mvp-fight_clubSo, here we go again, it’s time for the annual Microsoft MVP Summit. Well, I said ‘annual’, but sometimes we do it twice in a year, but it’s OK because we just put an R2 at the end of the event name to avoid confusion with the other annual Summits. But I digress.

This will be my 8th MVP Summit and I am as excited for this one as I was for my first. There’s a lot of reasons why, and I’m going to do my best to explain.

First, let’s talk a bit about what it takes to become an MVP. I have no idea. Neither does anyone else. Well, maybe Microsoft does, since they are the ones that bestow the award on others, but there doesn’t seem to be any magical formula to determine if someone is an MVP or not. Here’s what I do know about the current Microsoft MVPs:

MVPs have a great relationship with Microsoft employees, the MVP lead(s), and the folks on the product team. Being able to have respectful conversations as you discuss products, features, and strategy is important. It’s also how Microsoft can measure your influence (not to be confused with reach). Being able to work with disparate teams, provide valued input, and influence the way others think are important skills for anyone, and especially true for MVPs.

MVPs give more than they receive. They are always finding opportunities to help others, and look to put the needs of others ahead of their own. They value people and relationships over business. They are spending their time answering questions on forums and on Twitter (#sqlhelp). They spend time writing blog posts about weird things they have found, hoping that the information may prove useful to someone else. They encourage others to share knowledge also.

MVPs are thirsty for more. We are constantly looking to improve and expand our skills. It is rare to find an MVP that doesn’t want to learn something new, or dismisses new technology altogether. Sure, such MVPs do exist, but not for very long. Microsoft is a company that needs to move forward, and they need people that can help piece together solutions using multiple products in new ways. And the solutions and products aren’t just Microsoft ones, they can be 3rd party or open source. As technology changes, and new skills are needed, you can either move ahead or be left behind.

Maybe now you can understand why I’m excited for next week. Who wouldn’t want to hang out in a room filled with awesome people talking data and technology? I enjoy being the dumbest guy in the room (OK, that happens a lot anyway, but it is especially true at the MVP Summit).

But I am also excited because I have no idea if this will be my last MVP Summit, or even Microsoft’s last MVP Summit. I am going to enjoy every moment as if it was my last because I have no idea what the future holds.

The MVP program has had several changes the past few years. I do believe that many of these changes are being done in order to enhance the program. But the MVP Summit seems like a huge spend, and I have no idea if Microsoft sees the ROI.

Also, Microsoft can get product feedback from other ways – ways that didn’t exist when the MVP program first started. The Microsoft SQL Server Facebook page has 317,000 likes and the Microsoft page has over 10 million likes. The Microsoft SQL Server Twitter account has over 205,000 followers. That’s a lot of reach through avenues that have only recently come about. If the Data Platform team wants feedback on they can get feedback, quickly. Microsoft also has telemetry on product usage through the customer feedback program that you opt-in (hopefully) when installing products. I’m always amused when someone says “NO ONE USES PRODUCT X” and I get told privately that Microsoft has the data to suggest otherwise.

Microsoft can deliver their message to, and get feedback from, their industry influencers more efficiently than having us all attend Summit. We take part in webinars on a regular basis, there are regional MVP events, and my MVP lead pings me weekly on events. So I’m going to enjoy this MVP Summit ride while it lasts. I’m also going to do my part to make certain that the ride lasts as long as possible for everyone. Here’s a few tips for those of us attending this week:

Pay attention. Close your email. Shut off your phone. Microsoft asks us to come here to engage with them, don’t treat this as an escape from your regular work schedule.

Meet with the folks that work on the product teams. Make a connection with them. Give them feedback, even if it is lovingly critical. Ask them how else you can help them continue to make tools that we all use and need. Don’t act as if you are the smartest person in the room, even if that may be true.

Say thank you. Then say it again. Be grateful for what we have, not just here at the MVP Summit but the tools themselves. Go find the person that made the widget that you enjoy using over and over and tell them how much you appreciate their effort. Find your MVP lead and thank them for all their hard work as well.

Looking forward to seeing everyone next week!