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.

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