Archive for the 'Interview with a UC Pro' Category

15 NovInterview with a UC Pro Series on NextHop – Mike Stacy

This time around in my feature on Microsoft’s TechNet NextHop blog, I interview Polycom’s Mike Stacy – a fellow Lync MVP and legend of the UC community.

Check out the interview here on NextHop. If you’ve got a suggestion of who I should interview next, drop me a line in the comments.

17 AugInterview with a UC Pro Series on NextHop – Dustin Hannifin

In my monthly feature on Microsoft’s TechNet NextHop blog, I interview Dustin Hannifin, a longstanding Lync MVP, founder of the UCVUG and a top bloke.

I first met Dustin almost 2 years ago at the Airlift event for Lync Server 2010 in Redmond. His blog Dustin’s Tech Notes is a great blog resource on Lync and one I reckon you keep an eye on. In this interview, I find out about how Dustin got into Lync and what I like doing in his downtime around his home in Dallas, TX.

Check out the interview here on NextHop. If you’ve got a suggestion of who I should interview next, drop me a line in the comments.

26 JunInterview with a UC Pro Series on NextHop – Tommy Clarke

In my monthly feature on Microsoft’s TechNet NextHop blog, I interview one of the Lync community’s Nordic superstars, MVP Tommy Clarke.

His blog Ultimate Communications delivers great industry news and tips to the community worldwide, and I found that he’s a bit of an old school raver in addition to knowing the ins and outs of Lync. He’s the second Scandinavian MVP I’ve interviewed, the first being Norway’s Ståle Hansen and it’s great to increase the diversity of the interviewees.

Check out the interview here on NextHop. If you’ve got a suggestion of who I should interview next, drop me a line in the comments.

03 MayInterview with a UC Pro Series on NextHop – Elan Shudnow

In my monthly feature on Microsoft’s TechNet NextHop blog, I interview one of the community’s long standing legends, Elan Shudnow.

Elan’s blog has helped me understand OCS over the years and make sense of a lot of different components including Group Chat. I sat down with him and found out how he got into Lync, what kind of work he does and what he gets up to in his spare time.

Check out the interview here on NextHop. If you’ve got a suggestion of who I should interview next, drop me a line in the comments.

02 AprInterview with a UC Pro Series on NextHop – Ståle Hansen

It’s that time of the month again, when I interview one of the worldwide Microsoft Lync community’s shining stars on the Microsoft TechNet NextHop blog. This month I’ve interviewed Norwegian Lync MVP (re-awarded yesterday on the 1st April, congrats!) Ståle Hansen and found out what he loves about UC, what he does in his job and what makes his home town cool. This is the third in the series and I’m really stoked with the momentum and feedback it’s receiving.

Check out the interview here on NextHop. Also make sure you check out previous interviews of folks like Tom Arbuthnot, Jeff Schertz and Tom Laciano. If you’ve got a suggestion of who I should interview next, drop me a line in the comments.

27 FebInterview with a UC Pro Series on NextHop – Tom Arbuthnot

This month I’ve interviewed fellow Modality consultant Tom Arbuthnot over on NextHop, asking him about how he got into IT and what he loves about Microsoft Lync among other questions. This is the second in an ongoing series where I’ll be interviewing Lync bloggers, community contributors, business leaders and Microsoft staff every month on the Microsoft NextHop blog.

Check out the interview with Tom here. You can also check out previous interviews of UC Pros here on my blog and my last interview of Lync MVP Randy Wintle on NextHop here.

If you have suggestions for who I should interview next, feel free to drop me a line!

11 JanInterview with a UC Pro Series – Published on NextHop

Just a quick one to let you know that yesterday I had one of my Interview with a UC Pro series posts published on Microsoft TechNet’s NextHop blog yesterday. This one was about Lync MVP Randy Wintle and now makes seven UC Pros interviewed since I started it mid last year. Check out the post here.

I’m really excited about being published on a TechNet blog, expect to see more contributions from me there in 2012.

05 DecInterview with a UC Pro – Tom Laciano

This week I’m interviewing one of the legends of the Microsoft UC community, Tom Laciano of Microsoft.
His blog has been a resource I’ve called on time and time again over the years to help me out with a sticky problem or explain something. He’s always provided great LCS/OCS/Lync technical content for as long as I’ve been playing with the product since the LCS 2005 days.

I had the pleasure of meeting Tom at Wave 14 Airlift in Seattle last year and thought it was time I pulled him aside and asked him some questions about his UC career.

  • What’s your technical background? How did you end up where you are today?
    My father worked at IBM which influenced me and my brother and sister. The Commodore 64 was the first family computer and then various IBM PC’s. I recall taking a BASIC class at the community college and my Dad even quizzed me at one time to add numbers in Hex. I chose Business Administration in College and thanks to a roommate and my wife then girlfriend I put my resume in for Microsoft starting with DOS 5.x and Windows 3.1 support. I moved over to the Messaging team when Exchange 4.0 was in beta, a short stint in training and back to support when LCS 2003 was first released. I moved to the Product Group working with key customers facing unique deployments or significant challenges and just recently moved to a new team I’ll describe in the next question.
  • Can you tell us what part of Microsoft you work for and what your position entails?
    I am now in the Office 365 group with Lync Online in the dedicated space as an Operations Manager. The role is very much a Project Management skillset. My current role is working with existing customers who want to deploy the Enterprise Voice feature set with either a SIP Trunk or On-Premise SBC. While I have a technical background in the product which can help with customer dialogs, I am the person who is responsible for managing the project towards completion.

    Tom with his wife and 3 kids

  • What first made you get into UC and specialising in Lync?
    It was a bit of luck as when I moved back to support from training, I moved to the Windows Networking team. My first day on the team was a morale event cookout and the guy who was returning from beta was in desperate need of folks he could train on this new product. I mentioned being new with no real work load yet and it sounded like another “verb” application as Exchange Conferencing was, so how hard could that be? J
  • What’s your favourite thing about Lync?
    As a remote worker I have two things. First is the integration of presence in websites and Office which helps me maintain a really small contact list. The second thing I like is how easy it is to join a meeting and have video and shared content.
  • What was the most challenging LCS/OCS/Lync problem you ever solved?
    I will choose one of the earliest calls I took because it really helped me gain an expertise. I helped the IT Admin for one of the State Supreme Courts setting up LCS 2003 with TLS so the judge could have a secure wireless dialog with his team. The woman I assisted was sharp and patient and through that issue I learned firsthand that documentation can be a great start, but the truth is in the actual behavior of the product.
  • If you could think of one feature you’d like included in the next version of Lync, what would it be?
    Having worked with customers in this area for some time I would have to say having Group Chat becoming a first class experience.

    Tom with his son at the Speedway

  • What do you feel is your area of expertise, where you’d consider yourself a bit of a rockstar?
    I still believe I possess significant knowledge in the area of certificates for the product.
  • Your blog is known for being a insightful, consistent resource across the entire lifespan of the LCS/OCS/Lync product. When did you start it and what direction has it taken?
    I started in 2004 and other than just the subsequent versions of the product, I would say the one change has been the inclusion of a few off-topic posts. I still find this one hilarious
  • Whereabouts in the USA are you from and what do you think makes your hometown/city great?
    I am from Concord, NC. The Tourism folks would love for me to say Lowe’s Motor Speedway or Concord Mills Mall but I like the older part of the town with its small shops and restaurants. While this is in Charlotte and not Concord, my favorite BBQ restaurant is Old Hickory House BBQ on N. Tryon Street. They have an antique telephone switchboard in the front of the restaurant which I find funny given my work with the next generation of voice technology.
  • When you’re not dishing out quality technical know-how, what do you do on weekends for fun?
    My wife and I have 4 kids so most of our time involves coaching their sports and this summer was my first year having “ownership” of her Mom’s garden. Turns out you don’t buy 2 flats of tomato plants or squash and certainly 1 hot pepper plant and not 10 is enough. This meant that this was the first year I learned how to can tomatoes.

    Tom's 1st batch of garden tomatoes

    Also, I met my wife in college as she helped start the Women’s Club Soccer team and I was their first coach. This was our first year back playing adult co-ed soccer in about 7 years. I play both goalie and defense, she plays mid-field and forward.

Thanks a lot for taking part Tom, those are some juicy looking tomatoes! Make sure you check out Tom’s blog on TechNet and follow him on Twitter.

28 SepInterview with a UC Pro – Jeff Schertz

This time around, we’ve got one of the Microsoft UC community’s great pillars of technical excellence. He’s come up in the first two results in basically every OCS search term I’ve ever put into Google and helps countless techs in need on the TechNet forums.
He hails from Chicago, USA, love his beer and knows the score when it comes to Polycom. Please welcome to the Interview with a UC Pro series, Lync MVP Jeff Schertz.

  • What’s your technical background? How did you end up where you are today
    I had exposure to computers at a young age, back when very few people had any personal computers at home.  My father was a teacher and was able to bring home Apple computers over the long summer breaks, until we could afford to get one of the original Apple //e systems.  From there I grew up using the entire Apple platform through many generations of Macs, moving into the educational workforce operating both Macs and PCs.  I eventually moved into PCs full-time with Windows NT and advanced from helpdesk jobs into networking and systems administrations positions for Enterprise-level organizations.  After a 5 year stint as an enterprise consultant at PointBridge I decided to join a friend over at Polycom to work in the exciting growth area of video conferencing and its integration into the Microsoft Lync platform.
  • You’re our first interviewee from Polycom. Can you tell us what part of the company you work for what your position entails?
    I work in our sales organization although on a daily basis also interface with both support and engineering teams on current issues and future solutions.  As a Microsoft Solutions Architect I help customers, partners and even employees understand how our solutions integrate within Microsoft’s UC platform; from feature capabilities  and end-user experience to low-level architecture and design. I also assist engineering personnel with troubleshooting advanced integration scenarios, as well as maintain a Microsoft environment used to demonstrate product integration to customers and partners alike.  In short anytime anything from Polycom interacts with a Microsoft product then our group is typically involved in some way or another.
  • What first made you get into UC and specialising in Lync?
    After joining PointBridge and seeing the amazing level of talent among my peers I looked for ways to move away from being an overall solutions generalist and instead try to attain advanced knowledge in a specific Microsoft product.  By joining the UC team there was already a wide-range of expertise in AD and Exchange but OCS 2007 had just been released so I saw an opportunity there to start on the same page as most everyone else in the industry.
  • What’s your favourite thing about Lync?
    The way it simplifies business communication and allows me to work from home, a hotel, or just about anywhere else that is outside a traditional office with the same (and something even better) level of efficiency.
  • If you could think of one feature you’d like included in the next version of Lync, what would it be?
    A full-featured mobile client that supports video and content sharing ;)
  • What do you feel is your area of expertise, where you’d consider yourself a bit of a rockstar?
    Since moving to Polycom I’ve fine-tuned by skill set even more specifically within the Communications Server and Lync products into the audio, video, and content sharing modalities and moved away from the traditional telephony-only scenarios that were more popular with traditional consulting projects.  But regardless of the topic it seems that my value to the community stems from an inherent ability to clearly and thoroughly explain concepts in ways that readers easily understand them.
  • Your blog is known for being a great resource for address book and Phone Edition issues among other areas. When did you start it and what direction has it taken?
    I started blogging at PointBridge as way to meet quarterly goals and to provide another outlet for my documentation skills outside of customer-only content that was not always read very much (or sometimes at all!).  As the articles are a reflection of what I do in my day-to-day work the blog content has transitioned primarily over to the audio and video collaboration topics.  I still try to find topics not already addressed or things that may not be covered in much detail within the actual product documentation.
  • Whereabouts in the USA are you from and what do you think makes your hometown/city great?
    Born and raised in the Chicago suburbs and although I’ve travelled a lot I’ve never found anywhere I’d want to move to permanently (within the U.S.).  The Midwest offers a nice mix of everything from weather to activities, with Chicago itself a great destination city rooted in history.
  • When you’re not dishing out quality technical know-how, what do you do on weekends for fun?
    Since it depends on the seasons around here, lately it has been weekend trips with my fiancée to local farms and orchards to pick our own produce for home cooking or visiting local breweries and beer festivals in the Midwest.
Many thanks for taking the time to participate Jeff, it’s fantastic to have someone who’s contributed so much to the community on board. You can check out Jeff’s blog here, and make sure you follow him on Twitter.

23 AugInterview with a UC Pro – Adam Jacobs

This week I’ve chosen to interview Lync MVP, Adam Jacobs. Adam is my first English guest, and him and I run the Microsoft UC User Group London together along with Tom Arbuthnot and John Lamb.
Adam has a wealth of UC knowledge in areas such as business value, strategy and voice integration scenarios. He was one of the first people to get Skype to talk to OCS via Asterisk, so you can tell he likes to push the envelope to see what’s possible.
I first met him at the quarterly #ucomsldn drinks I run in London, so I decided it was time to see what his story is.

  • What’s your technical background? How did you end up where you are today?
    It’s pretty much my dad’s fault. He’s a software developer and from a young age he and I tinkered with technology. I recall our first breakthrough, a custom built ZX Spectrum – it featured a whole 1K of RAM (this was cool back then) and a keyboard that was embedded into a plastic lunch box!
  • Can you tell us what your position entails?
    I’m the Head of IT at a leading UK foreign exchange. My responsibilities are fairly broad, from in-house e-commerce development to capacity management within our three data centres.Strategically I have to ensure that I’m thinking ahead, especially in the current economic climate, where technology investments typically have a life expectancy of 5 years+. Fixed-line and mobile voice technology is definitely an area whereby intellectual investment can be made with big cost savings and increased business agility benefits.
  • What first made you get into UC and working with Lync?
    Previously I worked for a company that specialised in B2C SIP-to-PSTN services, it was run extremely badly and it wasn’t the most pleasant of workplaces – but I learnt a lot there. I started looking at Open Source VoIP technology, specifically Asterisk and as a consequence I fell in love with the capability of voice-to-desktop integration – which we now all know as UC.When the opportunity arose to put this into practice at my present workplace we chose OCS. We’re a “Microsoft shop” and this solution ticked all our boxes – we even identified an integration path for our Nortel CS1000. Next steps for us are to rip-and-replace our existing PBX with Lync and, fingers crossed, we’re hoping to pull this off later this year.
  • What’s your favourite thing about Lync?
    Probably the intuitive interface. Rolling out Lync (or OCS) has not only been huge hit within my workplace, but there has been little or no need for end user training. It’s the most successful technology implementation I have made to date. I recall one end-user saying, “Instant Messaging at work is great, I reckon you could use it for business use too!” – this made me chuckle
  • If you could think of one feature you’d like included in the next version of Lync, what would it be?
    Call pickup, in the UK (and Europe for that matter) this is a commonly adopted piece of traditional telephony functionality – team call-group doesn’t quite tick the box for all scenarios.
  • What do you feel is your area of expertise, where you’d consider yourself a bit of a rockstar?
    I’m not sure this makes me a “rockstar” as such, but here goes…I’d say I have both a strong technical background and grounded business acumen, this means I can engage in both areas. Often resulting in solutions that are not only cost efficient but also well aligned with the needs of the business.
  • Your blog is known for taking a different look at OCS and Lync, providing some more flexible solutions in the past. When did you start it and what direction has it taken?
    I started “I’m a UC Blog” back in early 2009, it used to be a fairly broad Microsoft technology site until I made the decision to focus primarily on UC, since then I see an average of 700+ visitors daily. The most popular articles are focussed around interoperability – I even got a mention in the Microsoft Lync 2010 resource kit chapter on “Interoperability with Asterisk and Skype” J
  • Whereabouts in the UK are you from and what do you think makes your hometown/city great?
    I’m from London and even withstanding the recent rioting and looting I still feel proud of my home town, especially when I commute in and around the City of London. The beauty and history can be quite breath-taking. As a Londoner, sometimes you just have to pause and be a tourist in your own city. That said, I love travelling (probably not as much as you Justin) and wouldn’t rule out re-locating if the right opportunity became available.
  • When you’re not dishing out quality technical know-how, what do you do on weekends for fun?
    It’s not always “fun”, but probably being a father to twin boys – it has its moments I can tell you!

Thanks a lot for participating Adam, it’s great to hear from another UC Pro in London. Make sure you check out his blog here and follow him on Twitter.