Microsoft MVP: Everything You Need to Know A list of (great) things you can actually do since the day you get the Microsoft MVP award e-mail

Microsoft MVP: Everything You Need to Know

If you’ve stumbled upon this post, it probably means that your mailbox has been recently visited by an e-mail from Microsoft congratulating you for being awarded as a Microsoft® Most
Valuable Professional (MVP). You might’ve asked for that by nominating yourself, or you could be nominated by some friend, fellow or colleague. Anyway, the Microsoft MVP Award is an annual award that recognizes exceptional technology community leaders worldwide who actively share their high quality, real world expertise with users and Microsoft: therefore, if you managed to get it, it means that you’ve really given an awesome work in your field(s) of expertise.

Kudos to you, then! You should be very happy that Microsoft likes and what you did for the community to the point it chose to recognize your efforts.

That’s great, but… What happens now?

In case it’s the first time you’re receiving such award, such question would be perfectly normal. Luckily enough, the answer is really simple: you don’t need to do anything other than what you’re already doing: as Microsoft says,

The Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Award is our way of saying thank you to exceptional, independent community leaders who share their passion, technical expertise, and real-world knowledge of Microsoft products with others.

This basically means that you’re already doing a great job. If staying an MVP is important to you, keep doing what you’re already doing: be an exceptional community leader; share your knowledge on your website or blog; help other IT professionals on StackOverflow; put your open code samples on GitHub; and so on. This, is a nutshell, is what a Microsoft MVP actually is: a kind and helpful IT professional who is willing to grow – and help other people grow – together with the technologies he’s working with.

Don’t turn into a MS Zealot!

The first and most important thing to understand is that a Microsoft MVP is not a fanboy. Conversely, the MVP program is all about building a community of independent experts to test, review and talk about their new stuff: you’ll get these insights because they also need your insight: part of your expertise will naturally come from trying other vendor’s products and reviewing them as well: I often run comparisons between MS products/frameworks and other alternatives, because that’s part of my job. I truly love the Microsoft development tools, yet I’m also a big fan of a lot of non-Microsoft realities such as PHP, CentOS, MariaDB, Google Cloud, and so on.

Therefore, never forget to feel thankful – as Microsoft awarded you with a great achievement and status but never feel like you’re being a MS employee: you’re not, and they don’t want you to feel like you are: they want you to be an awesome IT professional and an exceptional community leader, which is what you arguably already are, so keep going and enjoy the ride!

Microsoft MVP History

According to Wikipedia, the origin of the MVP program can be inferred from a post from Tamar Granor on the Universal Thread web site:

Way back in the dark ages, Microsoft provided a great deal of technical support on CompuServe. The CompuServe FoxPro forum was extremely busy and Calvin Hsia, then an independent developer, now Developer Lead on the Fox team, created what we called “Calvin’s List.” It was a listing of the number of postings by person, including info on both messages sent and received. Being in the top 10 on Calvin’s List any month was an accomplishment, though we discussed whether it was a good thing or a bad thing.” As the story goes, some of the Microsoft people jumped on Calvin’s List as a way to identify high contributors, and thus was born the MVP program.

The “official” story is slightly less epic: the program has been estabilished over twenty years ago, when Microsoft recognized the contributions of 34 community leaders who freely helped others make the most of their technology launching the first Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Award.

A look at the Numbers

According to the publicly accessible Microsoft MVP Database there are currently 3071 Microsoft MVP active worldwide as of today: according to Microsoft and Wikipedia the number is slightly higher (closer to 4000), probably because some of them are still under review for their nomination or renewing phase.

You can also get the number of the active MVPs in any country by playing with the page filter accordingly: for example, you can see how 550 of them are located in USA, 149 in UK, 60 in Spain, 106 in Germany, 137 in France, 74 in Italy, and so on.

MVP Official Support Site

Being an IT professional, you definitely know that the first place to look whenever you need to find verified informations regarding any topic is… Wikipedia? No! The official docs, FAQ or API. The Microsoft MVP program has an official support website that explains (almost) everything.

Here’s a quick list of the first pages you should give a look at:

The website is well-done and very easy to browse, therefore you won’t have problems in checking it out and find everything you need without my help. In this post I’ll try to give some additioanl hints not directly covered there.

The NDA

Microsoft MVPs are required to sign an electronic Non-Disclosure Agreement and also to comply with some general guidelines (such as the Code of Conduct and the MVP Award Program Agreement) concerning the informations gained within the program. It’s very important that you read and fully understand it. You’ll get priviledged access to alpha builds, not-yet live products and a lot or reserved or restricted stuff. By signing that document, you agree to not share and/or disclose these info to anyone, unless Microsoft chooses to publicly reveal them or authorizes you to do that: if you do that, you could put your MVP status at risk.

The MVP Newsletter(s)

Get ready to receive a lot of MVP-related e-mail messages… and when I say a lot, i really mean it. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not implying you’ll get spammed: conversely, a good 80% of them will be very useful, as they’ll keep you posted about relevant stuff such as the MVP Global Summit (more on that later on), complimentary webinars, special offers such as free Tech eBook, informal chat meetings/event where you’ll get the chance to connect with other MVPs, and so on. Most of these mail will be sent by your MVP Program Community Managers (see below): be sure to always review them when you get the chance, as they’re almost always relevant to the MVP category you’ve been awarded with: mine, for example, is Developer Technologies, therefore I get a lot of useful insights regarding .NET, Visual Studio, Azure, and so on.

Long story short, do yourself a favor and:

  • Create a “Microsoft MVP” folder within your e-mail client and setup a filter (if you’re using Thunderbird), a rule (if you’re using Outlook) or anything else to quickly move them away from your inbox.
  • If you want to avoid getting spammed by illicit vendors (or phishing attempts), be sure to properly setup your primary e-mail privacy settings from the Edit Personal Info page of your MVP public profile. I would suggest to not use Everyone there: choose Microsoft MVP if you want to share it with your fellow MVPs + Microsoft, or Microsoft if you only want MS to be able to see it.

Product Group Interaction (PGI)

Among the various e-mails you’ll also occasionally receive some Product Group Interaction (PGI) event invitations, which undoubtely are one of the most important thing you’ll get in your mailbox: these are private events reserved to MVPs where MS experts will present, explain or review a new product, feature or service capability that Microsoft is planning to deliver in public preview soon. Here’s how Microsoft describes them:

Online Meetings – Product Group Interactions (PGIs) are technically-focused online events sponsored by Microsoft Product Groups. They are designed to connect MVPs directly with Microsoft Product Groups to enable valuable feedback on Microsoft products, increase MVP technical knowledge, and empower discussions with other experts on technologies of their interest.

PGI are specific, as they focus on a specific product expertise or technology to enable valuable feedback and discussion. It’s also worth noting that not all PGI are available to all MVPs, as they are classified two ways:

  • Private Events: Open to select MVPs, by private invitation only: participation is restricted to invited MVPs only, depending on the category they’ve been awarded with.
  • Public Events: Open to all MVPs, no invitation restrictions.

Regardless of the audience, all PGIs are subject to the Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) we talked about early on, therefore their content must remain confidential and should not be shared unless given specific authorization by presenter. Also, since the PGI invitation e-mail messages contains a link for accessing the e-meeting, you aren’t allowed to forward them to anyone.

IMPORTANT: All PGI Events are recorded and posted to the MVP Award Yammer network, meaning that you’re going to need a Yammer account: you can create one for free by clicking here.

MVP NDA Distribution Lists

To not be confused with the MVP Newsletter(s) mentioned above, the MVP NDA Distribution Lists (DLs) provide MVPs the opportunity to have direct access with Microsoft Product Groups to enable valuable feedback on Microsoft products, increase MVP technical knowledge, and empower discussions with other subject matter experts in a secure and confidential environment. If you want to subscribe to them, you must manually do that through a dedicated page on the aforementioned MVP Official Support website.

The distribution lists are grouped into various categories, which resembles the MVP Award categories: some of them requires a manual approval by the owner/manager, while most can be joined for free. You can choose to subscribe to any of them, including those outside your MVP category… Just remember that every single one of them is covered by the above NDA.

MVP Community Managers

Your MVP Program Community Managers will be your main reference channel: there are many of them throughout the world – my EU community has 2, which manage the MVP Program Community in 13 European countries: Italy, Portugal, Spain, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Bulgaria, Republic of Macedonia, Greece, Cyprus, Malta and Romania. They’re going to be your first point of contact with Microsoft and the MVP Program organization, therefore you will receive regular communications from them to keep you informed about events organized by the MVP Program team as well as other collaboration and networking opportunities.

If you have any question or need anything from Microsoft, even if it’s not related to the MVP Program itself, you can contact them and get proper assistance: these guys and girls are the real deal! They’re really competent and will greatly help you.

MSDN Technical Subscription

After 2 to 10 days from the “congratulations” e-mail you will receive some info regarding how to activate your personal Visual Studio Enterprise with MSDN subscription, which includes a lot of useful stuff – including, as the name implies, a fully-featured Visual Studio Enterprise personal license: just follow the instructions to download the product, redeem your license and set everything up.

Needless to say, this is meant to be a personal, not-for-resale subscription license and must only be used by you.

Let alone Visual Studio Ultimate, the MSDN subscription will allow you to download various Microsoft software for development and demo purposes: again, this is something meant to be used by you and you alone.

Office 365 Subscription

All Microsoft MVPs have the chance to redeem a Microsoft Office 365 Enterprise subscription. This subscription offering is intended to enable community influencers to become more familiar with, use, and demo the cloud-powered collaboration service that MS Office 365 offers: needless to say, the offering is not intended for commercial or production use. Reedeming your subscription license is just as easy as clicking to the “Office 365 Subscription” page and follow the instructions.

IMPORTANT: During the process you will be required to enter a credit card number for payment, even if the subscription will cost 0$: this is required because you’ll be able to purchase other products and/or renew the subscription after the 12 months period. If you don’t want to be charged, just don’t buy anything else – and remember to deactivate the automatic renewal of Office 365.

Third-Party subscriptions & licenses

There are a lot of third-party companies – mostly work with Microsoft products – that are willing to give not-for-resale subscriptions or licenses to Microsoft MVPs: some confirmed examples includes JetBrains, Aspose, Spiceworks, Redgate, SyncFusion and so on. You can find great lists online containing most of them, such as:

There are also many other vendors – mostly Microsoft Partners and/or working with Microsoft products – who offer a NFR (not-for-resale) licensing plan for Microsoft MVPs: if you’re interest in purchasing software licenses or activating subscriptions for your personal tests, contacting their support and asking for that could be a wise move. However, if they ask something from you to return the favor, such as posting a biased or sponsored review, I strongly suggest to not do that: you have to keep your neutrality intact! Losing your integrity could seriously undermine your credibility among the community and could even force Microsoft to revoke your MVP status. Conversely, an unbiased and neutral review would be useful to either the vendor and the MS community: if you’re a reviewer, you should definitely stick to that.

MVP Global Summit

The MVP Global Summit is one of the main dishes of a Microsoft MVP diet: it’s an exclusive multi-day event that is usually hosted at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington. The MVP Global Summit features a large catalog of in-depth technical discussions and feedback sessions combined with networking opportunities among your fellow MVPs and the Microsoft product groups.

For additional info regarding the event you can visit the MVP Global Summit page, where you’ll find a video of the previous edition and some info about the next one, including the dates (if Microsoft has already annouced it). The 2018-2019 MVP Global Summit has been announced few weeks ago and will be held the week of March 17, 2019.  There will be Pre-Day sessions on Sunday, March 17 and the PG technical sessions will run from Monday, March 18 through Wednesday, March 20.  On Thursday, March 21 and Friday, March 22 some Product Teams may host additional sessions and workshops on campus. The agenda and registration will open mid-September.

IMPORTANT: If you’re a non-US resident citizen, you will most likely need a business travel letter to attend: you’ll receive additional info about it, with detailed instructions to obtain an invitation letter.

MVP Renewal

The MVP award is valid for a year, then it could be renewed by Microsoft (for another year, and so on) or not, depending on what you did during the past 12 months. Therefore, is very important to keep your MVP profile’s Community Activities page updated. As for what you should actually do to “pass” the renewal phase, the answer is the same as before: keep doing what you’re already doing. Don’t forget that you’ve been selected by Microsoft because you already did something great, meaning that you already have what it takes.

All in all, aren’t you’re an exceptional community leader? If so, keep living up to your standards and you’ll be fine!

Conclusion

These were my two cents (ok, maybe a bit more than that) on the Microsoft MVP experience: I sincerely hope that these suggestions will be useful for those who have been just nominated. Congratulations to all of you and keep up the good work!

 

About Ryan

IT Project Manager, Web Interface Architect and Lead Developer for many high-traffic web sites & services hosted in Italy and Europe. Since 2010 it's also a lead designer for many App and games for Android, iOS and Windows Phone mobile devices for a number of italian companies. Microsoft MVP for Development Technologies since 2018.

View all posts by Ryan

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