Disclaimer: Before we get too far, let me say that there's no exact checklist to follow to become a Microsoft MVP. If you're looking for a list of tasks to follow to the T, you will not get it in this post. Being chosen to be an MVP is a fuzzy topic and one that's ultimately up to Microsoft;, not me. I've just been lucky enough to become an MVP and know a lot of other MVPs and can speak to what I've gauged as being MVP-quality.
Why Become a Microsoft MVP?
What is the Microsoft MVP award anyway and why do you want one? According to Microsoft, the Microsoft MVP award is given to:
exceptional, independent community leaders who share their passion, technical expertise, and real-world knowledge of Microsoft products with others.
This mandate can be satisfied in some different ways. Thus there are lots of ways to get there but why do you want this award?
- Do you want to be recognized and be the envy of your peers?
- Are you doing it to show people how great you are?
- Do you want to build a personal brand?
- Do you want it to make yourself look better to get more clients?
If any of these are your direct goal, you're doing it wrong. Although the last two are less egotistical and will probably come true, none of these should be your direct goal although all may come true. But that doesn't mean you should strive for them alone.
To get rich and be happy, you should never do things just for the money. If you're good at what you do and enjoy your work, the money will inevitably come just like an MVP award. Once you start doing work solely for money and prestige, your work will show this, and the community and your clients will always eventually catch on.
What it Takes to Become a Microsoft MVP
There are countless paths to take to becoming a Microsoft MVP.
Remember the sole goal here is primarily helping as many people understand Microsoft technologies and use them to better themselves and their employer. That means connecting with people in any way possible. Connecting can mean any method you choose whether that online or in-person. It doesn't matter.
If you're deathly afraid of public speaking like I am, don't worry. You don't have to get up in front of hundreds of people. You just have to contribute in the way you're most comfortable.
Judging from how we have to update our profiles, Microsoft is looking for reach. For example, if you attend a user group of 10 people that counts but not near as much as if you led a presentation at a user group.
Your contributions need to reach as many people as possible. Helping a single individual helps but if you can figure out a way to convey your message to lots of individuals at once, that will ultimately give you a better chance of being picked.
Here are some examples that will probably be looked at when you are being considered for the Microsoft MVP award:
- Presenting at conferences, user group meetings, etc
- Answering questions on forums like StackOverflow, ServerFault, PowerShell.org, etc
- Help people on Twitter
- Helping people Facebook
- Personal blogging
- Writing articles on highly-visited sites
- Traditional on-site training
- Structured online training of any sort
- Building online courses on sites like Udemy and Pluralsight
- Starting popular open-source software projects
- Contributing to open-source software
- Writing various tools and sharing them
These are only a few ideas that are off the top of my head. The content also depends on what kind of MVP you are shooting for. I'm a Content and Datacenter Management MVP, and the huge majority of my work is done with PowerShell. You may have content streams available to you that I am not aware of.
Remember again; it's about reaching as many people as possible whether that be all at once or simply answering a lot of forum posts.
How Much is Enough?
A common question I get is "How much helping do I have to do?" This is a tough question because I'm not in charge of selecting MVPs, but I can give you my opinion.
I'll say that unless you're reaching out to the community or working on some community project on a weekly basis, you're probably not going to be chosen. MVPs are community leaders, and you can't necessarily lead unless you're committed.
Being an MVP will take up a lot of your time after hours. Being an MVP separates those that occasionally share and help the Microsoft community from those that are passionate about it and love doing it on a regular basis.
The key is to keep it up.
Don't expect to be selected if you do all of this work within a few month period and then drop off the radar. The key is to be consistent.
We are all now selected once/year and your contributions for the previous year do not matter. This means you are forced to keep up a consistent pace of sharing and helping all throughout the year.
The Crazy Ones
Steve Jobs narrated an awesome commercial for Apple in 1997 called The Crazy Ones. It was about those people that go above and beyond what others do, buck the status quo and essentially operate on their own terms. This is what being a Microsoft MVP means to me.
I don't have to be an MVP. I don't have to share anything to the community but I couldn't see myself not doing this now. It does take a lot of extra time outside of my daily routine to perform "work" outside of my 9-5 but I love doing it.
I wouldn't go as far to say all MVPs are "crazy" but it does take a certain kind of personality to pour so much time into something for no monetary reward. You've got to have passion for the technology and not think of your day job as a J.O.B. This will naturally lead you to put in the work and become a MVP.
Be passionate. Care about what you do and share your knowledge with others. That is what will make you just crazy enough to become a Microsoft MVP.
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