Kari Finn of Microsoft MVP Program

Kari Finn, Manager of Microsoft MVP program joins Excel TV host Rick Grantham and cohosts Microsoft Excel MVP Jordan Goldmeier and author and Microsoft Excel MVP Oz du Soleil on Excel TV.

Rick: Kari joins us from Microsoft in Redmond. Would you mind saying hello and tell us a little bit about yourself?

Kari: I am the community program manager that has a relationship with the Microsoft MVPs in the consumer space for products like Office and Excel. MVP is Most Valuable Professionals. We find super excellent expert community enthusiasts (say that fast!) and award them this special MVP recognition and work with them for the next 12 months. It’s totally rewarding. I love my job. I meet great people like Jordan Goldmeier and get to work with them in the community. I’ve been here for four years now and feel like I’m just getting started.

Jordan: Would you say Excel MVPs are your favorite?

Kari:  (Arm twisted by Rick) Of course I would!  I love my MVPs equally but the Excel MVPs have a little extra flavor.

Rick:  I had an interview with Bob Umlas. He has been involved in the MVP program from the very beginning. He said his name was found in a book reference and the next thing he knows he was invited to a MVP Summit. From your perspective, what are these MVP Summits like? If someone walks in for the first time, what is involved in that?

Oz: Let’s backup. Some Excel users don’t know. What is an Excel MVP?

Kari: That’s a great question. There is a magic combination of factors and it depends on what part of the world you’re in, but here in the US, an MVP is someone who is, number one, an expert in some Microsoft technology like Excel. And the other important component is that they use their expertise to help some group of people in the community through some fashion, such as answering questions on forums or writing ‘Excel For Dummies’ books, or user group leadership events, or hosting speaking engagements, or in a multitude of other ways. The spirit of the award is someone who has expertise and is at the top of their game and they are using that passion to help other people in the community use it and learn it better.

Rick: So being smart at the tool isn’t good enough. You have to be in the community making it happen?

Kari: Absolutely.

Oz: What was the big deal with the MVP award? Do you get a plaque and a handshake?

Rick: A secret handshake!!

Jordan: You get one of these! 

Kari:  We will give you the secret handshake at the MVP Summit! Yes, they get a fancy statue like Jordan’s. They also get a dedicated account manager –who would be me. And they are invited to be on a distribution list with the people who make the product of which they are an expert. So they can have conversations with Microsoft Excel engineers and programmers to find bugs or make suggestions for features that would make the product better.

They also have benefits like the MVP Summit. Currently about half of the estimated 4000 MVPs invited throughout the world attend. We feed them and have sessions on news about the product or how to build their community better. We have a very deep dive into technical topics on content that we can’t share with the community; top-secret development topics. You can network with MVP peers, other communities and attend events where you can socialize with the Microsoft people who make the product. We have the MVP showcase where we have an expo showcasing several MVPs and their projects.

Oz: So MVP status is a big deal with substantive content not just a plaque.

Jordan: It’s a good time. The food is quite amazing. It’s a spread. Oh, yeah, there is the technical too.

Jordan: What is a way that someone can be nominated to become an MVP? Is the process through nomination by fellow MVPs or can you nominate yourself? This is actually what I did.

Rick: You nominated yourself? Is that a thing?

Jordan: It took me a year to get it.

Kari: How do you nominate yourself?

Rick: Heck yeah! How do you nominate yourself?

Kari: There is a link to go fill out a web form to nominate yourself or someone else. We encourage people to nominate themselves. We have so many great folks all over the world that sometimes we can’t get to you. We really like when you nominate yourself. Be your biggest advocate. If you don’t think you are there, we can work together to help you work in the community to get where it takes to be an Excel MVP and give you a stronger chance to get the MVP award. Ultimately we want to thank and award as many people as we can. This award is for an elite group of people. Contact Excel TV for the link.

Nominate yourself – https://mvp.microsoft.com/en-us/Nomination/nominate-an-mvp

Rick: We will put a link on our Facebook page. Oz and I talked about the MVP summit. There was a picture of him with Mr. Excel, Rob Collie, and Jordan. I noticed there’s an underrepresentation of people with goatees and people wearing bowties with hats. My question is as you look at the applications for people with goatees. Make sure you have enough with people with facial hair like me!

Kari: So the rundown is– award more people with facial hair and bowties?

Rick: Yes, that is my contribution.

Oz: Except for Duck Dynasty! Then you will regret it, Rick.

Jordan: We need more women MVPs. I don’t know if there’s a program, but I encourage any women who want to join us.

Kari: That is a great point.

Oz: It’s good to know if you are not quite there, Excel will help nurture you to get you there.

Kari: Please feel free to reach out to me and I will help you with that. Email me.

Jordan: Are there any community events you are working on now?

Kari: I’m working on the next MVP Summit. And we are working on online events for our MVP mentor program which is a sub program of the MVP program where our MVPs will teach the community specific topics. We have 40 topics planned in different languages and time zones.

Oz: Is this to teach a specific topic. What is an example?

Kari: yes. An example would be how to write an app for Windows 8, or how to get your indie game onto the Xbox platform, or how to create a SharePoint site with various functionality, etc.. We have 90 different technologies.

Oz: Wow. Bob Umlas said there were MVPs for everything.

Rick: Even Xbox!

Kari: Bob Umlas was our first MVP to reach the 20 year mark as an Excel MVP consecutively.

Oz: I appreciate what Rick is doing with this. I didn’t hear about any of this until the interview. As a result of one of these interviews, I learned about Bob Umlas.

Kari: Do you know about Bill Jelen? He is amazing.

Jordan and Rick: YES! We have heard of him and he has been a guest.

Kari: What about Mike Girvin? Also, you can go to the MVP award program website and find MVPs in any region for any product. You can look up future guests for your show!

Lesley Davidson
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