If you asked me 12 months ago what an ALM MVP was I would likely have told you something – unfortunately that something would have been completely wrong. One of the most important things I learnt this year from being an ALM MVP, is what an ALM MVP actually is.
What is an MVP?
First it is an award, this means you get it as recognition for doing something which benefits the community of people who use a Microsoft product (or products). It is also very important to note that the reason it is awarded to one person is seldom it is awarded to another person – no two people are alike, neither are their community contributions and so the awarding is unique per person.
I think it is safe to assume that if you going to so something which benefits many people using a specific product, you need to know something about that product However being a MVP is not meant to indicate that this person is an expert in a certain product/s and they know everything about the product.
This doesn’t mean that a lot of MVP’s aren’t brilliant, many are scary smart, first two that jump to mind are Ed Blankenship ALM MVP and Jon Skeet C# MVP, but at the end of that day – all MVPs are people, like you, with limits and gaps in knowledge.
The ALM Stadium
ALM MVP’s have an additional level of complexity since the community that they helped revolves around not one single product, like Zune MVP’s for instance, but is actually made up of many products and components. Above is the “stadium” picture which shows a lot of (most of?) the components which make up ALM.
A ALM MVP may know and work in one product/component and never see the other ones. An example of this is Zayd Kara ALM MVP, who is deeply IT Pro focused – so he understands installing the systems, build in TFS etc.. but he seldom opens or works in the Visual Studio IDE so he may not know as much about it as a other ALM MVPs.
As I stated above the reasons someone is awarded differ and so the area and skills in the ALM MVPs differ from person to person.
In the form of a Q&A:
- Q: As an ALM MVP you must be a TFS expert?
- A: While TFS is a major part of ALM, that simply is not true. I look at myself and while I know TFS, can do an install, understand the API and how to integrate – ask me to edit a process template and I have no idea where to start. However ask me about Visual Studio and I can talk your ear off!
- Q: As an ALM MVP you must be a Microsoft fan boy and only promote their tools?
- A: Not at all! MVP’s are not a Microsoft fan club.
Yes, I am a fan of Microsoft tools but I am also critical of them. You want to see some of the most critical people of Microsoft is MVP’s – they care and fight on behalf the community. As most (all?) MVP’s we are matured to realise that these are just tools and you need to pick the right tool for the job, and that sometimes isn’t what Microsoft currently offers.
- Q: Microsoft uses the MVP system as a way to find and hire staff?
- A: While some MVP’s have moved to Microsoft, Willy-Peter Schaub previously a VSTS MVP and now working for Microsoft comes to mind, the hiring of MVPs is not common practise.
Also worth thinking about, is that Microsoft wants the best of the best (which company doesn’t?), MVP’s are awarded for their community work – not being the best of the best C# programmer (for example) so sometimes that means that MVP’s are not the best fit and the final thing weighing against you (as told to me by a Microsoft employee)
Most of the Microsoft employees do not even know of or understand the MVPsso there is not a lot of help in their.
However being a MVP means you are likely following key people so when exciting jobs are announced ,like the way I knew about these cool jobs, you are first in with your CV.
- Q: You must blog/write a book/tweet/present at x or something else to be a MVP?
- A: No, there is no formula to become a MVP. If you want to be a MVP, work hard for the community in any and as many ways as possible and the MVP maybe will follow.
- Q: Becoming a community lead is the way to be a MVP?
- A: This one has come up recently in the Information Worker user group where people have wanted to become leads so that they become MVP’s.
First there is no single way to becoming a MVP – the IW user group leads are a good example of that we have a few MVP’s but we have more non-MVP’s as leads. Second if your motivation of helping the community is to become a MVP, then I doubt you will become a MVP because your motives are wrong. MVP’s do what they do for the community not because they want to be a MVP, but because they love the community.
To make sure I wasn’t still wrong, I did ask for some feedback from fellow MVP’s and Microsoft staff and I thank you all for your contributions in particular Willy-Peter Schaub, Ruari Plint and Zayd Kara.