To MVP, Or Not To MVP…

I was recently moved to comment on a blog post from a gentleman who turned down being re-awarded the MVP designation from Microsoft.  After giving it more thought, I decided to write this blog to promote more discussion regarding the value and challenges with the MVP program.  So please comment on the following:

  • If you are an MVP, what do you regard as the benefits?  Challenges?
  • If you are not an MVP, would you want to be?  Why?  Why not?
Comments (34)

  1. Joseph Guadagno says:

    I think one of the biggest benefits of the MVP program is the connections and friendships made to other MVPs and Microsoft employees outside of my area.  Since becoming an MVP every Summit, conference or event is just like a family reunion, except with family that you like.  🙂

  2. Filip Ekberg says:

    I am not an MVP but I don't see any disadvantages about becoming one. Those being rewarded for great community work with something like the title of "MVP" really sets an example of great programming spirit and that anyone that works hard can achieve great things.

    But not to forget those that are not awarded with the MVP award; those individuals that help out in other ways, ways that might not be contributing to forums, writing blog posts. Such as strong souls within corporates that fights for spreading knowledge and help those in need to get to the next level.

    Short answer would probably by: Yes being an MVP would be an honor.

  3. palermo4 says:

    @Filip Ekberg

    Thanks for your feedback from the non-MVP perspective.  The "award" for MVP certainly designates the awardee as a contributor to the community.

  4. palermo4 says:

    @Joseph Guadagno

    I agree.  I made many contacts and new friendships via the MVP program.  That alone seems priceless to me.

  5. Steve Evans says:

    I agree with Joseph. Becoming a MVP isn't going to change your life. You should already be building strong connections in the community, you should already be gaining benefit from those connections, etc. The MVP program provides you more opportunity to reach outside your immediate community (either geographical or online). The benefit shrinkage that is often complained about (lowering MSDN subscription level, Microsoft bucks at company store, etc) are not what the MVP program truly provides. Those are just fringe benefits.

  6. Steve Evans says:

    I'd also like to say that if your going out of your way to become an MVP then your doing it wrong. The great MVP's I know were doing there thing (either online or offline) and that fell in line with what the MVP program was looking for. People who speak at events or participate in online communities specifically so they can become an MVP become bitter about the amount of work they are "doing for the MVP program" and burn out quickly.

  7. says:

    No matter what organization you have, there will be people that don't like something about it and decide to leave. I have read the post Emily referenced and the poster seems to have been part of a product group that doesn't share much information. This varies from group to group. I've been an MVP for two different products and the information to and from each of those groups has been fantastic. I greatly appreciate what I get that I can then use to enhance the community. But more importantly, I'll agree with other commenters here. It's the friendships I value most.

  8. Keith Elder says:

    I'm an MVP and I read the article a few days ago you are talking about.  I think like anything else it takes time to become a good MVP.  I tell new MVPs all the time "did you know this or that" and get blank stares.  It seemed like he didn't really *try* to take full advantage of being an MVP.  I will tell anyone that will listen that it has its advantages BUT you have to know and understand what to do. I know I have personally shaped many a product over the last 4 or 5 years (I've lost count).  

    I'll admit that I didn't have that connection with the product teams the first year or two I was an MVP.  Honestly I just didn't *know* how to take advantage of it.  And then I started to learn how to be a better MVP.  I would take feedback from my team members and actually walk into a building where the product was written and talk to someone about it.  Usually trying to find *the guy* that worked on it.  

    I remember a few years ago at the MVP Summit several of us were tired of going to sessions on campus so we went over to one of the buildings to hang out with a friend that worked there.  It was by far the most productive evening we had while on campus all week and it was a blast engaging with the MSFT employees about their product.  Believe me when I say they (MSFT employees)  listen, you just have to remember that just like us they don't like being yelled out, made fun of, etc.  They really do want to build a better product, you just have to ask them *nicely* and *with respect* and you'll get that back in return.  

  9. palermo4 says:

    @Steve Evans

    I appreciate your perspective on motive. The "happy" MVPs were already champions in the community and not determined to become MVPs. If the community activities happen naturally, the MVP program is a great compliment. Doing community activities for the sake of becoming an MVP appears to be one of the complaints from the ex-MVP who inspired this blog.

  10. Steele Price [MVP] says:

    The referenced blog post clearly indicates the lack of understanding about with the MVP program is.

    This is clearly the challenge for the MVP Program.

    I am asked all the time about how I became so proficient in my area that Microsoft picked me as an MVP.

    This usually leads to a discussion about competence, guruness and community…

    To me the benefit is all about the networking within Microsoft and the MVP community, even if Microsoft gave me nothing I would still pursue being an MVP just to have more chances to talk to the other community leaders and the product teams.

    MVPs are not required to be Gurus, Adepts or Geniuses even though many of them are.

    They ARE required perform Community Service specifically to the community for which they are awarded an MVP Status.

    I believe it is a marketing faux pas by Microsoft to promote MVPs as "Experts" in anything but building communities around a topic.  

    From the MVP Home Page:

    "These exceptional community leaders come from a wide range of backgrounds. They are teachers, artists, doctors, engineers, as well as technologists, who actively share their high-quality, real-world technical expertise with the community and with Microsoft."

    "With the MVP Award, we thank these inspiring individuals for representing the voice of thousands in the community through the powerful and independent feedback they give us…"

    The great debate to the program in the past was Offline vs Online MVP.

    If you decide to spend several hours a day answering questions on Newsgroups, Forums and Stack Overflow then you are considered an Online MVP.  This doesn't mean you actually know anything, it just means you have answered a whole bunch (read thousands) of questions with mostly a right answer… It doesn't matter if you used a search engine for the answer or it was the voices in your head making the response.

    Offline MVPs are typically found speaking to local user groups and at development conferences, they most likely are also the User Group Leaders.  Again… "Expert" at building a community, not just some narrow technical area that will be gone in a few years.

    I know many MVPs that have been so from the start.

    Would I ask most of them to help with a very deep technical question?

    Most likely not, its a waste of their time and mine.

    Would I hunt them down specifically to help me plan a community event, get speakers or find the right person to ask the deep technical question? Absolutely.

    Steele Price

    Microsoft MVP

  11. Ryan Cromwell says:

    I am a first time MVPer as of Jan 1st.  It was by no means my intention to achieve the award, but simply I enjoy working with people and am a semi-coherent nerd when standing in a crowded room.  I am very happy to have received an MVP simply for the fact that it is recognition for hard work that I've done for years without much recognition (aside from good gigs for people that take leadership roles).

    It is made incredibly clear that we are not indebted to anyone for receiving the award.  We are not required to do anything.  If someone so chooses not to participate in the information they wish to make available, don't sign the NDA.  If you are embarrassed by the plaque, leave it in the box.  If someone is embarrassed to be called an MVP, well, that's their own thin skinned problem.  It's a thank you with opportunities, not an obligation or job offer.

    To send back a thank you is childish and ungrateful, in my opinion.  It smells of wanting to be a cool kid.

  12. palermo4 says:

    @Craig Berntson

    Thanks for your feedback. Even if the communication from the product teams were lacking, I would not personally devalue the ongoing networking opportunities.

  13. palermo4 says:

    @Keith Elder

    Excellent feedback for MVPs!  Thanks for your comment, it is worthy of being a blog post on it's own 🙂

  14. Scott Cate says:

    I have always been community related. I like to Learn from the community, and then Share back with the community. Learn and Share are cap'd for a reason, those are the key's. It's give and take, or in this case, take and give.  From my experience, you don't ask to be an MVP. And even if you did, it probably doesn't matter. I'm sure there are exceptions, but actions here, speak louder than words.

    The MVP program is an award, with a few benefits. AWARD is the key. It's a thank you for what you did LAST YEAR. It doesn't commit you to doing more THIS YEAR. I don't understand rejecting the award. Maybe you reject the benefits, but there is no reason to reject the award. It's like saying, don't thank me for what I did.

    There is no dropping out of "The Program". Sure you can ask to be removed from the NDA lists, or reject the MSDN account. But the award was issued, as an award.

    To me, the MVP program opens doors. Especially as a speaker. I put 10-40 hours into a talk, but then I use the talk over and over, and I'm mostly in the top 10% of speakers at Microsoft conferences. My trick is dry running my talk, at Code Camps, or local user groups. That way when I'm on stage in front of 800 TechEd attendees, I already have experience with the talk.

    Just today, I talked to a Microsoft employee, that I've never met before. I was able to mention that I'm an MVP, and (even if just in my head) that boosted my confidence with the conversation.

    It's all about the relationships!

  15. Dan Wahlin says:

    I'm fortunate to work with two great product teams (Silverlight and ASP.NET) and have the benefit of associating with people in and out of the MVP program who enjoy working with those technologies and who are willing to help others learn more about them and get better at what they do. I've made friendships through the MVP program that wouldn't have happened otherwise and the program has benefited me simply through learning about better processes I could be following or better ways to write code. It's also a blast to hang out with friends and make new friends at the MVP Summit each year and interact with product team members.

    Although the MVP program isn't perfect by any means, it definitely adds value in my opinion through more direct access to technology, associating with some great people at Microsoft and in the MVP program and getting a chance to help out in various communities. As far as people complaining about the MVP program, that's certainly their right and there are a few complaints that I agree with that should be fixed. However, the most effective way to deal with problems or suggest improvements is to talk directly with the appropriate MVP lead, MVP leadership, fellow MVPs, etc. If that doesn't work and someone decides to relinquish their MVP award then that's their choice. However, do it in private.  Voicing those types of complaints in public reminds me of a child who screams and throws a fit just to get attention.

  16. I attended an MVP Summit a few years ago as what they called an "Influencer".  Although I wasn't an MVP, I really enjoyed that experience!  It gave me a chance to talk with the people working on the software I use daily, and to get insight into what was coming in future versions of Visual Studio.  I would LOVE to be awarded an MVP, and I hope that one day I shall be.

  17. Ely Lucas says:

    I read that article a few days ago, and as a non-mvp, I was a bit perplexed by it.  I'm glad that reading through the comments that not every product group is as non-interactive as the one wrote about.  I see the MVP program as an award given to people from the community who take their own personal time to help out.  Unfortunately, some of these people feel they have an entitlement after they get the award.  If you feel that it takes too much work and the rewards aren't enough for an MVP award, then you probably either don't get it or don't have what it takes to be an MVP.  Helping out in the community should be reward enough.  The award is just a recognition for what you do.

    If I was awarded an MVP, I would be honored because it would mean others have found my contributions to the community worthwhile and helpful.  As being a member of the local community in Denver, I had made great connections already, and could only imagine the networking opportunities an MVP award would bring.

  18. James Kipling says:

    What I want to see removed from the MVP program is the corruption. Want I want removed is making people MVP's or keeping them as MVP's despite their low knowledge or community contributions based exclusively on corporate relationships with the companies they work for, i.e. read since Company X bring MS money, it's a good thing to have some of their employees as MVP despite not qualifying.

    What I want to see is removing MVP's from the program that don't contribute and more importantly not only are not experts but have very little knowledge about their supposed "area of expertise". IF this is not about being very knowledgeable, then don't claim that as part of the tag line.

    Get rid of the corruption. The program will prove itself. Unfortunately however, we all know that's not possible because there's too many financial interests involved.

  19. Rick G. Garibay says:

    …In the end, the love you take…is equal to the love you make.

  20. palermo4 says:

    @Ryan Cromwell

    "To send back a thank you is childish and ungrateful, in my opinion.  It smells of wanting to be a cool kid.


    I agree with your statement.  The MVP Award is just that – an award with a "thank you" for what you have done for the community.  If someone turns it down (publicly at that) it appears to have some other "cool kid" or "I am above that" attitude – when in reality it is ungrateful.

    Having said all that, I would ADMIRE anyone who would "step down" from being an MVP if he/she were no longer engaging in any of the activities that landed him/her the MVP Award in the first place.  To do so shows strength of character.   But to turn down a "thank you" because you aren't happy with the benefits of the "thank you" is childish.

  21. palermo4 says:

    @Steele Price

    "I believe it is a marketing faux pas by Microsoft to promote MVPs as "Experts" in anything but building communities around a topic."

    While I agree that MVPs do build communities around a certain topic, I disagree that they are not "experts".  "Expert" is a relative term.  Some might regard me an "expert" in ASP.NET, while I personally consider others more expert than me in ASP.NET.

    If an MVP's contributions serve the community, it is reasonable the community will look to such one as a go-to person, or expert.

  22. palermo4 says:

    @Scott Cate

    "The MVP program is an award, with a few benefits. AWARD is the key. It's a thank you for what you did LAST YEAR. It doesn't commit you to doing more THIS YEAR. I don't understand rejecting the award. Maybe you reject the benefits, but there is no reason to reject the award. It's like saying, don't thank me for what I did."

    Nicely stated!

  23. palermo4 says:

    @Dan Wahlin

    "However, the most effective way to deal with problems or suggest improvements is to talk directly with the appropriate MVP lead, MVP leadership, fellow MVPs, etc. If that doesn't work and someone decides to relinquish their MVP award then that's their choice. However, do it in private.  Voicing those types of complaints in public reminds me of a child who screams and throws a fit just to get attention."

    I totally agree.

  24. Kelly Sommers says:

    I think one thing keeps getting lost, and I am guilty of this as well is the fact that MVP is a recognition award. A thank you as J. Michael said. I think this fact has been completely lost. I don't think the community at large see's MVP status as a simple "thank you". Whether it's people wanting to be an MVP or the people who look up to MVP's. Where the message has warped I'm not sure.

    In some cases some of the people awarded are experts, but in some cases their community leaders. There's a big difference between the two however. The non-MVP crowd associates MVP with expert more than anything I think.

    There needs to be a distinct separation between community leaders and experts. Some MVP's I don't think I've seen write a line of code. This is not a sin, but as I stated above how people perceive MVP, this may be a damaging thing because the message is all mixed up.

    I also think people's perception of the MVP program (again I also am at fault here, not sure how my perception got warped) is that becoming an MVP opens doors to help shape a product. It seem's like people are upset that when they get the award, they don't feel the next evolution of their partnership with Microsoft satisfying enough. Are the expectations from the MVP unrealistic or have they been led to believe they will get to help out more than they actually are? I'm unsure. I'm an outsider looking in 🙂

    I look back at the 3 times I've been asked if I wanted to be an MVP or pursue it, and each time I said I did not have enough contributions (yet) and that some day I would be there hopefully. I'm not expert enough on a specific topic. This was because I look at MVP's as the best of the best, and want to hold myself to that measuring stick. Except as stated earlier, it's a thank you, not an expert label.

    To summarize:

    – I think Community Leaders and Experts need to be split. They shouldn't be bundled into one award IMO.

    – How did the perception of what MVP is get so warped?

    – What's the expectations of MVP's once awarded. What do they expect as the next steps in their partnership with Microsoft? Perhaps they shouldn't expect anything.

  25. palermo4 says:

    @James Kipling

    "What I want to see removed from the MVP program is the corruption."

    Thanks for your candid feedback.  While I am not denying your concern, I am personally unaware of the corruption you speak of.  For example, I personally have no knowledge of anyone remaining in the MVP program because of where he/she is employed.

    If you feel you have valid concernswith specific examples, please contact me offline.  Thanks!

  26. palermo4 says:

    @Kelly Sommers

    Kelly, really enjoyed your feedback.  Thanks for your comment 🙂

    With regard to the question: "What's the expectations of MVP's once awarded. What do they expect as the next steps in their partnership with Microsoft?" – Scott Cate answered that one well.  The award is for what you have accomplished, not for what you are going to do.  Therefore, although there may be opportunities for MVPs to respond to, they are under no obligation to do anything other than enjoy the award.  As it turns out, most MVPs are passionate about what they do, and the award does not typically end their activities.

  27. jbokkers says:

    The biggest problem at the moment, in my opinion, is that very knowledgeable people are turning down MVP awards because their no longer being taking serious by either the community or the design teams and that's a shame.


    I totally agree with you and I believe the warped perception comes from the fact that the audience in general considers the MVP to stand for Most Valued Professional. Being a professional hints at being an expert on a certain subject.

    The ideal option from a general audience point of view would be to phase out the 'Community Experts' into a different award program. The MVP's would become 'Experts' again.

    MVP's (if Microsoft would like community input that is) could discuss on behalf of the community with the Microsoft teams about future roadmaps and the community could discuss with the MVP and will once again have their 'professionals' to turn to.

    The 'Community Experts' will still receive their thanks and appreciation for their volunteer work and devotion to a product and everyone will be in sync again about who's what.


  28. Jeremy Likness says:

    One thing I do find interesting is that there are certain people who specifically set the target of becoming an MVP. It's like setting a weight loss goal – you can target that goal, but when you reach it, then what? Most people who set the target reach it, and then it's done. On the other hand, focusing on living a healthy lifestyle means the weight loss goal is a side effect and hitting the target doesn't mean changing the habits.

    I view my MVP award the same way. I did not start doing talks, publishing a prolific blog or getting involved in various events with the goal of becoming an MVP. I did it because I'm passionate about Silverlight and focused on sharing it's benefits with others and showing them best practices and ways to use it to solve business problems. I am thankful and feel blessed that the result of that focus was an MVP award.

    Before being awarded, I honestly did not know what the award would really entail beyond recognition. Now I do know. It is different for every group, but I can say in my opinion the Silverlight MVP is phenomenal. It provides me with unprecedented access to the product teams. I do feel my input is heard and that I can help influence the product future, because the Microsoft employees have made themselves very accessible and listen attentively to the needs. As MVPs I believe most of us don't feel we are "experts with an MVP badge" but rather that our status of MVP makes us official representatives of the community, and therefore I see most MVPs in my platform focused on listening to the people in the community and their customers and the issues they raise are not "my problem is…" but "the community perception is…" This to me is very valuable and helps Microsoft leverage a worldwide team to connect with the community.

    The program is by no means perfect and as I mentioned I understand there are different experiences in different platforms and disciplines. But nothing is perfect and my experience has been the team at Microsoft listens when we have feedback and responds.

    I do agree probably the most important thing the MVP program can do is a better of educating the community about what an MVP represnts – a 30 second elevator pitch that doesn't just focus on the side of recognition, but the value and benefits that come from the position.

    Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts!

  29. Adam says:

    In the broader development community MVP status is the grounds for a good laugh. As a developer inside the Microsoft community, the MVP status generally comes at the expense of researching new emerging non-Microsoft technologies.

    I wouldn't consider being an MVP, my time is better invested in becoming more employable by keeping up to date with non-Microsoft technologies.

  30. Oisin Grehan says:

    I just don't get it.

    Disclosure: I'm an MVP. I was awarded it because I was doing what I liked to do: open source work, blogging and powershell. You can't actively "seek out" an MVP award. If it's feeling like work for you, then you're in it for the wrong reasons. Stop. Once "in," just keep doing what it was before you were "in." Every time I read about some MVP complaining about the efforts he/she has to do to ensure their continuing membership in this magical clan, then I just want to reach out through the internet and twist their whinging earlobes and yell: "If it's feeling like work then stop. Noone's forcing you."

    If you perceive corruption (whatever the **** that means) then blog and yell about it. I'm not sure if that will lead you in the right direction for enlightenment and/or all of the bags of free money we get. Ok, I think I've said enough. I'm off to collect my monthly Redmond parcel full of Microsoft shares, gold buillion and silken underwear. Kthx, bye.


    PowerShell MVP

  31. Kelly Sommers says:

    @Jeremy Likness, part of the reason people set these goals is because that's how its told to some of us.

    I was asked multiple times "do you want to pursue being an MVP?". I think all of the language around how the program is displayed, how MVP's are promoted make it look exactly like a recognition of expertise.

    That's why I think 2 programs are needed for Community Leaders and Experts. Both are useful, but messaging around both are entirely different. How you get recognized is different as well.

  32. palermo4 says:

    @Oisin Greham

    'Every time I read about some MVP complaining about the efforts he/she has to do to ensure their continuing membership in this magical clan, then I just want to reach out through the internet and twist their whinging earlobes and yell: "If it's feeling like work then stop. Noone's forcing you."'

    Great statement.  Becoming an MVP should be natural.  Remaining an MVP should be natural too.

  33. Starting with the disclaimer that I am a proud MVP (Dynamics CRM) married to a proud MVP (Silverlight) and our 17 year old son is a Microsoft Student Insider.  Yes, we are well aware there are other technologies but for us, for now, Microsoft works.

    I will also admit that I kinda did set out wanting that MVP label.  My husband was first awarded MVP eons ago and I saw the family that came with it and knew I wanted it too (I wanted to earn it, not marry it).  But, for me it was the icing. The community work I love, that’s the cake.   I love the cake.

    I like to think I am never done learning, there is always more that I don’t know and I love to see what’s next. I get bored easily and have found a job that keeps me far from bored.   I truly enjoy sharing that experience with like-minded people.  The folks at Microsoft deemed that worthy of an award.  Ok by me.  

    I get out of the program what I put into it, just like everyone else.  My CRM MVP family is a pretty small one, we are there for each other, personally and professionally, whenever someone needs us.  We have a safe place to bounce around ideas, seek product support, build upon crazy hair brained ideas, together.  We are all experts at our own little piece of our technology but the common thread is the giving back component, and that includes internal to our MVP family and external to the online and in-person professional community.

    The MVP program is not for everyone, if it were it would be named something else.  Not all MVPs should be renewed; they are usually quietly weeded out.  And that’s ok.  I have seen a few leave the program, under the best of terms.  And that’s ok.

    To me my MVP is as much of an accomplishment as my MBA.

  34. tanoshimi says:

    I received the MVP award this year for the first time, and I'm very proud to say that I was awarded it.

    Microsoft makes it very clear (as have many of the commentators here) that nothing is *expected* of you as an MVP – it is a recognition of the work that you have already done. However, for me personally, receiving the reward had the effect of encouraging me to do more of those activities which I was already doing – running usergroups, speaking at conferences, answering forum questions. In fact, I've started blogging only since having become an MVP, having seen the great blogs that some of my peers write.

    I certainly did not start doing community activities with the specific objective of becoming an MVP, but I would be lying if I said that I wasn't motivated to receive the award. I think everybody likes being recognised and, in the world of I.T., an official recognition from Microsoft is hard to beat. I've never boasted about my MVP status, I don't get any particular benefits from it, but the little glass award sits on my desk and I'm not ashamed of that.

    I am very humbled to be an MVP and feel that I need to now justify those three little letters. The program may have some flaws, but in my (very limited) experience it is not as "broken" as the MVP-refuser suggests – in fact, every time I gather together with other MVPs I get motivated and inspired by their knowledge, helpfulness, and enthusiasm and I hope that, maybe just occasionally, I might have that effect on others too.