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

Microsoft-MVP-certificate

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?

Share your comments below…

NOTE - If you would like to find out more about the next version of Microsoft Windows - Windows 9, here are some links you should probably check out.

  • Gbossi

    Microsoft is a business, Nothing moral in it. Virus security is a second thought to them. They inprobed security in each version but always they get short. A system mixed with documents and data in the same place with an open access is always bad.
    Yours
    Gerardo

  • Nimbus

    Good to know. That award was, until right this minute, something i would like to get… but again i didn´t really knew nothing about it… 

    Thank´s for sharing.

  • Gharrison45

    Onuora, does this mean you are moving on? If you are, know first that it has been always interesting to see what you have to say. Of particular note, your friendly writing style has kept me surprised at how it always felt like you were talking to me. I admit I do not respond to very much as it seems I barely have enough time to do what I must, but I felt compelled to respond to this one. You are thorough and skilled. It has been a pleasure. I hope to hear more.
    Goldwyn

    • http://www.windows8update.com/ Onuora Amobi

      No Gharrison, I’m not going anywhere. Just sharing an experience that’s all…

  • Edward

    Thanks Garrison45 for putting into words; what I would have said, Thanks Onuora 

    • http://www.windows8update.com/ Onuora Amobi

      Thanks Edward.

      Appreciate the kind words…

  • Tsgt1949

    Hi Onuora, thanks for your frank, honest venting  regarding this program, as always enjoy reading your thoughts and insights, wish you a very Happy and Prosperus New Year

  • Kbregnar

    Great feedback. It was fully expected. You would not have had the same experience as an MVP for pretty much any other product besides maybe Windows Phone. The need for being completely quiet and not disclosing jack squat for Windows 8 supercedes the need for interaction with their MVPs. Bad timing for being a one year MVP. Guarantee that once Windows goes public beta the level of interaction with Windows Desktop Experience MVPs will go through the roof. It is all about keeping it secret. Ask Windows Server, SQL Server, Visual Studio, System Center MVP for their story and it would be completely the opposite of yours. Again, unfortunate timing. You missed the discussion at MVP Summit last year where the MVPs were talked to about the disengagement.

    • http://www.windows8update.com/ Onuora Amobi

      I’m sure some MVP’s have a different experience which makes mine even more appaling. Surely a program like this should be consistent?

      http://devlicio.us/blogs/rob_eisenberg/archive/2012/01/04/how-i-lost-regained-and-then-turned-down-an-mvp-award.aspx 

      was a good example of a disaster story.

      I’ll be really interested to see if the experience with Windows 8 is different for MVP’s. I doubt it and here’s why – Anything worth sharing about Windows 8 will be shared with the public and anything else will be under NDA. With Steven Sinofsky’s pattern of secrecy – NDA secrets will stay secret.

      A no win.

  • Keresztes Klára

    Dear Mr. Onuora! These links, which will send me viruses or programs, orshow advertising. I have never one single theme, background downloading is not allowed - unless you have written (great) book. Please answer, why is that?Sincerely welcomes: Claire Cross 

  • Indra Nawawi Daeng Parani

    Dear Onuora,

    You have a wonderful life Mr. Onuora. There is a strong will that emerge, a hunter from an ergaster to seek and explore a better future life. Most of us did face a strong barrier held upon us, few succeed some could’nt make it. Look at the bright side, the tangible legal certificates and the trophy are now well displayed and watch by millions. Some valued as priceless, but in the eye of the computer geeks it’s worthy, forgot about mentioning the fun, knowledge and experiences that was collected which then accumulated in our brain from the brightest people on different background that will be an advantage to meet our demand for future shock. These days, people like you are scarce and costly for the urgent need. If later on there will be a good compensation to motivate the MVP I believe more will follow.
    Thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/arcanecode Arcane Code

    I’m saddened and upset about the negative experiences you had as an MVP. Not all MVPs though, have those issues. My own experiences as an MVP have been overwhelmingly positive. Rather than put a lengthy comment here I put my thoughts on my own blog, http://arcanecode.com/2012/01/07/the-mvp-programmy-experience/ . 

    Thanks for your community services thus far, and I hope you’ll continue to participate regardless of the MVP program. 

    Robert Cain, MVP

    • http://www.windows8update.com/ Onuora Amobi

      I responded in detail to your article on your site in the comments.

  • Ulf Thomas Sakshaug

    You are doing well Mr.Onuora.  It is always good with routines, maybe they forgot about that, better if they follow up anyway.  
    I wish You and Your Family a Very Good Continue of the New Year 2012
    Best Regards
    Thomas

  • Steve Jones

    It seems to me that you’re expecting MS to do something more once you receive the award. As an MVP in the SQL Server area, I can a) do nothing, and the MVP program essentially has been a 5 minute experience on award day where I filled out a few forms and signed an NDA.

    Or I could b) interact with the product groups. There are private MVP groups and email lists available. I can even get on lists that are not in my area of award. I can ask questions or get interaction with the developers in these groups and get information. I get a lot of stuff that has around it, which helps me learn or prepare for the future.

    Should the program be consistent? With 1400 MVPs across who knows how many areas and with there likely being 5000 developers at MS to interact with those MVPs, I’m not sure how it’s consistent. Developers and groups get burned by MVPs releasing NDA information or being jacka**es as often as the reverse is true and that leads to poor interactions from some people. Overall I think it’s been a good experience for me, but it’s what I make of it, not what MS does for me.

    BTW, if you attend the MVP Summit, you pay for the airfare. The hotel is covered by MS, as is food and there are discussions with product developers. Some NDA information, some non-NDA information, but the quality varies for sure. I have attended about half the years I’ve been MVP.

    • http://www.windows8update.com/ Onuora Amobi

      Yeah. The bottom line is that it’s not a very consistent experience and may be more impressive to younger people or people with less industry experience.

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