What does it take to become a SharePoint MVP?

Beyond a note I read in facebook which was an imported blog post by a new facebook friend/connection and SharePoint MVP, Zlatan Dzinic from South Africa, I thought I’d fill you in on my thoughts on the same topic.  I have a passion for SharePoint MVP and the whole program and hopefully you’ll feel it by the end of this post.  In his post he quickly refers to the post from Lawrence Lui on the paint ball game and other various fun community events during MVP summit.

I flew back for the paintball game and actually planned my middle east trip around it.  That was my second of two SharePoint MVP paintball games, and I think it very appropriate that he give it this title and then refer to the paintball game.  I made some awesome friends the first time around, and wasn’t interested in missing this opportunity. 

Working with SharePoint is like a paintball game… it can be the most exhilarating time of your life, but you’re likely to take a few zingers and walk away with some bruises, but no doubt your fond memories and friendships made during the game will last a lifetime.

SharePoint MVPs are unlike any other MVPs in any program at Microsoft.  They are the coolest, most laid back, down to earth, salt of the earth, type people.  They watch reality TV, they play XBOX 360/Wii, Guitar hero 3, love Disney world, discuss Iphones and technology in general.  You might even find a Macbook Pro or 2 or 3.  They hang out at SharePint type gatherings, and when they get together you find them in large groups all willing and racing to pick up the tab.  The friendships I’ve built with MVPs are stronger than anyone local or as strong than any of my friendships I’ve built over the last 10 years.  I’d take a bullet for nearly any one of em, and that’s not saying much ’cause I know they’d do the same for me.

So beyond it being just the coolest most elite crowd to hang with, I find there are some very obvious…

Benefits to being a SharePoint MVP.

1. Friendships to last a lifetime

2. The DL and Networking – This distribution list of the smartest SharePoint people on the planet has the quickest response time for any SharePoint Q/A.

3. Early access to bits and info – These folks do get pinged with info like the announcement that this was going to be the last 32 bit version.

4. Feedback/Consulted – You better believe it that the SharePoint product group listens to this group.  If they aren’t they are truly shooting themselves in the foot or eating their feet (putting their feet in their mouths).

5. Celebrity Status – If you think you feel like a rockstar for having  a cool blog, or by being a speaker at an event, become an MVP.  People around the world will take notice and your blog or speaking engagement will take another step up.

(6. There are some software and licensing and partner perks as well.  These add up.)

First let me give you Lawrence’s list that he’s put out publicly on becoming an MVP.

From Lawrence Liu:

What/who are the MVPs? MVPs are individuals, who are awarded Most Valuable Professional status by Microsoft for their deep technical expertise, product knowledge, continuous feedback, and consistent advocacy of the “voice of the customer." Their contributions help Microsoft evolve its programs and products. MVPs are thought leaders committed to helping others get the most out of their experience with Microsoft products and technologies. For more information about the SharePoint MVPs, go to http://MSSharePointCommunity.com/MVPs.

How to become a SharePoint MVP

1. Good and valid involvement and responses to SharePoint community forums.  There are other forums, but these are the ones that are highest priority for the product team.

2. Blogging, share what you learn as a dev, IT Pro, consultant, or trainer.  This is what being part of the community is about.

3. Leadership and active participation in SharePoint user groups.  Everyone loves cool user group, but the difference between a boring user group and a cool one is the networking and people willing to participate and give back.

4. Speaking at Global TechEds, SharePoint focused Conferences (inside and outside of MS),

5. Writing/Authoring and solid contribution of Books, White papers, articles, newsletters, magazine articles, TechNet/MSDN and so on.

From the MVP Community site there are some further details on the nomination process and what is actually being counted or looked at.  This is quoted from the SharePoint Community Portal.

If you’re interested in becoming a SharePoint MVP, please first read the official overview and FAQ for the Microsoft MVP program. Then consider making the one or more of the following contributions on a regular basis to the SharePoint community:

  • Provides a significant number of useful answers on a regular basis to questions in SharePoint team blogs, community forums, and/or newsgroups.
  • Publishes original content (e.g. via a blog or website) and/or tools (e.g. via CodePlex) that are useful to a significant number of people in the SharePoint community.

  • Presents or co-presents SharePoint oriented sessions frequently at major conferences (e.g. MS TechEd, MS SharePoint Conference, SharePoint Connections).
  • Leads or actively participates at SharePoint oriented user groups or code camps.
  • Nominated and vouched for by at least 3 current SharePoint MVPs.


Obviously there’s a level of expertise and visibility where you starts to stand out in the crowd.  I know there are some super smart consultants who are not MVPs.  There are a ton of them.  Why?  Most of them are too busy to give back or to share.  At least that’s what they tell me.  Too busy to write the white paper or post the blog.  It was personally my No. 1 goal after leaving Microsoft.  It actually was tough for me at Microsoft to not be able to be an MVP and an employee at the same time.  After hanging out with such cool people I wanted to be one of them as are many that know them.

I should also mention there are a few things you can do to loose your MVP status. This is the Joel list, not an official list obviously, but #1 is a sure thing.

1. Join Microsoft

2. Stop posting to your blog or slow down your community involvement, forums, speaking, writing, etc…  If people wonder what happened to you… this is a sure sign.

3. Bash SharePoint without a reason (this one likely isn’t listed anywhere, but your fellow MVPs will make sure of this).  Giving constructive feedback with reason is highly encouraged.  If you can make your voice heard with Microsoft first, that would be the preferred method.  You don’t need to bash on a blog before talking to a MS rep or preferably your account manager or MVP lead or even better a SharePoint (Technical preferred) Product Manager.  (They’ll get the info to the PMs.  They are usually pretty heads down, but if you’re ever talking to one, give them a piece of your mind… I mean give it to them straight.  Let them know what is important.)

I can’t really go through this list without naming a few names of people to talk to.  Bob Fox is a good guy to know, so are the leaders and personalities in the training companies at Ted Pattison Group, SharePoint Experts, Mindsharp, U2U, and Combined Knowledge.  I think you’d find the highest concentration of SharePoint MVPs in those groups.  I do encourage you to try to track down an MVP at TechEd, they have a booth at TechEd.  You can ask them all the questions you want.  It is something that will accelerate your career and the interactions you have with the SharePoint MVPs will be ultimately thing that will change or influence your career and ultimately your life!

The Motley Crew of SharePoint MVPs in Orlando at Shuttle Launch

The possibilities are really endless… You may find yourself going to the top of the Eiffel tower with an MVP or two, climbing the top of a huge bridge or going to the Sydney Zoo/Aquarium, or watching the space shuttle take off with a whole gaggle of MVPs, dancing on a pole/going to an ICE bar, dancing at all the clubs at Pleasure island, exploring the best clubs of Kuala Lumpur, working on MOC tests, stacking red bulls in Sydney, and even dancing with a Malaysian idol runner up (yep both of us), eating Durian, Disney backlot and fireworks, sledding and tubing in Dubai, paintball and pool, eating lots and lots of the best steak and seafood… Parties, parties and more parties…  (Caution, fun and adventure ahead… Contrary to what you’ve heard, you don’t have to drink to enjoy the MVPs.  Pineapple Juice is totally cool.)

<update 5/13/08>

I highly recommend subscribing to their RSS Feeds.  Here’s a link to theSharePoint MVP English Language feed.

After this post I ran into an interesting post from Mosslover (Becky Isserman) who aspires to being an MVP in her post titled "So I want to be an MVP."

The post itself is interesting, and the comments are even better.  I really enjoyed AC’s comments…

"The MVP is an award given for your past contributions to the community for a specific product (for me, MOSS) over the previous 12 months. The award is only good for one year. The way I like to describe it is that its an award for what you do above and beyond your day job. How do you keep it? Do the same stuff. Some classic metrics are actively blogging ORIGINAL and useful content, helping others in the MSDN online forums, presenting at user groups, writing articles, participating in CodePlex projects (but this isn’t nearly as important), etc.

Then, someone (MSFT employee / product MVP) notices and we nominate you. It isn’t something you go out and request… it is something that just happens. That’s when the whole analysis process starts."

Lawrence’s comments are good too "… love the product and the community around it, not the MVP status for it. That’s an important distinction to remember. The MVP award, especially the one for SharePoint, has many benefits, but those benefits can be abused by people with agendas different from loving the product/community. Just keep doing what you’re doing because you love it rather than shooting for the MVP award, and you will be an MVP sooner rather than later."

What’s good about both of these comments are they both try to set the expectation that if you’re looking for the "MVP" status to get recognition, then you’re going at it wrong.  If you are aspiring for greatness and are sincere then go for it, but don’t be dissapointed, it is a very small and tight group.  Despite some of the comments that would say don’t go for it, it will just happen, I’d disagree. 

I think it’s a fine thing to aspire to.  MVPs are cool, and contributing to the community with original content is something I’d highly encourage as well.  Unless you first contribute and then see what the return is you’d never have known how great it feels to have a blog that people read or care about.  The first time I had someone praise my blog, I was so floored.  I’m still taken back when someone says my blog is a SharePoint bible.  It feels great, and encourages me to continue my efforts.  Not for MVP status, that’s not why I blog.  But I’d say… If you never try you’ll never know how good it feels to blog, or contribute to the community.  If MVP aspirations encourage you to do it, then go for it.



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