. But I figured out how to get it all working in the forest and solved a problem that I thought folks could be helped by knowing about it. So I posted it on a brand new NNTP based news group and wrote a Reader to Reader Article for Windows IT Pro magazine about it. I got really good responses from it and peope asked me where I read about the fix. I didn’t, I deduced it from the behavior and my experience with AD. Thus I saw how much joy came from helping people. I also learned more by solving problems with this new product at the time. I kept on talking and blogging about it and one day I got the email and then the letter. It was a great honor and surprise. It’s been an honor every since because I’m in a community that wants to help people. Also it’s in my best interest that the technology be adopted so my work experience can be of value in the market. So why not help people? There really is more joy in giving than in receiving. It’s also great to have Microsoft’s appreciation for our advocating their solutions. I worked for years on other platforms and I still recommend Micosoft Solutions for clients as opposed to others. Now being an MVP helps me bring even more value to my clients.” Curt Spanburgh, Microsoft Dynamics CRM MVP/Contributing Editor Windows IT Pro Mag.