Despite recent reports, Microsoft said it is not scrapping its annual MVP conference in Redmond. The company plans to announce a date for the event this month and will also hold a summit for MVPs in Asia in April.
"The program has gone through some growth in the past two years," said Sean O'Driscoll, global
What began as a collection of small, subsidiary-run programs has become a "global initiative" to bring together Microsoft users around the world, O'Driscoll said. As a result, the selection process for the program has become more rigorous.
MVPs see it as creating community and offering the opportunity for continued education.
"I love being an MVP," said first-year Microsoft MVP Laura Hunter, a senior IT specialist at the University of Pennsylvania. "It generates a sense of camaraderie that I really enjoy. If they're an MVP and I'm an MVP, I feel that there's a bit of common ground there. From a personal networking standpoint, it's really wonderful and it's given me a number of opportunities that I would not have had otherwise."
Microsoft boosters, but not Microsoft employees
MVPs are not Microsoft employees, but serve as sources of expertise to corporate, academic and consumer users of the company's
Gary Chefetz, president and "chief geek" at MSProjectExperts in Long Hill, N.J., has been an MVP for four years.
"I learn a lot by helping people in these groups," Chefetz said. "It has increased my abilities in my own specialty by forcing me to see the application run through other people's eyes. I couldn't begin to describe the value of that. People get the impression that you're going to go answer everyone's questions and you're the teacher and everyone else is learning. As the teacher, you learn as much as the student does."
Hunter, a Windows networking expert, agrees.
"I'm helping other people at the same time that I'm broadening my own knowledge," she said. "It's a win-win. It has inspired me to get even more involved in the user community than I was before. I'm a backwards MVP in that I didn't find the newsgroups until after the conference -- from listening to people talking at the summit about newsgroups and helping people at the online community."
Seeking a higher profile
Being an MVP is a time commitment, they said. Both Chefetz and Hunter spend about an hour per day of their personal time working with community groups.
Chefetz said that while it's an honor to attain MVP status, he wishes employers held it in higher regard and hopes that Microsoft will raise the program's profile.
"I became an MVP while working for [an] IT group [at a] major retailer," he said. "When I got that award for the first time, they wouldn't give me professional days to go to the summit. I don't think companies really understand the value of it, and I don't think Microsoft has been successful enough or even focused on making that a major credential."