The road to Microsoft MVP – Part 4

Warning

This is a post about me and my reflection on the Microsoft MVP award.
It basically is an incoherent rant, written while I’m thinking, without editing. So continue at your own peril.

Previously on this blog

At the start of 2017, someone I’ve been looking up to in the community told me they wanted to nominate me for the MVP award, and they did it in front of a program manager from Microsoft. I felt honored just for being able to talk to these people, I felt not worthy of even being considered for an MVP award.

At the end of May 2017, I finally took that person up on their offer.

On December 1st 2018, I got awarded with the MVP award which lasted until the annual re-awarding on July 1st.

Am I still an MVP?

This blog post is something that I’ve been thinking about for a while.
I honestly don’t know at the time of writing and nobody knows until well into July 1st when the mails get sent out.
It also shouldn’t matter as there are plenty of people doing great things who don’t receive the award.

My thoughts on the MVP award are still that it is an incredible personal achievement.
When I first received it, I didn’t advertise receiving the award to the world until I got called out by someone else a week or 2 later. And I don’t believe I ever flashed the fact that I’ve received the award except in the last second of my introduction during presentations.
I’ve now gone so far as to remove myself from the mvp.microsoft.com website as well. While being on there is very useful for some people and a door-opening career boost for others, I don’t believe it makes that big of a difference for me personally.
For having achieved the things that I have and the possibilities before me, I feel that being on there, even purely for past awards, doesn’t serve humility or selflessness. And removing myself could help highlight the people who are still on there.

But, I do still feel I haven’t done nearly enough to be worthy again for this award. Looking at it in raw numbers, no matter from which way you look at it, I’ve done much more than ever before. Having said that, nobody knows what exactly to do to qualify as an MVP.

There is however, plenty of speculation about what you actually have to do for that MVP award.
And looking at all the feedback I’ve heard before and during my time as an MVP, it seems to come down to this:
Spent time (and often money) to help others learn and have an impact with Microsoft products and do this in an open and altruistic setting instead of a closed and commercial one.
There’s of course the official explanation as well, which can be found here: https://mvp.microsoft.com/en-US/pages/what-it-takes-to-be-an-mvp

Types of MVP

Just as there are different types of people, there are different types of MVPs. Some are great people, some aren’t. Some have very altruistic intentions, others are in it for “fame and glory”.
From what I’ve heard and seen in the last year and a half, there are many more awesome MVPs compared to the other kind. On top of that, Microsoft does seem to make an effort to throw bad apples out of the MVP pool as soon as they’re identified.

I can only do my best to be one of the good ones and hope that my intentions are perceived as they were meant.

The money question

There’s quite some blog posts on this topic already, just Google it with Bing or Bing it with Google 😉

Some people still think that MVP’s are paid by Microsoft or that part of the award is a big check.
Neither of these statements are true, but MVP’s have found ways to monetize the award.

This money most often comes from rate increases for consultants and a raise/bonus by an employer.
Extra customers purely from the MVP title seems to be a rare phenomenon according to the people I’ve talked with in the past 18 months.
Amazingly enough however, extra customers (and the “big money” with them) do tend to follow from your long term community engagement. That engagement that you already had, even before that award was given to you, it actually has a lot of value! And companies are starting to discover that!

Some employers will still tell you multiple times that they don’t care about investing money into any activities outside of your very local market. They’ll tell you that your award means nothing to them. And that’s very understandable from a short term commercial point of view.

Some employers will see the long term opportunities this brings.
They’ll celebrate the employee’s achievement with cake, a bonus, cover all future expenses or at least give a monthly “expenses budget” to help pay for travel and more.
These smart employers will actually use the employee’s achievement for marketing and technical purposes. They’ll increase their technical knowledge and impact in projects as they now have basically a direct line to people inside the Microsoft product teams. And while they gain all of this, they show appreciation by investing and supporting the employee.

For me, it’s been an expensive journey that I’ve been paying for with my own money.
I’ve spend more money on travel than I ever thought I would spend in my life, but it’s been worth it!
As a result I’ve met great well known and unknown people and have undergone personal growth on levels that I never thought was possible. And it’s all thanks to the amazing people i met at conferences all over Europe (and outside of Europe!).

The real question

No matter how your employer reacts to your award (or re-award), there’s ONE thing I believe that you have to keep considering.
Even if you’re self-employed, you’ll have to consider ONE thing.
And if you’re not awarded, then there’s still this ONE thing to consider.

If you’re completely honest with yourself, what are you trying to achieve with your community activities?
Whether it’s online, in-person, an evening meetup, a huge conference, a one on one mentorship or a very popular class, you have to consider why you’re doing things.

Are you in it for some award?
Are you in it for the fame and possibly some money?
Are you in it to help your employer?
…?

Or are you in it to help other people learn and grow?
Are you in it to help someone else? Someone who you don’t know yet and who by themselves might not be able to easily get to the same place in live where you are currently at?

Supporting community or growing it?

There’s quite some organizations and companies out there who are making money from community events.
From non-profits set up purely for legal protection, to non-profits paying their board members and crew to full on for-profit companies and many other setups in between.
Opinions are divided on the organizations running these events and communities.
Just look at the recent PASS news and the Dynamic Communities news that followed it.
And that’s just the surface from the Microsoft community, there are many more smaller “companies” running “our community”.
Now imagine that there is basically a community out there for almost every product and technology that you can imagine. That’s a huge business!

Often, the companies running these events do tend to have a positive impact on the community.
They’ll grow it because they need the money.
And each of these communities and all organizations/companies associated with them have their own cross to carry. And they tend to know it, but as all organizations that need money, they won’t show support unless they think it’s necessary for financial survival. And we can hardly blame them, or can we?

But forget about all that “drama”, it’s not worth your time.
What are YOU doing to grow your local community?
How are you uplifting other people who otherwise might not get a chance?
When was the last time you personally uplifted someone through a one on one mentorship?
When was the last time you sacrificed financial gain/status quo to help uplift someone you didn’t know yet?
When was the last time you didn’t care about “your event” and “your community” but instead cared about people outside of that bubble?

Your mission, should you choose to accept it

Do something that scares you.
Look for existing initiatives and programs for increasing diversity, even if it’s outside of your regular crowd.
Help existing mentorship programs, without promoting anything else.
Have your sponsors pay for scholarships for unknown speakers and have known speakers pay for themselves.
Do anything that could have a direct positive impact on people without also having a positive impact on you and “your things”.

And after you do that, keep following up with these people instead of “dropping” them after they served their short-term purpose to you.
Yes, it will probably limit your impact initially and it might get you booted out of that award program you love.
But in the long run, getting new and diverse people into our community, even if at our own expense, will be worth it.

As always, should you or any member of your team do the wrong thing at the wrong time, your local or the global community might ostracize you for acting recklessly.
But you’re still encouraged to take that first step and break the cycle!

Good luck!

/End of rant

Series Navigation<< The road to Microsoft MVP – Part 2The road to Microsoft MVP – Part 3 >>

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