For the fifth time I have been awarded by Microsoft with their MVP Award – a recognition they hand out to just a few thousand people worldwide, announced at the beginning of each quarter. After going through the interwebs and social sites congratulating new and renewed MVP friends, what usually comes next are questions from people not familiar with the MVP program about why so-and-so received an award when so many other worthy people did not. I’ve shared my thoughts on the topic a few times, and I thought I’d re-post this material again for those who have not seen it. But the short answer is that there is no sure-fire way to become an MVP. The product and field teams at Microsoft decide, and different people earn it for different reasons. But I’ll tell you one thing – generally speaking, the people that earn them for “sharing a passion for technology, a willingness to help others, and a commitment to community” would have done so without the award. And that’s really the key: share your passion, help others, and be an active part of the community not because of an award – but because it’s the right way to conduct yourself personally and professionally. You do that, and you’ll find yourself rewarded in many ways.
Now, for those who have the drive and want to earn the MVP award, here are my 10 recommendations:
- 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 my company may cover much of 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, 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, MCMs, 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. Oh – but don’t be a complete suck-up. Besides losing authenticity with the community, Microsoft can see through it, too. Be honest, be constructive, and be authentic.
- 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.
- 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.
I’m looking forward to another tremendous year in 2016. Tons of content on the horizon, some great events lined up, and just a tremendous energy coming out of the community and from Microsoft around all things SharePoint and Office 365. Add to that the fact that my company, Beezy, is “crushing it” with off-the-charts customer growth, and I’m feeling pretty optimistic about this year, to say the least!