Tips for Becoming a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP)

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Being a Microsoft MVP with a focus on the PowerShell contribution area has been a really groovy ride because the program is so open to its members. From NDA briefings, product feedback sessions, and working along side fellow MVPs on various community projects, I have really enjoyed how much investment Microsoft has made into the program. I also love how diverse the program is when considering race, gender, and nationality. That’s a huge plus, since much of the technology world seems to be a bro-fest, sadly.

Having recently returned from attending my second annual Microsoft MVP Summit, I thought it fitting to offer up some ideas on how to participate and said as much on Twitter.

And so ends my time at the #MVPSummit for this year. Lots of blog post ideas to get out of my noggin, including thoughts for those that want to become a #PowerShell MVP. If you have questions, DM or reply to this thread and I will do my best to include answers in a post. 😀🤘

— Chris Wahl (@ChrisWahl) March 8, 2018

Still A Newbie

I joined the Microsoft MVP program two years back in 2016. It seemed like a logical goal to reach towards because I have spent the better part of a decade working with PowerShell. The last few years, I have specifically been trying to foster a sense of community by creating various open source projects – such as Vester, Rubrik’s PowerShell Module, and VMware NSX functions – along with touring VMworld and VMware User Groups (VMUGs) to educate and promote the use of infrastructure as code using frameworks like PowerShell.

The official MVP Twitter handle has been nice enough to share some of the work, which is cool.

.@ChrisWahl's celebrates his 2nd year as a #Microsoft MVP! Check out his current projects:https://t.co/lo41yXWF18 #MVPBuzz pic.twitter.com/HEWDzQVjpB

— MVP Award Program (@MVPAward) July 29, 2017

Picking a Category and Contribution Area

The MVP program has a ton of award categories to choose from. If you’re looking to join the program, start by reviewing the list of categories and seeing which ones strike your interest. Each category has a number of contribution areas. In my case, I’m in the Cloud and Datacenter Management category and the PowerShell contribution area. While it is possible to choose multiple contribution areas for the MVP, I think it’s best to narrow your focus when pursuing the MVP, since creating enough content to satisfy multiple contribution areas sounds daunting.

This isn’t even half of the list!

With a category and contribution area in mind, your next steps are to assess your past progress. Have you spent a lot of time doing public activities that relate to the contribution area? MVPs are often found doing one or more of the following:

Contributing code to projects
Public speaking (user groups, events, conferences, summits)
Helping others (Forums, MSDN, TechNet)
Creating content (writing, blogging, publishing)
Providing feedback (giving constructive feedback, working with new tools)

I doubt there is an exact number of activities required to become an MVP. I think that when you’re deep in the groove on a technology, you’ll know it. For me, it was the realization that I was spending a lot of time doing PowerShell presentations and owning several different open source projects, along with reading just about any news I could get my hands on related to PowerShell developments. It’s often called “getting the bug.” 🙂

When you crave a contribution area like its Szechuan Sauce, you’re there!

Tracking Your Progress

I place a high value on being organized and tracking data. Entering the MVP program requires submitting an application, which means you’ll need to have a lot of data on your progress towards the contribution area of your choice. You’ll need to know all of the activities that correspond to the technology in which you’re applying, including page views, audience sizes, podcast downloads, and other quantitative measurements for your contributions.

Here are the different ways that I keep tabs on my activities that you might find useful for your needs:

I track all of the events in which I present or participate using a WordPress plugin called Event List. This makes it easy to find links, photos, and details of past presentations. For example, here is a list of events from 2016.
When creating content on my blog, I tag every post with 3-4 words. By searching for the “PowerShell” tag, I’m able to showcase a living stream of posts that are relevant to my contribution area. This is more powerful than relying on context searches or post categories. I have nearly 70 posts using this tag.
Most all of my public presentations have been uploaded to SlideShare. This allows folks to see past presentation content and correlate that to the topics that I cover, including my MVP contribution area.
All conferences worth their salt have metrics on audience attendance. If anything, they will at least share the feedback submitted by the audience. Combine that with a gut check on how many people were in the room, if necessary, and be honest.

With this information in hand, you’ll find the submission process to be more of a data gathering activity versus a scramble for information. It’s also a great way to see the ebb and flow of your contributions over time. For example, I used to blog about Group Policy back in 2010!

Thoughts

I won’t know if I get picked up as an MVP for the 3rd year until later, so this may be my swan song for one of the most awesome programs I’ve ever been lucky enough to engage with. If you catch an MVP in the wild, make sure to offer a crisp high five for their dedication as a volunteer to share information. While there are some nice perks involved with the program, CPMs expect to see active, friendly members who are making a positive impact on the world. At the same time, they return that favor by trusting MVPs with a lot of NDA information that I find invaluable, personally.

Let me know if you end up submitting an application to become an MVP in the comments below, especially if you get accepted. Best of luck! 🙂

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