SQL MVP Fight ClubI am truly honored to have received my fifth straight SQL MVP award today.

Two years ago I wrote these words and they still ring true today:

The past two years have been very good to me as a database professional and I know that a big part of that is because I have been part of the secret cabal known as ‘SQL MVP’ during that time. The SQL MVP group, and the SQL Community as a whole, is made up of some truly wonderful people. We are a family. We don’t always get along, and we sometimes argue (publicly) with each other, but at the end of the day we always step up to help each other when possible.

I am always humbled by the email I receive from Microsoft on April 1st. The first year I thought it was an email scam because I didn’t see it until April 2nd in my ‘junk’ folder. I don’t think it is a scam any longer but I am always amazed that they invite me back.

I have been very lucky these past four years as a SQL MVP. I often get asked about what it takes to be a SQL MVP. The truth is no one knows, really. Microsoft lists some details about the process on the MVP website, but it isn’t very specific:

There is no set benchmark for becoming an MVP, in part because it varies by product and product life-cycle. Some of the criteria we evaluate include the impact of a nominee’s contributions to online forums such as Microsoft Answers, TechNet and MSDN; wikis and online content; conferences and user groups; podcasts, Web sites and blogs; and articles and books.

Each nominee’s contributions are compared to other candidates’ contributions for the same year. Active MVPs receive the same level of scrutiny as new candidates each year.

What I try to tell people is that if they are asking “what do I do to become an MVP” is this: If you have to ask, then you aren’t ready.

MVPs don’t do what they do for the purpose of the award itself. We do it because we love doing all those things. We spend time blogging, or organizing events, or answering questions on forums and Twitter because we enjoying interacting with other users of SQL Server. Never once did we stop and think “this will earn me my MVP status”.

If you really want to be considered for the MVP award then you should be thinking about ways you can contribue and influence the SQL Community in a positive way without ever once thinking about receiving an award. The giving should be it’s own reward. The MVP status is really just icing on that cake.

Of course it is just human nature to want to know more about what it takes to earn the MVP award. So here’s my list of five things I’d recommend you start doing:

1. Give

You have to be willing to give to others. You can’t keep all your SQL knowledge and experience to yourself. The thing you are likely going to need to give most? Your time.

2. Share

Find a place to share you knowledge and experiences. One of the most well-known places are the forums over at SQL Server Central. Another are the MSDN forums and the DBA Stack Exchange. If forums aren’t the place for you there’s Twitter. You can also share by blogging and/or speaking at events such as user groups, SQL Saturdays, or PASS Virtual Chapters.

3. Connect

Get out and connect with other SQL professionals. Attend a local user group or SQL Saturday event. Don’t just exchange business cards, go out of your way to email the people you meet and stay in touch with them on a regular basis. You never know when you are going to be able to help one another.

4. Learn

You have to be able to understand that your experiences are yours, and yours alone. That doesn’t make them better than anyone else’s experience, it just makes them yours. You must accept the fact that someone else’s experiences may be helpful for you to learn from. In other words: you don’t know everything, so stop pretending that you are the smartest guy in the room. In fact, most MVPs walk into a room of MVPs and their default mode is “I’m the dumbest guy in the room”. And they are absolutely correct, right up until I walk in. I’ve come to the room to learn something new, and so has everyone else.

5. Expect Nothing

Whatever actions you are doing you need to do them with the understanding that you may get nothing material in return. Most folks get to be MVPs because they expect nothing. Those that do expect something in return usually don’t remain MVPs very long.

If you know of someone you feel should be considered as a Microsoft MVP you can nominate them here. I always try to nominate two or three people each quarter. I think it would be wonderful if more people would take the time to nominate someone they know that they feel are deserving.

Lastly, a big THANK YOU to Microsoft for allowing me to be a member of the club for another year.