How can I become a Microsoft MVP?

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Have you ever asked yourself that piercing question about the coveted Microsoft Most Valuable Partner (MVP) award? I certainly have, more times than I can count. Too often, though, that little doubtful voice inside said, “Those levels of accomplishments are for others who are better than you. Now, go on back to the production line like a good little elf and keep cranking out those widgets.”

And, for the most part, that's how I dealt with it. Yet, I still had a passion to do more, to reach higher and to stretch further. The MVP traits lined up with my personality; an intense appetite for technology, a passion to evangelize, a burning desire to convey it, a love of writing and speaking about it. If you're reading this, chances are you feel the same way. So, let's kick that doubting internal voice to the curb and talk about some ways that you can become an MVP.

First, it takes passion. While this may seem obvious, it isn't always the first thing that comes to mind when striving to reach a goal like the MVP award. When getting ready to leave Microsoft after nearly two fulfilling decades, I found myself at a career path crossroads. Thankfully, a book called Now, Discover Your Strengths, by Marcus Buckingham offered me a key revelation in this area.  After reading it, I realized that work can be so much more than just a means of providing.

Even if there were a clear-cut recipe on how to become an MVP, it's still going to be your passion for a specific technology that makes it all possible.  You have to let your desire become your driving factor -- and this isn't something that can be taught.

Once the passion is there, it will manifest itself in so many ways including writing, speaking and presenting, contributing source code and samples, blogging and tweeting, interacting with those who share your passion, and mentoring others. It should be something you do in your free time, not just to get the MVP award, but because you love doing it.

Of course, you'll still need to be aware of other key factors that play a role in becoming an MVP. So let's move from the philosophical to the concrete and discuss some of the actionable steps that you can leverage on top of your natural abilities to move into MVP status. Here are some tips that I've found useful:

  • Identify a key technology that is strategically important to Microsoft and specialize in that area.  Go deep and go long!  Don't settle for a high-level conversational understanding and don't generalize your knowledge across more than one technology.
  • Blog about your passion.  If you don't have one already, create your own blog -- there are plenty of sites, such as Wordpress, that will host your blog for free. Contribute to it regularly with relevant information and talk about your own experience including the lessons that you've learned in your area of expertise.
  • Extend your writing to other outlets. Reach others through different written methods. You can do this by developing in-depth whitepapers and publishing them on your blog or company site.
  • Contribute samples and walkthroughs. This could mean code samples or steps to setting up an environment that folks can both use and learn from.
  • Be an active part of community discussions. Having a presence on the MSDN support forums is a great way to connect with others, learn from their experiences and get involved in a manner where your efforts can later be quantified and evaluated if needed. If your natural desire is to help and mentor others, then those feelings should motivate you here.
  • Connect with existing MVPs and other leaders in your technology area. Follow them on Twitter, follow their blogs, get to know them and offer suggestions to help them improve their work when applicable. Interact with leaders in your technology's community to share ideas and have constructive dialogs.
  • Speak to others about your passions. Ask them what user groups or local conferences are located near you and start small. Or take it one step further and organize a local event on your own.
  • Partner with others that share your passion. This could mean partnering with people you meet through social media, your company or even your local area. It could also mean partnering with Microsoft field personnel who are looking for dedicated valuable partners to join efforts in evangelizing that technology.
  • Maintain a constant, but not overly aggressive, professional-only Twitter account. Tell your followers up front that the tweets will be mainly around your chosen technology. Save the pictures of Aunt Susan and her new puppy for your personal account!

In conclusion, realize this is a commitment that will consume large amounts of your personal time. It takes a while to accomplish this, due to the gradual building of your reputation, achievements and brand. Stick to it and understand that it will most likely take more time than you thought.

Also keep in mind that if you don't enjoy interacting with others regarding the technology that you are passionate about, you probably won't ever reach that MVP Award. In this case, it may be better to obtain an MCP certification and leave the soft skills to others. Above all, pursue the MVP award primarily because you love what you do, and you have fun doing it!

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Mike McKeown

spent almost two decades as an FTE with Microsoft in various roles such as Technical Evangelist, Trainer, Solution Integration Engineer, Consultant, and Programming/Writer. Today Mike is a Senior Cloud Solutions Architect with leading Microsoft Azure partner Aditi Technologies. He has been published many times on MSDN and MSJ and speaks at industry conferences.