Introducing this week’s Friday Feature— @Gareth Gudger! Gareth is a Solution Architect for Blue Chip Consulting Group LLC. He specializes in Microsoft Exchange Server and Office 365, sharing his knowledge of the tools on the Super Tek Boy blog. Read his Q&A here to learn about his advice to other IT pros and his view of tech communities.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone just starting their career in IT, what would you tell them?
For someone starting in IT I would tell them to find out what technology or solution they are passionate about and chase it. When you love what you do the time you spend consuming it does not factor. You need to be hungry for your chosen technology. You always need to be learning. But don’t lose sight of the horizon. Technology is always changing, and you never want to be left behind on a dying solution.
I always recommend new consultants get a lab environment. An old used server can be picked up inexpensively off an auction site and run from their basement. If they are working with a cloud only solution I recommend they get a tenant in Office 365 with a couple of seats, or, an Azure tenant with a monthly budget. Someone starting in IT should consider this expense as an investment in their career, or, an investment in themselves. An employer may not always provide a lab environment. For the employers that do, this is likely going to be a shared environment with change controls. You need something you can break and fix, and then break again.
Lastly don’t be afraid if you don’t know the answer. It is okay to say, “Let me research that for you”. Even those at the top ask for help when they don’t know an answer. In fact, the more successful someone becomes, the more likely they are to feel what is known as imposter syndrome.
Tech communities are incredibly active. What role do these communities play in your career?
Tech communities play a massive role in a career. Whenever I have taken a break from forums I always feel like I am a blade that is beginning to dull. I feel like the sheer amount of problems, solutions and troubleshooting methodologies you get to see in a forum keeps you sharp.
So, for those starting out, especially in a consulting field, I recommend answering questions on forums. Forums will allow you to see more problems (and solutions) than you ever would see in a normal working day. Not only do you get to go through the troubleshooting process, but you also witness how your peers came to a resolution. It gives you insights into other ways to solve a problem. Before you know it, you will be solving a problem in the workplace that you ran into on the forums. And vice-versa.
When comfortable in the forums I recommend starting a blog. You will find that teaching a concept to someone else will further enhance your own understanding of the product or solution. You’ll find that when you blog about a topic your own understanding deepens.
When were you first introduced to Office 365? When did you realize just how powerful the tool could be?
I was first introduced to Office 365 during what was coined “Wave 14”. Wave 14 was the cloud equivalent of Exchange 2010.
In the beginning most of the adopters to Wave 14 were small businesses. Mostly fifty seats or less. For me, many of these were businesses migrating away from the Small Business Server product line, with a particular emphasis on Small Business Server 2003, a product that combined Exchange 2003 and other products.
In one particular case we found that backing up Exchange 2003 to a cloud based solution was twice as expensive as if we just moved that workload to Office 365. In addition, this also allowed the client to realize all the benefits of Exchange 2010 without the need to deploy or maintain it. This later reduced the clients support costs of maintaining Exchange 2003 on-prem.
I saw this pattern repeated for small businesses. Financially it just made sense. Even more so for startups with just a few employees out of the gate. They no longer needed to worry about purchasing an expensive on-prem infrastructure. For them it kept their overhead costs low.
More importantly it allowed small businesses to focus on their core business and not IT.
It was during this time I realized that Office 365 was a powerful solution.
Can you share one of your favorite Office 365 tips or tricks?
I believe it comes down to PowerShell. PowerShell is your friend. It takes giant and potentially mind-numbing tasks and makes them effortless. I recommend everyone get familiar with PowerShell and this goes back to my recommendation on a lab and test tenant. This is a great place to test your PowerShell commands and scripts to confirm they do what they are supposed to do.
Who are some key IT individuals you follow (either blog or Twitter)?
The main people I follow are Microsoft employees from the Exchange and Office 365 product groups and fellow MVPs. I also follow several Microsoft news accounts to keep up to date with breaking news and product announcements.