I've recently been notified that I will continue to serve as a Microsoft Regional Director for the area that I live in (southwest part of the United States). I am often asked questions such as: Are you an employee of Microsoft? What does it mean to be an RD (Regional Director)? How does the RD program compare to the MVP program? What does it take to become an RD?
Let me tackle each question...
Q) Are you an employee of Microsoft?
A) No. "Microsoft Regional Director" is a title bestowed upon non-Microsoft employees. In fact, if an RD becomes employed by Microsoft (as many have - Scott Hanselman is a recent assimilation), he/she will lose the designation as a "Microsoft Regional Director". Although RDs are champions of Microsoft technologies, they are not constrained to speak candidly of real issues in the industry.
Q) What does it mean to be an RD?
A) An RD is recognized by Microsoft as an expert whose contributions provided locally/nationally/globally have an inspiring and/or empowering impact in the technical community. RDs also provide valuable feedback to Microsoft on emerging technologies. With their strong relationship, Microsoft typically calls upon RDs to speak at major conferences and launch events, or engage
Q) How does the RD program compare to the MVP program?
A) While there are about 4000 MVPs, there are only 140 RDs. An MVP typically has a strong vertical focus (such as ASP.NET or C#) while an RD is recognized for broad mastery over many technologies. MVPs are awarded by community contributions regardless of geography, whereas RDs are recognized by technical merit in a respective region. As such, RDs usually have a strong relationship with the local Microsoft offices, particularly the DE (Developer Evangelist - in my case, I am honored to serve with Tim Heuer). Both programs provide strong value to the community. Therefore, it is not uncommon to find that an RD has also been designated as an MVP.
Q) What does it take to become an RD?
A) You can not apply to become an RD. Individuals invited to the program are usually identified by the local DE. The candidate is usually well known in the geography, and has earned the respect of his/her peers. The process for determining if a candidate will serve as an RD is internal to Microsoft. Since it is not a goal of the program to grow in numbers, maintaining a small number of RDs in each geography minimizes the need for adding new RDs.
So who are the Microsoft Regional Directors? These are published authors, extraordinary speakers, innovative technologists, and devout community leaders. Here are some names of RDs you likely have heard of: Carl Franklin, Richard Campbell, Rob Howard, Michele Leroux Bustamante, Juval Lowy, Brian Noyes, Rocky Lhotka, David Yack, Patrick Hynds, Scott Watermasysk, Jonathan Goodyear, Bill Wagner, Billy Hollis, Paul Sherrif, Kimberly Tripp, Mark Dunn, John Alexander, Guy Barrette, Steve Milroy, Kate Gregory, Adam Cogan, Bill Evjen, Edgar Sanchez, Steven Forte, Scott Stanfield, Scott Golightly, Richard Hundhausen, Fernando Guerrero, Tim Huckaby, Steve Smith, Vishwas Lele, Ken Spencer, and Neil Roodyn. This obviously is not a complete list. I have mentioned the RDs that I have either personally met or have been inspired by.
To learn more about Microsoft Regional Directors, check out the official web site at The Region.