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Half-Way Through My Year as a Microsoft MVP

I meant to write this earlier, like in July, but I suppose it's better late than never. I'm halfway through this year as a Microsoft MVP for SQL Server and I certainly hope it won't be my last. I wanted to reflect a bit on what I've seen thus far being a newly minted MVP. I'll talk about some of the things that being an MVP helps one realize. And then I'll discuss a couple of points about what being an MVP is not.


Being an MVP Makes You Realize That There Are Some Seriously Smart People in the Field:

Everyone knows the big names if you spend any time in the community. These are the people who you follow. When they write something, you read it, because you know you're going to learn something. You may not understand it all, but making the effort means progress. When they speak, you try to get into their sessions. And prior to being an MVP I realized how smart these folks were, right? Wrong. There has been talk about the private MVP newsgroups and when you get to be a part of them, you see them discussing and debating in areas that aren't necessarily what we know as their fields of expertise. Take, for instance, Erland Sommarskog. Is there anything this guy doesn't know? And you see that they are just as strong and knowledgable in those areas as in areas they are well known for. It's a humbling experience. And we won't even get into Steve Jones and Paul Randal and their immense reading habits, much of it outside of technology.

Being an MVP Makes You Realize That There Are Some Seriously Hard Working People in the Field:

Like with the smart people, you find some incredibly hard working folks within the MVP ranks. It's not that they aren't brilliant. They are. But their work rate, especially towards the community, is immense and leaves you in awe. You see some of it on their blogs and forum posts, but in a private setting like the newsgroups, you really see how involved they get, especially as they try to bring problems and issues to the attention of the MVP audience and to Microsoft. Folks like Aaron Bertrand and Jonathan Kehayias immediately come to mind in this respect.

Being an MVP Allows You to Take Stock and Set Higher Goals:

After seven months in, I really feel like they lowered the bar to award me an MVP award. When you see what folks are doing, the kinds of challenges they are taking on, it's yet again rather humbling. Whether it be working with VLDBs, complex ETL, or having such a detailed knowledge of the inner workings of the product (and this includes some who have not having worked for Microsoft), you can see how far the gap is between you and them. Case in point, a conversation I was having with Andy Kelly when he visited Midlands PASS and he's casually talking about VLDBs and performance work on them. It's inspiring and challenging at the same time.

Being an MVP Allows You to See More Areas Where You Can Contribute:

There's a ton of places to contribute within the community: from community sites like SSC, to dedicated forums, to SQL Saturdays to serving as a volunteer for PASS. But there are other areas like Microsoft's Thrive campaign where we see folks like Grant Fritchey and Joe Webb contributing. And it seems like Microsoft is always asking for input, especially on new initiatives. I've been able to take a look and offer some comments in projects that aren't directly related to SQL Server. It's been an exhilarating experience.


Being an MVP Isn't About SWAG:

There are a lot of benefits to being an MVP, both from Microsoft and from 3rd parties. I know folks have tried to estimate the value of being an MVP.  I've taken advantage of a few of the offers, but truth be told, as good as they are, they pale in comparison to what I've mentioned above. If your goal is to become an MVP to get the SWAG, you're really going to miss out on the true value of the MVP community.

Being an MVP Isn't About Self:

Becoming an MVP is supposed to be about community support. You contribute to the community because you have a passion to do so. And somewhere along the line Microsoft recognizes you for the work you're doing. It may be worthwhile to have as a measurable receiving the MVP award, but that should not be the goal in and of itself. The goal should be about helping a community grow. Because as the community grows, everyone benefits. I've had great career opportunities and made awesome friends because of the community. There are a lot of times when I really feel like I need to be doing more, especially when I see how active some folks are on the forums, like Gail Shaw and Jeff Moden here at SSC. If you're pursuing an MVP for yourself, you're going after it for the wrong reasons. Contribute to the community. Draw satisfaction from helping others.


K. Brian Kelley - Databases, Infrastructure, and Security

IT Security, MySQL, Perl, SQL Server, and Windows technologies.


Posted by Steve Jones on 19 August 2009

Very well written, and it hits the crux of the matter. The MVP isn't about you or stuff. It's community, and driving others on.

BTW, they lowered the bar the year before when they picked me :)

Posted by Tim Mitchell on 19 August 2009

Brian, good post.  It's good to see that the MVP award gives one a new perspective and renewed self-awareness, along with more opportunities to get immersed in the community.

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