For those of you who haven’t heard of it, MVP stands for Most Valuable Professional. Microsoft gives this award to people in the community – not employees – who help teach the community at large about their products. The award can be given in one or more of the categories such as Data Platform, AI, Office Apps, and many more.
The payoffs for being an MVP are many, such as the yearly MVP Summit (was virtual this year and will be next year, too), a few software licenses, Azure credits, interaction with the product groups, and more. Besides the benefits that are easy to list, MVP status can also lead to job opportunities and consulting engagements. I have to admit, it’s a nice thing to have. I’ve been awarded the MVP 10 times, and, at this point, I won’t feel sad when the day comes that I’m not renewed.
Over the years, many people have asked me how to earn the MVP. Unfortunately, I can’t say something like “write a blog post every month, become a user group leader, and answer 100 questions on a forum.” There is no prescriptive set of requirements that will earn MVP status because it’s not a certification, but I can give some advice based on what has worked for me.
First, you should be of the mindset that you are helping others. That’s really the bottom line. You should be interested in presenting, teaching, writing, or whatever it is because you enjoy doing it. In my opinion, it would be difficult to keep up those activities if your heart’s not in it. That said, it is beneficial to go after opportunities like watching out for events that you can apply to or looking for areas that need some help.
Don’t stick to just one type of activity. You will have more impact by choosing a few things like presenting and blogging, but don’t go overboard trying to do everything.
Also, make sure this is really right for you. Think of this as an unpaid part-time job. You’ll be spending time that you might not have if there are lots of family commitments.
Start making virtual connections. For now, the hot platform for connecting in the data platform community seems to be Twitter. I’m not a big fan of Twitter myself, but back in the day, I started meeting people on the SQL Server Central forums. One great way to make connections is to pay attention to #sqlhelp on Twitter, and maybe start answering a few questions. One of the reasons it’s helpful to get to know a few MVPs or Microsoft employees is because these are the people who will nominate you when it’s time.
You might also think about putting together an event to introduce kids to code or find out about opportunities to volunteer. In the St. Louis area, I’ve been a volunteer with LaunchCode for over five years helping people get into tech careers. It’s not a great time for in-person events but keep these in mind when we all can meet in person again.
Find a mentor. This might be someone in the MVP community that you know who is willing to have a call with you from time to time to talk about how they became an MVP. Even better, they might be willing to review your blog post or presentation. Right now, I’m mentoring two women from the Data Platform community that I hope will be MVPs someday. It’s not a lot of time on my part, and I’m really excited to watch these women grow in their careers.
If you have the passion and bandwidth that it takes to be an MVP, I wish you the best!