Category Archives: Interview with a UC Pro

Interview with a UC Pro – Chris Norman

Chris Norman has for a long time been a guru when it comes to Microsoft UC. His blog VoIPNorm’s Unified Communications Blog has helped me and I’m sure many other people understand OCS/Lync and the voice side of things for years. I’ll tell you what, this guy knows his stuff when it comes every which way possible that Microsoft and Cisco talk to each other. He’s an Aussie like me, but has been living in Seattle for the last couple of years, so I decided to steal a bit of his time for my Interview with a UC Pro series.

  • What’s your technical background? 
    I started out as a electrician working on industrial electric motors and starters which was rather an unpleasant dirty job but it did introduce me to a whole bunch of different industries. I was only 18 when I started and by the time I finished my apprenticeship I was pretty bored so I joined the military. I was in the military for about 7 years working on variety of stuff from Lotus Notes, Exchange, Cisco/Nortel network equipment and Cisco IPT. I ended up leaving the military and working for a defense contractor that also made those big white things that fly in the sky and eventually moved to Seattle after doing a international training exchange.
  • How did you end up where you are today?
    Luck. I knew someone that knew someone and the next thing I knew I was working for Microsoft.
  • You’re our first interviewee from Microsoft. Can you tell us what part of the company you work for what your position entails? 
    I work in sales as a Lync technology specialist. Its mainly presales engineering although a lot of the companies I spend time with quite often say they want to give me desk if I want to come around and help them deploy.
  • What first made you get into UC and specializing in Lync?
    At my previous employer I was asked if I wanted to help integrate our current telephony platform (Cisco) with this new stuff coming out from Microsoft (LCS at the time) for a trial. Being one of the few people on the telecom team with Microsoft technical experience I said “sure sounds great” and it went from there.
  • What’s your favourite thing about Lync? 
    The end user experience. Its really changed they way I work and I love that. I don’t need multiple applications to get my work done and Microsoft has done a great job of bringing focus to one application rather than having a whole bunch of applications that all do something a little differently.
  • If you could think of one feature you’d like included in the next version of Lync, what would it be? 
    This is a really simple feature add but for an end user perspective I love the tabbed conversation application. Having all my conversation in one window is really handy so getting that rolled into the product rather than a separate application would be great. The person that came up with the idea for the tabbed conversation application has my gratitude, I really love it.
  • What do you feel is your area of expertise, where you’d consider yourself a bit of a rockstar? 
    Hard question. If I were to pick a area of technical knowledge I would have to say Cisco & Lync interoperability. I have been working with both platforms for a long time now and although I don’t know everything about it, it is a area I understand well. If I were to pick something I was passionate about it’s the technical community. Over the course of the last few years I have helped get four user groups up and running. This includes the Seattle chapter of CIPTUG (Cisco IPT User Group) before I joined Microsoft where I served as chapter president. Since then I have have had a hand in either reviving or starting three more Microsoft UC User Groups here in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Your blog is known for being a great resource for voice integration related issues. When did you start it and what direction has it taken? 
    It started in late 2008 as a way for me to get more involved in the technical community. I had friend at Microsoft who wanted to help me get my MVP and he suggested it would be a great way to grow and show that I was MVP worthy. Besides the other things I was already doing, like presenting at conferences and running the Seattle CIPTUG chapter the blog really helped me get to MVP. Now when I go back and read some of my first post I know that the content has stayed the same theme of Cisco Microsoft interop but I try to pick stuff to post about you may not see on a whole lot of other blogs. I also try to focus on issues that I see in my daily work that people ask me about. A good example is my last post on Exchange UM secondary dial plans. Not a lot of information out there as it relates to Cisco Microsoft interop so hopefully posts like that help folks out.
  • You’re a fellow Australian. How did you end up in the US? 
    I was part of an international exchange program at my former employer and originally came to the US as trainee of sorts from a subsidiary company. The parent company here in the US ended up wanting me to comeback after I went home to Australia as a full time employee and offered me a spot, so I came back.
  • Whereabouts in Australia are you from and what do you think makes your hometown/city great? 
    I am originally from Brisbane area in Queensland. Brisbane really has great weather and is only an hour away from the Gold Coast which really has some of the best beaches in the world. Its one things I really miss about Australia besides family.
  • When you’re not dishing out quality technical know-how, what do you do on weekends for fun?
    I love to garden. I really enjoy growing our own food and have over 50 different varieties of edible plants in our backyard even though we live on a pretty small lot. Urban farming has really started to take off again in the US since the economy took a dive and its really great to see people getting back their food independence and making healthier organic food choices.

Many thanks for participating Chris. You can check out Chris’ blog here, and be sure to follow him on Twitter at @voipnorm as well for news and updates on UC.

Interview with a UC Pro – Tom Pacyk

Next up in the new series of Interview with a UC Pro, we’ve got Tom Pacyk. He represents the State-side UC bloggers and has helped me out loads of times in the past through his blog and on Twitter. Here’s what he’s all about:
  • What’s your technical background?
    I started out working the helpdesk (didn’t everyone?) of the engineering department while going to school. I actually had fully planned on working mostly with web design and development, but in the end I couldn’t spend all day looking at code. I did internships for a few years at Motorola before landing a full time gig there as a Windows System Administrator where I got my first taste of Exchange and LCS. Shortly after that I got into consulting for Microsoft UC products and I think I’d have a very tough time ever going back to a regular job at this point.
  • What organisation do you work for and what’s your position?
    The company I’ve been at for almost 2 years now is called ExtraTeam ( My role there is Principal Systems Architect and I spend my days working mostly with Lync or Exchange projects.
  • What first made you get into UC and specialising in Lync?
    I’ve always been fascinated with the different ways people connect. Growing up my friends and I were big users of AOL IM and then moved on to using Skype pretty heavily when it first came out. When I took a new job in Portland, OR I started doing more and more with collaboration right around the time the OCS 2007 Beta came out. I was blown away with how cool it was and have been working with it ever since.
  • What’s your favourite thing about Lync?
    The Enterprise Voice features are huge for me since I do a lot of work remotely and am always moving to different spots. So having my phone number follow me around without any special set up on my end is a big advantage.
  • If you could think of one feature you’d like included in the next version of Lync, what would it be?
    I’d like to see more attention given to the Mac client. It’s in a pretty sorry state today compared to what’s available for the PC. We’re seeing lots of businesses using Macs more and more in the workplace, but it’s really tough to give those users a great experience with the current client.
  • What do you feel is your area of expertise, where you’d consider yourself a bit of a rockstar?
    I think our company is unique in that while we have a Microsoft practice with a bunch of MCMs we also have a fantastic Cisco practice filled with CCIE voice experts. So I’ve been able to learn more about Cisco UC than I ever expected, but I think that has translated to doing great Microsoft and Cisco UC integrations for customers. We’ve got some fancy tricks that I don’t think too many people are doing.
  • Tell me about your blog. When did you start it and what direction has it taken?
    I believe it shifted into its current focus on technology around the time I moved out to Portland, OR from Chicago so that would have been early in 2007. It’s had a few lives already – originally it was just a personal blog and I think for awhile I was using it document all my concert adventures. It turns out people are generally more interested in fixing these cryptic Microsoft errors on their screen than reading about someone’s 25th Pearl Jam show so I’ve been running with the technology theme since then.
  • Lastly on a bit more of a personal note, where are you from and what do you think makes your city great?
    I’ve been a little bit of all over so far, but right now I’m living smack in the middle of San Francisco, CA. It’s a fun town and there is definitely no shortage of things to do. Prior to that I lived in Portland for 2 years, but I actually grew up in the Chicago suburbs and went to school at Purdue (Boiler Up!) in the cornfields of Indiana.

Many thanks for the contribution Tom! Really great to hear about your background and how you got into UC.

You can read Tom’s blog at and find him on twitter at @tompacyk

Interview with a UC Pro – Alex Lewis

I think what makes the UC Pro community so valuable is the strength of its members and contributors. From around the world we have a plethora of very capable people who live, breathe and love Unified Communications, and love helping others realise the value.

I thought it was time we brought these guys forward and found out more about them. To work out why they’re helping drive the adoption of Unified Communications and why they’re some of the most sort after, go-to guys in the industry.

Kicking off the first of what will be a continuing interview series, I’ve got Alex Lewis in the hot seat.
He’s a stalwart of the UC community and a long time twitter compadre of mine. Here’s what he had to say:

  • What’s your technical background?
    I started out in aerospace (satellite design), so communications in general but a bit different than what I do now. I moved on to working for a CLEC on the east coast as a network architect and was responsible for building out the first VoIP network in the US and one of the first DSL rollouts.
  • What organisation do you work for and what’s your position?
    I am the UC practice lead and principal consultant for Convergent Computing in Oakland, CA (USA).
  • What first made you get into UC and specialising in Lync?
    I first got into Lync with Exchange 2000 IM server but didn’t take it on as my main focus until just before the launch of OCS 2007 and became an MVP for LCS/OCS. Since then, I’ve spent my time evangelizing UC and doing UC projects cradle to grave. I really enjoy doing a design for a customer then sticking around for the implementation and deployment. There’s something really special about that moment when you see the light go off and they “get it”.
  • What’s your favourite thing about Lync?
    This may sound strange from a guy who spends all his time working on the back end servers but I love the client! One client for everything from IM to telephony to conferencing. My big pet peeve is vendors who claim a “unified” solution then band-aid everything together.
  • If you could think of one feature you’d like included in the next version of Lync, what would it be?
    That’s an easy question!! Mobile clients for all major platforms with voice and video over the data channel. Now that tablets are prevalent, they become a great communication and collaboration endpoint.
  • What do you feel is your area of expertise, where you’d consider yourself a bit of a rockstar?
    I think the biggest value I bring is the ability to mate technology to business goals. UC isn’t cool because it’s new and shiny, it’s cool because it solves a myriad of real business problems with positive results in lowered costs and increased business revenue.
  • Tell me about your blog. When did you start it and what direction has it taken?Alex Lewis After being a rather prolific blogger, running for Nortel and being on point for MS UC blogging for Network World, I’m on a bit of a hiatus. I would be open to returning to blogging if the right opportunity came up.
  • Lastly on a bit more of a personal note, where are you from and what do you think makes your city great?
    I’m from the bay area in California, in the US. One of the few places you can surf and snow ski in the same day. I love all the outdoor activities and the fact we have gorgeous weather 300+ days a year. I’m an avid scuba diver, motorcycle enthusiast and re-learning rock climbing.

Many thanks for the contribution Alex! You can find Alex on twitter at @alexlewis.

Stay tuned to hear from another UC Pro from the blogosphere in the next few weeks.