Update 2/1/2019: I am an MVP now, and there’s still room for improvement in the nomination and acceptance process. I continue to hear similar stories to the one I shared below and am doing what I can in my limited capacity to improve the process and communication. I encourage you to reach out to your program or community managers directly if you haven’t heard anything for several months.
For the last three years, I’ve been updating a nomination form with my latest activities and contributions to the Microsoft community (basically logging volunteer hours and impact). I love what I do, truly, and it was kind of fun to “journal” my contributions.
People pursuing the Microsoft MVP award often put a lot of their own time, money and energy into getting it. I’ve given over twenty sessions in 2018. And this past October, traveling to a different SharePoint Saturday event every Saturday to speak, I found myself burnt out by the end of the month. I had to stop and ask myself:
Am I still doing this for me? Or for some external validation?
I didn’t like the answer. I was having a hard time enjoying my work anymore, or speaking at events, because I was so focused on the MVP award. And the first of every month became a date I dreaded because Twitter would become alive with:
- “I’m so honored…”
- “Can’t believe it!”
- “So grateful…”
While happy for those tweeting good news, I waited for an email to arrive that wasn’t coming.
So in October when I found myself burnt out, I realized that if I kept pursuing the MVP award I would undoubtedly get to a place where I no longer enjoyed speaking, or writing, or doing any of the things I was tracking on the nomination form. And then each summer would become a time of stress, wondering if I’d “make the cut” to keep it another year. The joy I get from sharing with others, building communities and networks isn’t worth losing.
To top it off, my (many) attempts at contacting someone (anyone) in the award program for guidance or advice were futile, and went unnoticed. Why did I want so badly to belong to a program of people who serve others, administered by people who wouldn’t take time to serve others? Was it because they didn’t recognize my name? Knew I was gay? Saw I was from Kansas? Didn’t get nudged by a buddy to look for that Chamberlain guy? Welcome to my brain. I sincerely hope the program, with its subjective nature to begin with, wouldn’t be so loose as to let opinions on identity or demographics interfere with fair evaluation (or even minimal communications).
The program seems to have a “boys club” vibe from where I’m sitting. I don’t need to stress about the reasons I may be overlooked, or speculate about overly-subjective politics and selection processes and I never want to get somewhere in life because I have an “in.” I want to get there because I earned it. And now I’ve decided I want to get somewhere else.
I’m withdrawing my nomination after three years of trying, and doing what’s best for me (and, ironically, Microsoft).
- I’m still going to speak at events.
- I’m still going to write and make video tutorials.
- I’m still going to run the Lawrence SharePoint User Group.
- I’m still going to applaud those who get the MVP award and do amazing things every day.
- I’m still going to help organize SPS Kansas City.
- I’m still going to provide free resources to readers and event organizers.
The only thing I’m doing differently is I’ll be doing it for pure enjoyment and the benefit of my attendees, my viewers, my readers and my co-workers and not for recognition. I started this journey to serve others and got lost along the way, doing it for the wrong reason and getting bummed out on a monthly basis for no good reason.
Perhaps there will be a day where the MVP program functions a bit more like certifications. And it would be great to get an email, even once a year, with a status update or some personalized tips. And the selection process could be a little less subjective and more structured. There is such a thing as too general. Because let’s be honest, this could be my grandma on a good day: