It's been a long time since I've publicly expressed my appreciation for the MVPs in the SharePoint Community and beyond. I've spent a lot of time at Tech Eds and with MVP leads across the globe. Just last week I was with the MVP lead for the Russian speaking community. It was great to meet her and see her excitement to find a US Russian Speaking MVP on SharePoint. I'll let you see if you can figure out who that is *hint* it's not me. In Malaysia at Tech ED South East Asia a few years ago it was awesome to see the MVPs from many different diverse countries come together and see cultures and language differences melt away as we enjoyed drinks and dancing and other fun things that surround Tech Eds and other conferences. I've seen it time and time again. (You'd never believe how many SharePoint MVPs there are in Malaysia/Singapore. Love those guys…)
A couple years ago when I was at Tech Ed Africa, I was surprised a bit to see they wanted all the experts and speakers to wear MVP hats and were giving out MVP wannabe stickers. I was shaken. MVP was such an elite group and here they were handing out MVP hats and encouraging non MVPs to wear them. I quickly discovered that it was to encourage the MVP program and encourage the desire in attendees to want to become MVPs. I had seen it play out very differently in the US and discovered there was a big difference. In these more remote areas in Africa, there wasn't very good MVP representation, and encouraging people to strive to be community leaders was an important initiative. Since then I've seen a ton of friends all over the world go from being user group leads, bloggers, SharePoint Saturday organizers, trainers, speakers and so on, become MVPs and step up their game. I think that's an important distinction is seeing them become something more and wear the MVP pin with pride. It's always cool to see someone wear that MVP pin for the first time.
In the US I'm also happy to say I've seen a great thing happen. Where prior there was a lot of distinction early in our community with MVPs standing out in the community as the go to people. In the beginning this was a big step and it was a great badge of honor and made someone stand out. (Stick with me.) It's still a great badge of honor and recognition in the community, but what's happened over the last 2-3 years is the MVPs no longer group together as MVP only crowd. I think that's a huge step and it's been very cool to see the community up and recognize the eliteness is important and has a distinction with the MVP role in the community. It's also important to point out that where in the past influence appeared to require the award, this is no longer necessary. You can be someone great in the community and not have been recognized by Microsoft or the MVP program. I also hope that those who strive to attain the MVP award don't get frustrated. It's amazing to me in my travels to find so many local community leaders who ask… "What does it take to become and MVP?" There are a large number of resources that answer this question. I usually answer with pointing them to those resources and then pass on a few secrets like…
- Don't under estimate the power of answering questions on MSDN forums?
- How well do you know the MVP lead in your region?
- How well do you know and what is your relationship with the MVPs in your region?
- Don't be afraid to ask either the MVP lead and other MVPs what you can do to contribute to the community in your region.
- Is there a user group in your area? If yes, then get involved with it. If no, then start one and seek help from other user group leads.
- Do you have any events near your region? No, start one. Yes, get involved and reach out… use your influence to grow the event.
It is not bad to want to be an MVP. It's natural. Microsoft's MVP program is designed around you wanting to be part of the program. It's designed to award behavior, but the worst thing you can do is not be sincere in your community efforts. Anything you do, you should do because you are sincerely interested in helping, and if someone doesn't recognize you or recognize your efforts it won't be in vain. Blogging about the fact you want to be an MVP won't help your case, also bragging about what you've done doesn't help either. The best thing is sincerely growing the SharePoint community where you are from speaking, blogging, community building, writing, answering questions on newsgroups, and in social media. Sleep should not be lost over how you can get Microsoft to recognize your efforts, just be real and you'll be greatly rewarded. Even if you aren't recognized by Microsoft as an MVP you will be recognized in the community. That's the lesson to be learned. The rewards from the community alone are HUGE, I'd even venture to say it's way more than the pin, award or badge of honor, and the free software and fun you'd have at MVP summit and so on.
Bit of advice… If you are awarded, Congratulations! Good job. You deserve it. You should be very proud of yourself. Don't slow down by any means, you'll have great opportunities to serve the community, but don't for a second think you are better than the next guy/gal. The other guy may not know the MVPs or MVP leads as well as you do, or their name was likely not on the list of nominees. When you get invited to dinners, and special speaking opportunities try not to be elitist. Take the opportunity to reach out to those who are contributors who are next in line. Encourage those events to be aware of other influencers in your region. It's now your responsibility to grow the community in your region, not just to stand on their shoulders.
Lastly, I am happy to see the MVPs in the SharePoint community grow. It's amazing how many have turned around from being a consultant to being a business owner, time and time again. It is an amazing thing.