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My year as a Microsoft MVP and the 7 reasons Microsoft need to fix their "MVP" program

Oh I was going to hold my tongue. I really really tried but… I just can’t let it go.

I was doing so well until I read this article tonight by Rob Eisenberg. It’s a great read and I recommend you take a look later to get a feel for what MVP’s do or do not go through.

Let me start with the basics – what is a Microsoft MVP?

From Microsoft’s site:

We seek to recognize the best and brightest from technology communities around the world with the Microsoft® Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Award.

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, and for helping our customers maximize the potential of their software.

“Awesome. Sounds great. This could be awesome”.

Those were some of the thoughts that were going through my head when I thought about applying for the Microsoft MVP program 2+ years ago.

I like to work late at night/early in the morning (when I’m at my most creative) so during one of my late night work sessions, I decided on a whim to apply.

I totally forgot all about it (very busy man that I am) but a few months later, I got an email in my Inbox:

Dear Onuora Amobi,

Congratulations! We are pleased to present you with the 2010 Microsoft® MVP Award! This award is given to exceptional technical community leaders who actively share their high quality, real world expertise with others. We appreciate your outstanding contributions in Windows Desktop Experience technical communities during the past year.

MVP Trophy Plaque

MVP Trophy Plaque

Very cool. I was a Microsoft MVP for Windows Desktop.

Even more awesome! The award looked nice and came with a plaque and a very cool looking trophy thing. In addition, there were lots of cool NDA type forms to sign. I felt really good now. I was signing NDA’s, I was going to be learning stuff.

What was (yet) even more awesome was the Technet subscription for 1 year. Very nice! Looking good so far.

And for the next year, that was it.

Nothing.

No follow up.

No developer interviews.

No secrets to justify signing the NDA.

Nothing.

ABSOLUTELY-NO-FOLLOW-UP.

Now to be absolutely clear, you are assigned an MVP contact and I’m sure the guy was nice enough but you quickly get the feeling that they can’t do Jack Sh*t for you.

They are there so that Microsoft can say you have a point of contact. That’s it.

Now put this in perspective here, I wasn’t some some high school kid happy to have a trophy. On the contrary, I owned (and still own) a network of Windows sites that had done between 7-10 million page views that year. I also wrote a book on Windows 7 deployments and have an extensive IT track record.

I was looking forward to learning more about Windows 7 or Windows or Microsoft. Anything.

So after most of the year was done, I wrote a stinky (but polite) letter asking my lead MVP contact what exactly this was for and pointing out the silence over the past year.

No answer and guess whose MVP award was not renewed? LOL

Am I pissed and is this sour grapes? Umm no and you’ll see why later.

You know what I learned?

Let’s get to it…

Here are my 7 reasons Microsoft need to fix their MVP program.

Whats the Point?

Like I said earlier, the whole thing seemed rather pointless. It was like hurry up and wait. There doesn’t seem to be any really clear definition of what the program is for ONCE YOU ARE IN. You just kind of have to try and figure it out I guess. Apart from the Technet subscription, it was actually quite pointless.

Quality Control

Like I said, my websites did 7-10 million page views that year and I published a pretty successful book. My understanding though is that not all MVP’s are created equal.

From Rob Eisenberg:

Now I want to tread lightly here with how I say this….not all MVPs are created equal. I’m going to be vague here. I met an MVP once for Technology X. It turned out that she had never built anything with Technology X and wasn’t overly knowledgeable about it. She liked Technology X a lot though. Each day she would scan her RSS feeds and post about 8 – 10 links on Technology X. That’s why she had her MVP. It looks good on a review doesn’t it? I blogged 365 posts on Technology X this year!!

Lack of Communication

This is the weird part. Who joins a club and doesn’t have ANY opportunities to participate? It was the strangest thing in the world. There was some MVP conference in Seattle that we were all invited to but you have to be kidding me. I should pay for a flight and hotel to Redmond to attend a conference where I’ll learn what again? Nothing. Squat. Zilch. Umm, no thanks, I chose to pass.

NDA for what?

Why would you make people sign NDA’s when they don’t come into contact with anything remotely NDA worthy? Not even one conference call with ANY developers on the Windows team. Here’s the honest to God truth. In my one year as an MVP, I can honestly say that someone who read the New York Times that year would know more about the Windows Desktop program than I did.

Career Impact

What career impact? This “award” is pseudo marketed and pseudo celebrated. It’s like being given the keys to the storage room – that’s more responsibility right? Umm.. kinda.

First of all, I am an entrepreneur so I wasn’t looking for a job and second of all, who hires someone because they are an MVP? How many employers even know what the heck that is? MCITP or MCTS maybe but MVP?

Arbitrary Renewals

I’m 100% sure my MVP award wasn’t renewed because I simply asked the questions that I am asking now. I’ll put my Web or FaceBook or Google or Twitter or Technology stats up against any MVP and I guarantee that I ” represent the voice of thousands of Microsoft consumers” way more than they do.

I actually can’t be an MVP now because of the fact that I review Microsoft stuff so it’s perfectly fine but it still (on the face of it) made no sense.

Last but not least, Microsoft need to fix this program because

It’s clear that this is not an important program to Microsoft

There. I said it. The cat’s out of the bag.

The truth of this matter is that any company of Microsoft’s stature would not let this level of inconsistency stand if it was important.

It’s simply (apparently) not important.

I think it’s not important because it’s not a profit center. Simply put – it makes no money.

It’s probably perceived as one of those things they do because they’ve always done it and it keeps the geeks happy.

That’s unfortunate because I believe the Microsoft MVP program has a ton of potential if it’s run properly.

There are tons of smart MVP’s out there and I don’t mean to demean them or their credentials. I can only speak to what happened to me.

And hey, maybe it’s just me..what can I say?

So that’s all folks, now you know a little more about the mystical MVP program.

What do you think? You want to be an MVP?

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