Posey's Tips & Tricks

The Road To Becoming a Microsoft MVP

While the official requirements are shrouded in secret, here are some tips to improve your odds.

Over the years I have been fortunate enough to have earned Microsoft's MVP award on eight different occasions. I started out as a Windows Server / IIS MVP and eventually transitioned into the Exchange Server group. For the last several years I have been an MVP in the File Systems / Storage area. As an MVP I have been asked to answer countless questions about Microsoft technologies. Even so, the one question that I seem to be asked more than any other is how to become a Microsoft MVP. That being the case, I wanted to take this opportunity to share a little bit of insight into the process.

Let me start off by saying that Microsoft does not publicize any official guidelines to becoming an MVP. While I wouldn't go so far as to say that the process is veiled in secrecy, I can tell you that Microsoft does not disclose their requirements. As such, there is no guaranteed method that I can give you for becoming a Microsoft MVP.

With that said, the first thing that you have to understand about the MVP program is that Microsoft treats the MVP program as an award, not as a certification. There is no exam that you can take to become an MVP. The only way to become an MVP is to be recognized by your peers.

The first step in this process is that you have to be nominated. The nomination can come from a Microsoft employee or from someone who is currently an MVP. Once a candidate has been nominated they are usually asked to provide information that substantiates their qualification for MVP status. This is where things get a little bit sketchy. After all, it is tough to prove that you deserve to be an MVP if Microsoft does not publicize the criteria.

So what does Microsoft look for? Unfortunately, I don't know the official answer. As matter of fact, I have even asked about the official qualifications.

Microsoft MVPs only retain their status for a year. After that, they have to be renewed in order to remain an MVP. Several years ago I was not renewed for whatever reason. I just happened to be in Redmond at the time and was able to have a face-to-face conversation with my former MVP lead (an MVP lead is a Microsoft employee who serves as a liaison to the MVPs). I told her that I respected her decision, but asked if there was anything that I should be doing in order to better my chances of becoming an MVP in the future. The answer that I received was that she was not able to disclose the official criteria and that her nondisclosure agreement prohibited her from giving me any advice. Thankfully, I was able to get back into the MVP program a few months later under a different MVP lead.

Even though I don't have any official Microsoft guidelines for becoming an MVP, there are some things that I can tell you. For starters, Microsoft looks very favorably upon people who correctly answer questions that are posted on the various technical message boards. In fact, most of the MVPs that I know have answered hundreds if not thousands of questions on the Web site social.Microsoft.com.

Microsoft also seems to look favorably upon those who educate the public on how to use Microsoft products. This can be done in a number of different ways. For example, I know of one Microsoft MVP who routinely writes TechNet articles addressing things that were neglected in Microsoft's official documentation. Several of the other MVPs that I know speak at technical conferences or write books about Microsoft products. I also know someone else who routinely creates YouTube videos demonstrating how to perform various tasks with Microsoft products. Regardless of the individual method that you use, you pretty much have to attract Microsoft's attention.

As I mentioned earlier, once you have been nominated as a Microsoft MVP you have to provide documentation explaining why you deserve to be an MVP. Occasionally when I have submitted this documentation Microsoft has asked me some questions about it. I think that it is possible to use these questions to get a feel for what Microsoft really looks for.

Microsoft seems to take into account the number of people that you reach. For example, if you post a technical article or a video on a Web site that Microsoft may want to know how many people have clicked on your article or video. Presumably the greater the volume of traffic that your work has received, the better your chances.

Ultimately, I can't really give you much information beyond what I have observed for myself during my time as an MVP. One last thing that I can tell you though is that being an MVP is all about helping others. As such, the best advice that I can give you is to forget about working toward becoming an MVP. Strive to help as many people as you can and you will most likely eventually be recognized as a Microsoft MVP.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 22-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.


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