REDMOND, Wash., Oct. 22, 2003 — Whether it’s sharing some of his technical expertise with a newsgroup peer or providing video analysis software to improve a person’s golf swing, Phil Webster, an El Paso, Texas-based entrepreneur, likes helping people.
He says it’s a nice benefit, but not the main motivator, that he receives some perks as part of his participation in Microsoft’s Most Valued Professional (MVP) Program, which now includes new offerings, including Microsoft Learning programs and Windows source access through the Shared Source Initiative. By providing access to more tools, Webster says Microsoft is giving MVPs even greater credibility within the technical community and offering them access to knowledge previously available only to Microsoft’s technical support people.
“The latest tools MVPs have at their disposal allow us to help people power through technology-related brick walls even faster and more efficiently. Access to source code, for example, gives us a new level of understanding of exactly how the technology works and strengthens our knowledge,” says Webster, who is currently in his second year as an MVP. “Even when we’re not directly answering questions, we’re listening to customers and providing feedback to help Microsoft shape its product.
The number of MVPs recognized for their leadership in Microsoft technical communities has grown over the program’s 11-year history to 1,858 MVPs. They span over 70 Microsoft products and technologies, and hail from more than 57 countries. Award recipients are chosen either by a fellow community participant, another MVP, or one of the Microsoft employees who active participate in technical communities. What began as an informal recognition of dedicated Microsoft community participants for their work and community leadership has morphed into a more formal appreciation from Microsoft.
MVPs are a diverse group of individuals and include the likes of top developers and IT professionals to a wide range of technology enthusiasts. They have backgrounds such as police officers, firefighters, artists, doctors, retires and teachers. They range in age from teenage .NET gurus to 60-something computer wizards. However, they all are linked by their expertise in a Microsoft service or product and a willingness to share their knowledge freely with peers and other active participants in technical community worldwide.
With access to Windows source code at their disposal, MVP’s find their knowledge has increased, says Webster. For example, he was able to help a user solve a tough problem related to GraphEdit, an essential testing tool for developing DirectShow filters. Having a better understanding of source code can cut problem-solving time by more than half, which benefits him professionally as well as in his role as an MVP, he says.
Through the Microsoft Shared Source Initiative, MVPs had already been eligible to receive Microsoft source-code components for Microsoft Windows CE .NET, ASP.NET, Visual Studio .NET, and Passport Manager. This year, a new Shared Source license for eligible MVPs adds access to source code for current versions of Microsoft Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, as well as future versions of operating systems
Lori Moore, corporate vice president of Product Support Services at Microsoft, says the new offerings for MVPs are the MVP Programs response to direct and honest customer feedback that will better connect Microsoft with customers in a deeper and more meaningful way.
“What it boils down to is Microsoft demonstrating its support and value for the most active people in the technical communities,” Moore says. “By sharing some of Microsoft’s most valued assets with these folks, we are truly empowering them to have a more intimate relationship with both Microsoft and users of Microsoft products and services. We feel that by listening, sharing and responding to the MVP community, we are doing our part to strengthen the software ecosystem for our customers while enriching the broader Microsoft product and community experience worldwide.”
Microsoft Learning Allows MVPs to Keep Up With Latest Technology
In addition to source code, the MVP Program has partnered with Microsoft Learning to provide MVPs with better access to technical training and knowledge resources. Microsoft Learning has pulled together technology training and education resources — skills assessment, books, online reference materials, courses, workshops and certification programs — so customers can get up to speed on the next generation of Microsoft products.
Starting in November 2003, MVPs will benefit from better access and new opportunities from Microsoft Learning, says MVP Program Manager Anthony Russell. Next month, Microsoft Learning will distribute a resource kit that will help MVPs stay current on the latest Microsoft technologies. Russell says the kit will include a free Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) certification voucher that can be redeemed at any exam delivery partner worldwide and a Microsoft eLearning (MELL) Library sampler from the IT Professional and Developer collections. Supplemental information and resources will also be available throughout the year on the MVP secure web site.
“We recognize that providing technical information through learning products and reference materials ensures that MVPs have the latest information on Microsoft technologies to help enrich the customer experience,” Russell says. “That is why Microsoft Learning is providing access to early content and enhanced certification benefits to MVPs as part of the 2003 program.”
Russell says MVPs have expressed an interest in participating in the development of learning products at Microsoft, based on their technical knowledge. Because the beta process is critical to validating the content and providing Microsoft the necessary feedback to build better products, the company believes there is tremendous value in extending an invitation to MVPs to participate in the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) exam and Microsoft Official Course development cycle during the beta phase, coinciding with their area of expertise, Russell adds.
“These are tangible benefits that add credibility to the MVP program,” says Slava Gurevich of Farmington Hills, Mich. Slava, a Microsoft Certified Solution Developer, recently completed his first year as an MVP. His area of expertise includes the Windows Software Development Kit, with a specialty in COM/COM+ development. “Already as an MVP, I have access to the partner-level knowledge base at Microsoft. I have the latest and greatest developments at my fingertips, and can search and find answers to a variety of problems,” Gurevich says.
“Microsoft is empowering me to do a better job helping their customers. I welcome the opportunity to boost my knowledge and expertise in the process.”
Jeff Partch, a researcher from Arlington, Tex, and an MVP since 2002, says he’s proud to take part in the MVP program. Like Webster and most other participants, he enjoys helping people. With the new program benefits, however, he says he is able to help clear up some questions he’s had himself.
“The Shared Source code is probably one of the best benefits I’ve gotten as an MVP. Previously, when you had a question, all you could do was run a test and say, “OK, it does this; it does this,’ and it took an hour to do this and two or three hours to do that,” Partch says. “Now, spending 30 minutes looking into the source code, you can answer the question.
“I’ve been writing Windows program for 10 to 12 years. In the back of my mind, I’ve always wondered how it’s really working. And now I know.”