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How to Become a Microsoft MVP

Congratulations to all the new MVPs out there. Welcome to the team.

Every 3 months, a new round of MVPs are announced. So I thought I'd take a moment to write about the "Unofficial" Criteria for selecting an MVP. It is important to note that this is just my opinion, based on my experience dealing with the MVP Program... as well as a hefty helping of common sense.

  1. MVPs are Microsoft's "volunteer army". They support the community in numerous ways that Microsoft couldn't even begin to deal with. The best way to build a quality brand is to encourage customers to support other customers. It's cheaper too ;). If Microsoft can give you better access to product teams and free software to keep you happy, it doesn't cost them much. If they had to pay salary and benefits to every member of the community, their software would be nowhere near as successful.
  2. Microsoft MVPs are an important public face on the company. To that end, the company is obviously going to want some kind of control over what that face presents to the public. So they're pretty selective on who they award an MVP to.
  3. If you look at the MVPs out there, Microsoft's selection criteria typically mirror their criteria for selecting employees. Again, with good reason - these people will be granted a high level of interaction with the product teams. They don't want someone dealing with the people they pay who will be disruptive to productivity. This is why many prominent Microsoft MVPs eventually get hired into the company.

So, if you want to become an MVP, here is my list of DOs and DON'Ts. They've worked well for me, although admittedly sometimes I don't follow my own rules.

  • DON'T be rude, vulgar, or disrespectful in your communication with other community members. Swearing, while OK during coding sessions and casual conversation, should NEVER be used in communication that will be read by many. It is uncouth and represents an extreme lack of control and judgement.
  • DON'T be in it just for a title. If you're looking to be the king of some imaginary social hierarchy, forget it. The MVP Program has been around a long time, and the Microsoft employees assigned to foster community and build the program will see right through you.
  • DON'T stop following these rules after you become an MVP. The honor is re-awarded yearly, and lots of people slack off and get dropped. As my daddy always said "I brought you into this world, I can take you out."
  • DON'T be a spoiled brat if you don't like a decision Microsoft made. The Visual Basic MVP petition fiasco is a prime example. Microsoft wants responsible adults as part of their program, even if they are young.
  • DON'T cause PR problems for Microsoft. It takes several good deeds to become an MVP, but one PR issue could send you packing. Taking them to task on an issue is one thing, but if Microsoft has to clean up a PR mess, you'll probably get taken out with the trash.
  • DON'T be elitist just because you've been in the industry for a while. You won't be around forever, and someone younger than you will eventually take your place. In this industry, you can be relevant one day, irrelevant the next.
  • DO be courteous every time you deal with a fellow member of the community. Give them the respect they deserve as a person. (This works well in life, too.)
  • DO interact in the community in more than one way (weblogging in and of itself doesn't get you in, you should also be involved in the newsgroups or Forums or something)
  • DO take extra time to understand Microsoft's position on decisions, and speak respectfully on those issues.
  • DO have an opinion on things going on in the tech world. Take some time to establish yourself on an authority in a subject area, and then expand your reach into other areas.
  • DO be genuine in your desire to help others. Microsoft's corporate culture is aimed towards the betterment of society. If that's not the center of your personal culture, you'll never be seriously considered.
  • DO excercise good judgement as often as possible. Rule of Thumb: Anything that will be indexed by a search engine should be well thought out before posting. Think ahead about whether you want that opinion associated with your name a year from now.
  • DO think of new ways to fill in the gaps Microsoft leaves in the community. If you have a crazy idea... try it out. You never know when you'll be mentioned in the next executive keynote.
  • DO evaluate your communication skills constantly. The better you can relate Microsoft's message to others, the more Microsoft will interact with you.
  • DO be consistent with your community work. You can't help out 4 or 5 people a year and expect to be an MVP.
  • DO look out for your other community members, and encourage others (especially young people).

And, a note to anyone younger than 25 - stick with it. There isn't an age requirement, so I wouldn't be surprised if a 12 year old put there somewhere could smoke all these old guys ;).

Hopefully, that heps some aspiring MVPs out there. We're always looking for new blood.

UPDATE: I misunderstood Paschal's post, so I took out the reference to it.

Comments

Angus Logan said:

Hi Robert,

Nice list!

I also like the bit about the < 25'ers (I'm a youngster and I made it).

:)
# April 3, 2005 6:34 PM

Robert McLaws said:

Cool! Thanks man. Maybe we'll have to set up an "under 30-something" get-together at the MVP Summit! Are you gonna be there?
# April 3, 2005 6:40 PM

Angus Logan said:

I'll be hosting 21 year old Kiosk :)

With that said I'm 21 going on 35 or 40.
# April 3, 2005 6:46 PM

Wallym said:

Ok, can Robert and Paschal please calm down over this.
# April 3, 2005 9:16 PM

Robert McLaws said:

Wally, we're good :).
# April 4, 2005 1:30 AM

Charles Carroll said:

You again prove your ignorance by writing about things with minimal research and minimal wisdom.

I was the first ASP MVP and one of the first ASP.net MVPS and I RESIGNED (check with Ben Miller and Jani Clark) because I thought the program takes far too long to recognize genuine contributors and often promotes people with "connections" who do little for the community and ignores to many people who truly deserve it. The easiest way to protest any poorly run organization is to withdrawl and resign thus not associating with a poorly run organization by particpating in it and thus endorsing it indirectly.

I resigned far before the incredibly innacurate surrealization article (almost every fact he mentions in his article is wrong - and he reprints 1 email out of context out of hundreds of emails I sent that year) so I think your absurd implication this somehow keeps me from being MVP when I resigned MVP status years ago is just poor research on your part.
# April 4, 2005 2:00 AM

Meaty Cup said:

Cracks me up that you guys are so willing to be a Microsoft bitch for free. It would be one thing if you were on Microsoft's payroll but you're satisfied with acting like a MS PR bitch for free. So they give you some free software and maybe fly you to some events here and there. Am I the only one that sees the humor in the behavior of these MVP's? You rank right up there with the open source fools who code their nuts off for "nothing". You guys are getting shafted...have some self respect and go and work for Microsoft if you want to spend all your free time kissing their ass. Damn!
# April 4, 2005 2:20 AM

JosephCooney said:

Meaty - I think many people in the MVP program just like software a lot and like helping people. If you choose to spend your time sitting on the couch and watching t.v. does that make you more or less of a fool than the MVPs out there?
# April 4, 2005 2:30 AM

Robert McLaws said:

Scott... How is it ironic? I know what I said. I said several times that the petition was idiotic. To think that Microsoft would bring back VB6 as VB.COM is ridiculous. Open-sourcing VB6 would have been a much more realistic solution.

IMO he stands a decent chance of not being re-awarded. And let search engines index that.
# April 4, 2005 3:25 AM

Frans Bouma said:

"DON'T cause PR problems for Microsoft. It takes several good deeds to become an MVP, but one PR issue could send you packing. Taking them to task on an issue is one thing, but if Microsoft has to clean up a PR mess, you'll probably get taken out with the trash."
I disagree with this. It's not my problem if MS gets a PR problem if I try to discuss a problem THEY caused in public. Nor should it be. MS has said time and time again, that they WANT MVP's to be different, to express their REAL concerns so that MS can do something about the causes of the concerns. MS therefore doesn't look for a bunch of yes-men.

"DO take extra time to understand Microsoft's position on decisions, and speak respectfully on those issues."
I disagree with this one too. I'm not an MS employee nor affiliated with MS. They awarded me for my effort for the community. There is NO obligation for me to do anything back, that's explicitly stated by MS and you know that. You sound as if having critizism on something from MS is not good. Well, if MS has the choice between an MS-fanboy and an MS-critique, they opt for the last one, because that person can give feedback they can't get elsewhere.

Besides that, MS already has a full-payed marketing department to tell the world the good side of their stuff, why should an MVP do that as well?

"# DO evaluate your communication skills constantly. The better you can relate Microsoft's message to others, the more Microsoft will interact with you."
Maybe I misunderstand this but, do you mean by this that the MVP should go out and actively advocate MS products? Because if you do, I disagree.

For the rest, they're good points. Not a list of points you should obey to and you'll get nominated though. What a person should do is honestly HELP. Not help because you get an award, but HELP because you know the answer of a question, or have some time left so you write a tool which helps others or an article. Lots of people do that, but only a few get noticed. Often this is for a reason: they stick with that role for a long period of time (most people who try to help others fail after a few months) and are boat-rockers: when they say something, others listen.
# April 4, 2005 3:53 AM

Frans Bouma said:

"I was the first ASP MVP and one of the first ASP.net MVPS and I RESIGNED (check with Ben Miller and Jani Clark) because I thought the program takes far too long to recognize genuine contributors and often promotes people with "connections" who do little for the community and ignores to many people who truly deserve it. The easiest way to protest any poorly run organization is to withdrawl and resign thus not associating with a poorly run organization by particpating in it and thus endorsing it indirectly. "
It also occured to me that a lot of professional speakers are MVP. I find that strange. These people get the MVP title for doing their job, while a developer who has little time but answers questions in a newsgroup is perhaps more valuable to the community, simply because the professional speaker/trainer can only babble about the hype of the month, the stuff he looked into for his next article, not something which takes a year of experience (i.e.: 1 year or 2 year of full time development).

But perhaps there are other reasons to get these people the award. Personally I don't care that much why others get the award, there are always people out there who don't get the award but should have. As with all awards out there.
# April 4, 2005 3:56 AM

Frans Bouma said:

" Cracks me up that you guys are so willing to be a Microsoft bitch for free. It would be one thing if you were on Microsoft's payroll but you're satisfied with acting like a MS PR bitch for free. So they give you some free software and maybe fly you to some events here and there. Am I the only one that sees the humor in the behavior of these MVP's? You rank right up there with the open source fools who code their nuts off for "nothing". You guys are getting shafted...have some self respect and go and work for Microsoft if you want to spend all your free time kissing their ass"
You should pay more attention. Some MVP's are indeed yes-men who don't tolerate ANY negative news about MS products. I don't get these people, but it's their life. There are also MVP's, most of them, who are simply realistic and definitely NOT MS PR people, because they couldn't care less about MS PR. I'm definitely one of them.
# April 4, 2005 3:59 AM

Frans Bouma said:

" Scott... How is it ironic? I know what I said. I said several times that the petition was idiotic. To think that Microsoft would bring back VB6 as VB.COM is ridiculous. Open-sourcing VB6 would have been a much more realistic solution.

IMO he stands a decent chance of not being re-awarded."
IF Bill doesn't get re-awared BECAUSE of this, it would be the end of the MVP program as we know it. It would show that the MVPs aren't used for feedback but for PR and the last thing I want to be is a PR slave of MS.
# April 4, 2005 4:02 AM

James Crowley said:

I've just become a MVP. Everyone I've spoken to at Microsoft in the UK have said that our *independence* and willingness to be (sometimes brutally) honest about Microsoft technologies, projects - and their competitors - makes us *more* valuable, not less.

If a Microsoft product is good for the job, then I'll happily promote it. If Java does the job better, then I'll suggest that instead. Being an MVP won't change that in the slightest.

(and yes, I run a website that predominantly has Microsoft-related articles - but that's something I'm looking to change - perhaps even more so now I'm an MVP)
# April 4, 2005 6:16 AM

Scott said:

Robert,

It's ironic because you often post very negative, vitriolic responses to people.

See this post for an example. You had to edit it after you referred to Paschels post in a negative manner. :)
Re: BillV, Given that a tech lead for VB has chimed in saying that no one should lose their MVP status soley because of the petition, I'd say Bill's MVP status is pretty secure. As I said in his blog though, whether or not he is an MVP isn't going to affect my respect for his technical skills.

Trust me, no one that is doing any coding at Microsoft is spending ANY time on PR problems.

Jesse: Those bastards!
# April 4, 2005 2:08 PM

Sriram said:

I headed over here to comment but saw that Franz had already typed out what I had to say. MVPs are *not* shills who toe the company line.
# April 4, 2005 3:36 PM

Jamie Plenderleith said:

Yo, 22 and I'm there :)
# April 4, 2005 10:53 PM

J. Dahlgren said:

I think you aren't understanding what an MVP SHOULD be. This is just my opinion, but...

"DON'T be a spoiled brat if you don't like a decision Microsoft made. The Visual Basic MVP petition fiasco is a prime example."

I was awarded by Microsoft due to a series of events which began with my whining and bitching about their product. It is perfectly acceptable. In fact failing to whine indicates you are perfectly satisfied. If you are, then you either have low standards or you are a fan-boy. Hint: neither of these is a good thing.

"DO be genuine in your desire to help others. Microsoft's corporate culture is aimed towards the betterment of society."

OK, the helping part is good, but corporate culture aimed towards the betterment of society? Huh?! Hurry! Someone tell the shareholders! Last time I checked the goal of Microsoft was to make money. Ask some people you know there what goals are set for business groups.

"DO evaluate your communication skills constantly. The better you can relate Microsoft's message to others, the more Microsoft will interact with you."

MVP's are not messengers. Microsoft pays people to do that. MVP's help people out. It is sad when some believe their role is to become a quiet well-behaved corporate shill. However, I'm not surprised that Microsoft would take advantage of that if the opportunity presents itself.

"Hopefully, that heps some aspiring MVPs out there. We're always looking for new blood."

We? Are you giving out MVP awards?

Sorry if I find your post a bit self-aggrandizing and patronizing at the same time. If that is not what you meant by it then you might want to evaluate your communication skills.





# April 5, 2005 2:17 PM

Bruce Hopkins said:

I'm having a hard time figuring out what is the problem here. Wow the blog may not totally encompass all it take to gain MVP status none of it can hurt someone's chances. I use MS technologies and I use quite a few others. I bascially use what I need for the job and if MS asks me why I use Oracle, or *nix or anything else, then I can back it up with a valid business case and if they give me a better option then I'll go with an MS product. Its all up to what helps me best accomplish my job.

I far one was honored to be chosen as an MVP. it was not soemtihng I aspired for nor expected, I remember being stunned that I was even nominated much less happen to recieve it. Whether you agree with the process or not ( which I'm not sure any of us really know what it is) The people who recieve these get themselves noticed with a positive perception.

Now to Charles. Who are you kidding, you may have quit, I don't really know, but I do remember the fisaco you started as it was posted all over the net. I was there. You had a great asp.net resource and let emotions get in the way of business. Did not seem like a smart move then when I was an Asp.Net baby nor now.
# April 5, 2005 11:38 PM

Adam Machanic said:

Sorry, but in my opinion being an MVP does -not- mean brown nosing MS, being an MS advocate, or agreeing with everything -- or anything -- that MS does.

Being an MVP means that you're active in the Microsoft community and knowledgeable in some product area. And that's all it means. Microsoft has people, that get PAID, with the title "Evangelist." If you want to be one of them, go work for MS and take the title! THEN you can follow all of these "rules" you've laid out.

And by the way, hats off to those guys who did the VB petition! If Microsoft screws up, customers NEED TO SPEAK, and the MVPs are people who can more easily start that process. If you're afraid to speak up because you think you'll lose the title, it sounds to me as if you're in it for all the wrong reasons.
# April 12, 2005 11:30 AM

Bill Ryan said:

Meaty Cup obviously doesn't have a clue. How am I Microsoft's Bitch? Because I answer questions in their newsgroups just like I did before I was a MVP? Because I hold webcasts in my product area, just like I did before I was a MVP? I do a lot of extra work in my life, not just in technology that I don't get paid for. Big deal? Am I the Animal Shelter's bitch because I'm a volunteer there?

What about Open Source people? Most of them love what they do. They are somehow lame compared to some 'real' person like you because you charge for everything?

Somehow I think if we all posted copies of our W2's the truth would come out about who the world treats like a bitch
# April 12, 2005 2:10 PM

Anonymous said:

Ah, Charles Carroll, were you not the person who told Bill G at the 2001 summit how much you loved him

We were all cringing in our seats. Glad to see you leave the program. The criteria and system has changed lots in the last few years since that time.

And, I think the posting of names is way below the line.

:-)
# April 12, 2005 3:40 PM

Jonathan West said:

I've been an MVP for 8 years. A fair bit of what you have said is correct, particularly about not being in it for the title, but I'd like to correct you on some things.

1. MVPs are not Microsoft's "volunteer army". Most MVPs prize their independence from Microsoft.

2. MVPs are not part of Microsoft and are therefore not any kind of "face of the company". The value of advice from an MVP comes in large part because the MVP is *not* part of Microsoft.

3. Microsoft does hire quite a few MVPs, but that is because they are good at what they do. They stop being MVPs the day they are hired.

4. Because MVPs are independent, they can (and in my opinion should) regard themselves much more as customer advocates to Microsoft than Microsoft advocates to the customer. For this reason, things like the Classic VB petition are perfectly proper activities for MVP, even if you personally happen to disagree with that particular example.

Overall, the key to the "MVP culture" as it has built up over the years is as follows

- MVPs do what they do because they enjoy helping people, and mostly would do so irrespective of the recognition from Microsoft

- Advice from MVPs is independent and truthful, and can either criticise or praise Microsoft when appropriate

- MVPs are mostly very resistant to getting caught up in marketing initiatives from Microsoft, partly because they know too much about the products to believe the marketing hype, and partly because too close an involvement undermines the impartiality (both perceived and actual) of their advice.

Of course, with a group of people as diverse as the MVPs, everything that I'm saying is a egeneralisation and does not apply to everyone.
# April 13, 2005 7:33 AM

Steve Friedl said:

I was named a Security MVP in October 2003 in spite of my very long association with UNIX and Open Source (I think I'm the only MVP with "unix" in his domain name), and I've been surprised by how much of a non-issue even my open advocacy of open source has been. I've worn my Linux "Tux" pin to nearly every Microsoft event I've been to, and *never* gotten any static.

I don't care about Microsoft.
I don't care about Linux.
I care about *customers*

The latter seems to be what's mattered to Microsoft.

Steve
# April 15, 2005 12:49 AM

Anon. said:

Yep - good healthy debate here, perhaps an ironic twist is that there is not a similar thing with a business focus.

Perhaps it's harder to advise and support people on the commercial side of things when it comes to recommending Microsoft over another vendor.

Of course, if Microsoft ever did take the bold step to set up another track that focused on the people who evangelise and help business people use their tools, well that would mean the marketing team would have to get smaller, wouldn't it :-)
# April 20, 2005 1:39 AM

Muhammad Haseeb Khan said:

Excellent Post.

Please tell me how to become a Microsoft Technology Evangelist ?

I am very excited for Microsoft Technology Evangelist ?

Please help .........
# April 29, 2005 3:41 AM

S.M.Safdar Raza Naqvi said:

How I become a MVP of Microsoft.
# May 1, 2005 5:11 PM

Albert Pascual said:

You forgot the most important of all. Ask for it, as not many people becomes an MVP if they did not ask to be review I believe, would like to start a poll :-) I never got offered the title and I have been involved and helping any beginer without ever been contacted by MS. Last year I send them an email for the requierements to become and MVP and I got nominated for ASP.NET. Why ASP.NET? I spend more time answering questions in Managed C++ and C# asd well as writing articles than ASP.NET. Well I'll take it if I get it :-)
# May 22, 2006 2:14 PM