My First Year as an MVP, part 2

This is a continuation of Part 1 of my blog… all written on the same day but broken up into two parts due to the length!

NDA, Yammer and PGI, oh my!

My first inclination as a new MVP was to sign up for as much of the experience as I could. Others warned me “your mailbox may explode!”. They weren’t wrong. I just as quickly unsubscribed from things that weren’t super relevant to me.

One of the first things you do before you are given access to the MVP site is you need to review and sign your non-disclosure agreement. The program takes the NDA very seriously (as they should). Nearly 100% of what we learn at MVP functions and events is under NDA; meaning, we cannot talk about it, to anyone and that includes to our other MVP friends if they weren’t in the event, call or presentation themselves. It feels very weird at times, some things are just SO cool you want to shout it out and share it. However, the reality of being kicked out of the program as a repercussion of breaking the NDA stops you before you get into trouble.

The hardest thing? Sometimes, it’s merely keeping track of what you learned under NDA and what wasn’t under NDA. Sometimes it is just safer not to share at all. If I’m not sure, I now just assume everything is NDA until told otherwise.

I learned all about “PGIs” (Product Group Interactions). “Sign up for as many as you can!” I heard from fellow MVP friends. Most of them looked like they’d be way over my head so the first 6 months I didn’t even look at them. Then, I tried one that seemed loosely related to what I do and it was very cool. Too bad it was under NDA otherwise I’d tell you about it. (LOL). Long story short, they are often 60-90 minute sessions a particular product group puts out that is open to other award categories.

For Dynamics GP, there isn’t such a thing but the GP MVPs have somewhat recurring meetings with the Fargo product managers to discuss things that are either on their mind or our minds and they are entertaining. Still under NDA so I’m not discussing what we cover. :)

Then there are NDA lists, email lists for specific product groups and categories. Some are open, some require permission to be granted. If you sign up for too many, you are soon inundated with bizarre emails from people you’ve never heard of. I realize it wasn’t useful for me to sign up for too many on categories outside of GP, there was little shared there that I couldn’t find out about in a PGI.

Yammer, something I’d barely heard of before getting my MVP, was seemingly one of the primary modes of communication between MVPs other than the NDA email lists. It would appear you either hate Yammer or tolerate it. Too bad there aren’t Yammer MVPs! Things I’ve learned: Business Solutions people don’t use Yammer much. I get it within my O365 account so it’s pretty easy for me to check in on it every couple of days and check in on my subscribed groups to see what’s new. I’ve tried using it to ask questions of other MVPs with minimal success. It’s the love it or hate it thing, you either use it or don’t at all.

Overall, I imagine it is quite hard to get buy in from so many MVPs on one solution to use for communication for all important things. I would recommend to all new MVPs to pay attention to Yammer if that is where the MVP Program admins are trying to communicate unless your program group has a different avenue to use. You’ll want to go where your fellow MVPs congregate. For GP, it’s our NDA group and it’s hit or miss. Some topics it’s a reply-all frenzy of emails that’s hard to keep up with and some things come and go quickly.

Suggestions and Tips

In no particular order, here are some tips and suggestions I have for other MVPs, at least in similar award categories to my own, and some of these are for those than run the program.

MVP Site Feedback

  • Program Information
    • The site doesn’t do a very good job of describing what some of the information is for. The help is out of date vs. what the site is asking.
    • Example: there is a section called Engagement Profile and two fields, Scenarios, with a multi-select list and Audience, with a drop down list. The help link addresses perhaps what USED to be there on this page, and neither of these things are mentioned.
    • What would be useful is more clarity on what these are used for and why we should fill it out.
    • Last year before MVP Summit, I was told something on this page was driving what I saw or didn’t see in the Summit session lists but what everyone was describing to me was not on the form for me to select. I think they were describing some old functionality.
  • Personal Information aka your MVP profile
    • There is a link beside most of the fields where you as an MVP have a choice of who can see your information.
      • Everyone: Publicly visible on the MVP site when you browse the “Find an MVP” section. Personally, I want people to know I’m an MVP so nearly everything on my profile is tagged to Everyone, except my email address.
      • MVP Community: only logged-in MVPs can view the info (or Microsoft). If there are things you don’t want publicly available, but you’re ok with authenticated users seeing it, use this. For me, that was my email address.
      • Microsoft only: as it sounds, this means only Microsoft MVP Award people see that stuff that is flagged this way.
  • Community Activities
    • I wish this were easier to input, or a way to copy a previous activity with a new date to save re-keying stuff over and over. There are several things I manually put in that are recurring and the only thing that changes are the date and the metrics.
    • Not everything you put here has to be publicly visible. There are several things I put in which are only visible to Microsoft and only public facing things like presentations I will typically leave as visible to anyone to see.
    • PGI activity - if you participate in a PGI live, logged in with your full name, you will find it’s going to be put on the community activity list for you. If you watch it after the fact, you can email a certain distribution list to request to get credit for watching it. (I don’t know if I can post that email here or not, so I will update this is I’m able to). Many PGIs are during business hours and I could easily spend 6-8 hours a week if I chose watching things but since I’m self-employed, those are hours I’m not working for my clients and I usually watch PGIs after hours in evenings or on weekends.
    • I wish there were clear guidelines for logging some basic common activities like which exact statistics are relevant to log and how to get them. I find talking to other MVPs, no one has a clear understanding of what to do so often people are logging things that aren’t worthwhile and maybe missing other things. I don’t care if the “business” of what it takes to qualify for renewal is a hidden attribute but it should be pretty easy to say here are the things we want if you’re logging blog posts, if you’re logging tweets, if you’re logging presentations, if you’re logging book writing etc.
    • Some conference websites re-use the same URL year after year and event info that you participate in might be erased from one year to the next. Get a screen shot of it, conference, date, showing your participation level and upload it to some place where you can share that via a URL. Then, log the activity with the URL as evidence instead of the URL of the conference in the notes to the contribution. By the time the MVP group gets to reviewing your contributions, that site link may be dead!


Speaking from a Canadian experience only, when you are first awarded, we get a box of goodies shipped to us. You’re asked during the vetting process for your sizes in clothing etc. because some of the swag is clothing. Some of the swag is cool, but to be perfectly honest, much of it I would never use.

  • The clothing happens to be colours or styles that honestly look hideous on me. I would LOVE to have a cool simple MVP branded shirt to wear to a conference or to a client but many of the swag items seem like a certain age & gender & technical aptitude may find it super cool but the rest of us may not. That could be because I’m female, or because “gamer gear” isn’t my thing. So, it’s a waste of money sending some of that to me to be honest.
    • I counted: I’ve got 2 MVP t-shirts, 3 MVP golf shirts and my red Canadian MVP hoodie. I’ve never worn any of the 5 shirts and only wore the hoodie at MVP Summit or cold weather MVP gatherings. The hoodie is fun because it’s a colour I love but super huge with a gigantic number on the back (15 in my case, even though my award year was 16).
    • I’ve got an MVP jacket that is still too small and will give back but they recently figured out a way for us to order that so I’m hoping the one that is being shipped to me fits. I’d like to have ONE MVP thing that I can wear and look good wearing it!
    • Sizing: so far most of the female stuff is super small for the product sizing. I don’t know who tries on the stuff to get a sense of size & fit but I’d love to see them letting a cross section of people try things on for size. What looks good on a 20 year old doesn’t always look good on a nearly 50 year old, trust me! :)
    • Speaking of sizing: there is no place on the MVP profile to track that info. Sizes change over time and we’re not always going to be the same size our entire life. Perhaps having a place to put in shirt size, jacket size on our profile pages (hidden of course to anyone but Microsoft) would be useful to have.
  • I’ve love to see “swag bucks” or something where you have a swag store you could purchase items from up to a certain value with your “swag bucks” instead of a random box of techie toys that only some audiences would enjoy.
  • I wish there was an actual MVP store we could buy things from…
  • At the last MVP get-together, I actually gave back my swag bag because it just seemed like a waste of money for me to take something I wouldn’t use. It happened to be a knapsack but I also received a knapsack with the intro MVP kit.

Cross Product Involvement

One of the things I keep hearing from other MVPs is how much the program is looking for people involved in multiple things, not just one discipline. My only comment back on that one is to be very careful that you’re not watering down your community activities so much that you’re not meeting any award category at all.

Being involved in different areas is good, but it can come at a price if you spread yourself across too many areas at the same time across categories.

Connect Locally

One of the first things I did, quite by accident, was I happened to see the twitter handle of a local MVP in my region. It was someone I didn’t know before I was an MVP because her award category was in some other area completely unrelated to mine. I reached out and soon enough she cc’d me on tweets with several other local MVPs. It turns out where I live, there are probably 6-8 local MVPs, all in different award categories, but we’re all still MVPs.

I started attending a couple of meetups some of them were involved in and since other MVPs were often presenting at them, I got to meet even more MVPs in the area. The meetups themselves were a little out of my knowledge area (.Net meetups) but there were a couple of SQL ones and things that touched on the perimeters of my knowledge so they were worth going, to network and keep in touch with others locally.

Through doing that, I’ve met others in Canada because now at Canada events, I know several local MVPs who then introduce me to other MVPs in their award categories, and your circle grows! You start following them on Twitter and you’ve got a built-in fan base that you collectively can share what you’re working on to expand the reach of what you do.

You likely are familiar with other MVPs in your own award category, so keep in touch with them as well as you can all help each other cross-promoting the good things you do to extend your reach.

Final Thoughts

It’s been a heck of a year but tiring too, trying to keep up with everything I *thought* an MVP was supposed to do. I’m sure it gets easier over time as you find your niche in your MVP space and are comfortable with your contribution levels to keep the consistency you need.

Personally, I got this by blogging and helping out on forums. I’ve let the distractions of trying to go to conferences and present get in the way of that and that’s a balance I need to find over the coming months before my contribution period comes to an end. I know presentations are good but I can’t always afford to pay my own way to get to those things to do the presentations so I need to ensure my blogging is kept up at the level that will allow me to maintain my MVP status too!

It’s been fun to see the growth in my followers and things like that. One year after getting the MVP award, my Twitter growth has been amazing, nearly doubling my number of followers from 377 to 639. Still seems small by some measures but I’m pretty happy with the progress and hope to see that even larger a year from now!

Well, that’s it for now… time to get back to preparing for my next conference!

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