The MVP Life

MVP nominations have just closed for the Summer 2016 class. We’re now into the vote counting stage, and if the Brexit referendum in the UK is anything to go by, we’ll shortly be into the recrimination stage. (There is no vote counting — that kind of thing only leads to trouble). If you want to know a bit more about how MVPs are chosen, read Holly Goldin’s post.

I’ve been meaning to write a post about what life as an MVP is like, and this seems like as good a time as any, so here goes.

Its not easy to earn

Becoming an MVP is not simple, nor is it fast. You need a body of work behind you, not just a flurry of activity around nomination time. If you set out with the goal of becoming an MVP, you are going to find it difficult. Instead, you should set out with the goal of helping people — if you are good at this, then members of the community will nominate you.

Its not easy to keep

I’ve heard a few times that its okay for us existing MVPs — once we are in the program we are golden and can relax. Nothing could be further from the truth! Once you make the grade, everyone wants a piece of you. Any Salesforce event you’ll be asked to help out, user/developer/admin/business groups will want you to attend and speak, app exchange partners will want you to review (and endorse) their offerings, anyone struggling with Salesforce will want help, publishers will want you to write blog posts and books. And here’s the thing — you’ll say yes to much more than you really have time for, as your main focus is still to help people. The busiest people I know are MVPs, and they are the ones leading many initiatives in the Salesforce community.

Salesforce events such as the World Tour and Dreamforce are full of opportunities for MVPs to get involved. I usually attend these events off the back of a string of 60 hour weeks to get new features into BrightMedia.

I’m on the BrightGen stand on the day, making sure that I’m supporting the rest of the company, and I have to see a number of customers. But I still make time to help out on the community side as best I can. Usually I have a talk or two, and most of the time I’m practicing it at midnight in the run up to the event.

Our contribution is also measured ever year. If you don’t keep up the standard, then you are out of the program. I’ve always been strongly in favour of this — it shouldn’t be a club that treats its existing members differently, and it definitely shouldn’t be a museum where we exhibit our past glories but have nothing fresh to show.

It’s all unicorns and rainbows

Its true, there are perks to being an MVP. However, if you work out the hours involved, you’d probably do better getting a paper round! Nobody does it for the perks (see above for wanting to help people) — they are a nice bonus for sure, but not be all and end all, and they are earned!

I remember this when it was all trees

When I started out in the Salesforce community, there wasn’t an MVP program. I’d had loads of help to get started via the developer forums, from the likes of Jeff Douglas and Ron Hess, and decided I wanted to give something back.

I made my first few post tentatively, half expecting to be flamed for having the temerity to assume that anyone cared what I thought. Obviously this didn’t happen, and amazingly some people appeared to find it useful. Not long after I started blogging and speaking at events, each time with the same low grade expectation of being torn to shreds. A couple of years later the MVP program started up and the rest, as they say, is history.

I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you

You learn loads of cool stuff as an MVP, but you sign an NDA so you can’t tell anyone.

You sometimes get to give feedback on proposed new features which is cool as you are influencing the future of the product, but it isn’t a five minute job. Feedback of ‘awesome’ or ‘that sucks’ isn’t very useful. Instead you spend time (that you don’t really have) making sure that you give detailed feedback and good reasons why you think something will work or it won’t.

You are surrounded by awesome people

Which is great, as you are in a bubble where everyone broadly agrees with you and you have influence. The downside to this is that you can easily end up with groupthink and forget that the rest of the community doesn’t have the access that you do. In many ways you are the voice of the community and you have to make sure that you listen to dissenting opinions, even if you disagree with them.

It’s not just cheerleading

If there’s something you think is wrong in the Salesforce ecosystem, as an MVP you have a duty to call it out. This isn’t easy, as you don’t know what the reaction will be when you do this. Luckily I’ve never minded a spot of confrontation, especially when fuelled by righteous anger!

When I wrote the outage post, I had no idea how it would play out with Salesforce. It was definitely a risk, both to my MVP status and my professional reputation, as CTO of a Platinum partner. I had to do it though, otherwise I’d feel like a shill, only promoting the positives and ignoring the negatives. I was pretty sure that Salesforce would take it the right way, and if that wasn’t the case then I could take solace in the fact that it wasn’t the company I though it was so no great loss. What happened next was Parker Harris called me, talked through the outage and asked for my feedback on how things could have been handled differently. And gave me a top seat for the London World Tour (if you wondered why I was in a front row, corner seat, now you know!). I still find it incredible that someone at that level of the organisation, and no doubt insanely busy every day, took time out to listen.

First world problems

Now I realise that some of what I’ve written above sounds like I’m complaining that we’re all martyrs, you don’t understand how difficult things are for us, and that someone needs to call me a wambulance. That’s really not the point I’m trying to make.

Being an MVP is amazing — its one of the best things that has happened to me in my 30 year career in IT — but it is a lot of work too. If have your sights set on being an MVP it’s best you understand how hard you’ll have to work to get there and stay there. You should do the work though — you won’t regret it for a second.

I’m better known in the Salesforce community as Bob Buzzard — Umpteen Certifications, including Technical Architect, 5 x MVP and CTO of BrightGen, a Platinum Cloud Alliance Partner in the United Kingdom.

You can find my (usually) more technical thoughts at the Bob Buzzard Blog

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