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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.