As many of you know, I received a Microsoft MVP award this year for C#. I’ve been asked a few times what makes an MVP — despite there being several pieces of information available to answer that question, I thought I’d answer it quickly myself.
There is no set formula for gaining an MVP. Some do it by participating in online communities such as forums, newsgroups, and other such public stomping grounds for technological communication. Some people do it by writing books, printed magazine articles, blog posts, or online articles. Some folks have obtained their MVP by simply participating in local community events, helping out in whatever way is necessary to make user groups, code camps, MSDN events, and the like go off without a hitch.
By participating in communities, I mean that you answer questions clearly, honestly, and completely — not simply respond to every post hoping to get a post count high enough to get noticed. You have to actually earn some respect in the community for having answers — not for posting useless information.
The same can go for blogs. Simply pointing to other sites or blog posts from yours — effectively becoming a technology aggregator — doesn’t work either. Have some original content. One method that is quite useful is to combine your community participation with your blogging. Instead of simply answering a question in a forum, try to write a coherent blog post about the issue, and then point the user in the forum to your blog post. Now, the question and the answer are made available to everyone in the forums as well as on your blog!
Another good idea is to take that same topic, and then use your solution as the topic for a user group meeting. Many user group meetings in smaller towns are in great need of speakers — either at the meetings themselves, or at Code Camps. Help them out by sharing what you’ve learned with the local community. Furthermore, find out who the Microsoft Developer Evangelists are in your area and see if there is anything they need help with at upcoming events. Being valuable to Microsoft is the whole point of the “V” in MVP. Helping your developer evangelists definitely adds value and will help get you on the radar screen if you persist for a good deal of time.
As you can see, you can solidify yourself as a subject matter expert quickly by studying one area and using that same information in blogs, forums, and user groups. It wouldn’t hurt to expand on those topics by contacting online article sites or even printed mags to see if they have an interest in your topic. As you can guess, a little effort can go a long way.
I don’t really know how I received mine other than some of the ways that I described. I wrote four books on .NET topics, participated in local and regional events, communicated with regional directors, developer evangelists, and community champions to find out what was needed to drive participation locally. I blogged, answered a few forum posts, and worked with Microsoft Learning to develop the new generation of certification exams and supporting eLearning workshops. Find your own mix and figure out what works for you, and what doesn’t. Don’t rely on the company you work for to get you there. MVP is an individual award and it depends on YOUR commitment and reputation , not the reputation or commitment of the company you work for — in many instances, that’s a plus for you!
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