Want to be a Tech Star? Don’t Try So Hard!

I had an interesting email yesterday from someone regarding the MVP program. Now, I’ve had my views and opinions on the MVP program, and having been a fat kid in primary school (well, also most of high school too, but that’s not the point!) I tend to shy away from recognition programs (I hate them actually) all together.

So when I got this email yesterday from a community friend asking how they could get nominated for an MVP program, I naturally raised one of my furry brows. My friend asked how they could get nominated, what more they had to do to get nominated (they cited some of the great work they had been doing in the community) and gave me some reasons why they would like to be an MVP.

Now we went back and forth a few times, teasing out the reasoning behind wanting to become an MVP, and why in fact, becoming one doesn’t really make you anything different, it’s a recognition award, not an accreditation or qualification. And I think that was when I hit the high note; that the MVP award has mutated into something representative of tech culture, not of what the award really is, recognition.

So I wanted to tease out in this post what the MVP award is, and what it isn’t, and for those wanting to achieve Tech Star status, some of my own tips and observations to help you to the white suit and cane!

OK, so the MVP award…


  • A retrospective award given by Microsoft to a community member who has demonstrated outstanding contribution to the rest of the community
  • Awarded for 12 months (you need to be renewed to keep it)
  • Access to a range of channels, including special email lists, conferences, and extra benefits (VIP status at certain Microsoft and community events)


  • A certification, qualification, or qualified distinction; in other words, you can’t sit a test or submit a paper to get an MVP. And having an MVP award doesn’t make you better, more experienced or more valuable than anyone else. It’s an award for hard work and commitment to other people in the community.
  • A capability differentiator; some companies see an MVP award as being a reason to hire someone, pay them more money, differentiate because of how many MVP’s they have on staff, etc. It’s not the case. Certifications, degrees, industry accepted qualifications are capability differentiators.
  • A bragging tool; having an MVP award doesn’t mean you get to swan around like Paris Hilton, or release your own LP (well, you could, but your MVP award isn’t going to help sell it!). In fact, it’s probably the opposite, where the pressure of having been awarded an MVP award creates an expectation amongst your peers for you to continue contributing great stuff!

So, for those wanting to elevate themselves above the mass, and carve out their own distinguished status, and really develop a platform to influence others, then here are some observations that might assist:

  • Say what you mean, and mean what you say! Make sure you don’t reproduce other peoples opinions. Say what’s on your mind, what’s closest to your heart, that which makes you break a slight sweat when you think of the topic! Don’t pull punches, don’t couch your opinion, say it straight and to the point! People value passionate opinion, not reproduction!
  • Make it valuable! Think about what you are doing or saying, and ask yourself, how is this going to impact someone else for the better! How is this going to inspire them, change them, make them start that conversation they’ve been wanting to start for a long time! It’s the same with coding, if you’re going to write a line of code, write a great line, not just any line!
  • Incite emotion! I’ve always felt, that I want to be loved or hated, but what I can’t stand is ambivalence! So if you’re trying to communicate something, state your intention, don’t mask it. Don’t worry if nobody is going to hate you or snipe you, because if you do that, you’re going to miss out on the somebody who could have been changed by your feeling!
  • Do it for the right reasons! Don’t do anything just because someone expects you to do it, or because you need to do it to fit in. That results in an empty sense of achievement. Do it because it excites you. Do it because it satisfies you. Do it because it will positively affect other people! Do it because you will only get one chance to! What’s the worse that will happen? You realise the people you’re with don’t really value your opinion and thoughts!? Great outcome, saves you a lot of pain and let’s you fast track yourself to another place that does!

So for those who are gunning for that MVP award because you think it’s going to bring you that distinction amongst the populace, then your fishing in the wrong pond. Instead, try being someone recognized by the populace as a source of insight, ideas and valuable contribution.

Daz said it best:

It’s a mentor mindset as opposed to a me mindset.

Simply put, if you focus on leading by example, saying your peace, and being original and unique, then you will become a community leader and influencer. And if you focus on everyone other than yourself, and your contributions help others to excel and achieve, then you’ll achieve a recognition far greater than any award!

Comments (5)

  1. Do you want to work for Readify? Maybe that should be another question people should ask themselves. 😛

    Should people be given an MVP if they are putting up their own hand for it? Isn’t that recommending themselves?

    I thought that being awarded an MVP was because other people (the community) have recognised what you do rather than you showing your great modesty (sarcasm) by jumping up and down shouting ‘Pick me!’.

    Maybe I missed the MVP point…

  2. Karl says:

    Great insight David!  Those that achieve success and recognizition don’t follow the masses, but create the things that the masses follow.  To do that you have to go where others are not going and then evangelize your ideas.  If they are good, people will recognize it and follow.

  3. hey david…

    that’s an interesting point of view…in short – i agree with you..

    in the long run..not quite..

    Here’s a few things that i think could be debated (or not).

    1) It is not an accreditation or certification – i agree..it isn’t

    2) It does not distinguish you from anybody else – i’d say it does..for one reason – you are given the award because you have, explicitly, distinguished yourself by contributing to the community of whichever technological branch you’re circulating in. Now in saying that i don’t mean that you are in any way a better person, you just have the amount of passion and technical skills that not many out there have (it’s a combination really)

    You can raise your hand, but insofar as i know it’s not going to help you get awarded. Moreover, as you say, it does create a certain expectation among your peers to continue to contribute along the lines that you did.

    Eventhough i’m an MVP i have absolutely no clue what the deciding factors are..none..there’s no recipe..no 1-2-3 step tutorial..nothing whatsoever out there that will help you along.

    I recently asked my MVP lead what involved with the re-award as i was asked by a few friends (that obviously was MVPs too) what it takes…do you have to do more work? get out there more?..anyways, i was told one thing..keep doing what you’re doing.

    Now, from the MVPs i’ve met in person, as well as spoken to for the past 3-4 years, they are all and one VERY passionate about what they do. Some write books, some present locally or travel the world presenting to communities, some blog, some are active on mailing lists, some are active in forums..but the common denominator is: Passion. they all love what they do and the technology they work with and that’s really what comes out.

    I’ve (luckily) never met any MVP of the "strutting" category yet…so hopefully the MVP program is supporting the people that deserve it…can’t judge that one myself yet – this is my first year.

    In some ways MVPs are lucky – not just to get awarded – but in regards to the doors it opens for you..here i mean the technological treasure you suddenly have access to..i think i can easily say that i’ve learned more in the last year than i have in the previous 5..mostly because i’ve been lucky to get awarded and have involved myself heavily in the technology..

    and why is that? because i want to be awarded again? no, it would be nice to get the recognition twice in a row, but because i absolutely love what i do..

  4. David Mackie says:

    Hmmmmm food for thought, it scares people when I think too hard 🙂