I've been a Windows Phone Development MVP for less than a year. During this year, I've seen feedback from the current and former MVPs, claiming that the state of the program is declining and that it becomes more of a formality rather than a viable model to reward community professionals and get their feedback. For once, I am proud to say that this is not the case. I cannot generalize my experiences for everyone, but at least for my team and for the teams related to people I've talked to during past week, the MVP program is a great experience.
This year was the first time that I attended the MVP Summit in Bellevue, WA. Developers from all over the world gather for this event to learn more about their specific areas of expertise, and it is a great way to let the product teams know about what's on your mind regarding their work. During this week long event I managed to accomplish several things. First and foremost - networking. I got to meet a lot of new people, Microsoft employees and fellow MVPs. Among others were Matt Hidinger, Rene Schulte, Peter Nowak, Ginny Caughey, Dave Bost, Ben Lower, Tracy Hackney and Cliff Simpkins. At the end of the day, that's the program's biggest value. You get to share your expertise and to some extent showcase your abilities to people who can potentially contribute to your professional path. There are plenty of informal opportunities for you to talk to people and tell them what you've been working on. To my surprise, a lot of developers from the Windows Phone team were really curious about the apps WPDEV MVPs created. Some got recommendations on how to improve the general performance and looks of the existing products, others were praised for some amazing self-made controls. Both were done in formal and informal environments.
The Windows Phone team was also really interested in dev feedback - we talked about multiple aspects of the platform, discussed some issues that developers encounter nowadays, as well as some decisions on the current state of the platform. Overall, MVPs create a bridge between general feedback submitted by users and the team, and that makes us feel a significant part of the actual platform. Believe it or not, feedback matters, and from all the companies out there, it does count at Microsoft.
I would rate this event with a solid 10/10. The sessions were well planned and I would definitely consider attending the same event the next year. The value of the content and developer interaction outweighs the transportation cost (which is all you cover on your own, given that you are staying in the time limits of the Summit).
To new MVPs, I have my Top 5 recommendations. Once you are in Bellevue (or Redmond):
1. Attend the various parties. That is a great way to interact with peers and Microsoft developers outside the formal environment, and you can easily get some feedback on your work. Besides, you get free snacks (who doesn't like that?)
2. Take the bus from the Sea-Tac airport to Bellevue instead of the shuttle or a cab. That will save you some money - you will pay $2.50 instead of $20 for the shuttle or $40 for the cab.
3. Talk. If you see an MVP you might be familiar from Twitter, or a Microsoft dev you've heard about, talk to them. Show them what you work on (obviously, you probably want to partially limit yourself to the field of the person you are talking to). Don't avoid those random conversations, as you might be missing out on some opportunities.
4. Look for events outside the Summit. Often organized by your peers outside Microsoft (ahem, GitHub and Phil Haack).
5. DO NOT waste time in your hotel room. For the love of everything, walk around the lobby and work there, if needed. You never know who you might run into and spark a conversation.
Remember, Microsoft appreciates your contributions to the community and the Summit is one of the ways the teams show that appreciation. Enjoy it!