Always a great way to start a day when you open your email and find out you’ve been awarded or renewed for a Microsoft MVP award. And then its right onto the interwebs to see who else is sharing the news. I’m humbled and grateful to be able to participate in this program, surrounded by good friends and technology leaders, and am looking forward to all of the great events and interactions this year.
I was thrilled to see that Jason Himmelstein (@sharepointlhorn) earned his much-deserved award this rotation, as did Jussi Mori (@JussiMori), but I am still hoping to see a few other hard-working community leaders earn their award, such as Mark Rackley (@mrackley) who has been a staple of the SharePoint community, offering up technical leadership and a sense of humor. I don’t think he’s pissed off *everyone* with his ‘SharePoint is Like a Woman’ presentation, has he? And then there’s Bradley Geldenhuys (@bradgcoza), who is a driving force behind almost everything happening in the SharePoint community in South Africa.
I’ve been asked many times what it takes to receive an MVP award from Microsoft, and unfortunately, there is no straight line, no clear set of instructions to follow. Different people receive the award for different reasons, but all around providing “contributions and commitment to the technical communities” in which we participate. Of course, I did pull together a blog post a couple years back, but to save you a click, I’ve cut and paste my list of “habits” that will put you on the right path to MVP:
- Love what you do.
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 dialog.
- Give your time.
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 Harbardoes), 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.
- Create content.
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 community.
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.
- Help Microsoft improve.
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.
- Represent the community.
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.
- Play nice.
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 OneThing video series, which now has over 200 videos in the collection. I think it went a long way in helping me earn my first MVP award.
- Nominate others.
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.
There will always be a long list of people who, by any measure, deserve to receive this recognition – but never do. What I tell people, though, is that there is just as much reward in following the path to MVP as receiving it, because its all about giving back to the community. For me, the award provides a great opportunity – but I would be doing what I do regardless of the MVP award.
I’d like to say thank you again to Microsoft for this opportunity. I’m also grateful for the support I’ve had from my management team at Metalogix (and my prior leadership team at Axceler). And most of all, I’d like to thank the SharePoint community for reading my content, downloading my slides, attending my sessions, and for inviting me to participate in your SharePoint events around the world.
2014 is going to be a stellar year. I’ll be presenting at the SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas in March, keynoting the European SharePoint Conference in Barcelona in May, and participating in 3 or 4 events a month throughout the year. If you see me, please come say hello!