It's been a lot of fun getting to know more of our MVPs over the last couple of months and I hope you'll agree.
This month, I'd like to introduce you to someone you're sure to recognize in person if you'll be at Ignite - he'll be the one sporting a cowboy hat & talking all things UC. Josh was close to Hurricane Irma- as he hails from Weeki Wachee, Florida. That's a real city! We're glad he is safe.
Everyone, please meet @Josh Blalock. Josh is a Sr. Microsoft UC Technical Consultant for Integration Partners. You can find his MVP Profile here.
Josh Blalock - Office Server & Services MVP focused on Skype for Business
Laurie: You are a relatively new MVP, Josh. Tell us something we don't know about you that might surprise us.
Josh: I grew up on a small island in the Pacific Ocean during my teenage years: Saipan. If you know where that is without having to look it up on Google Maps, you are one of the select few!
Laurie: What do you do for fun when you aren't talking Skype for Business?
Josh: I've turned into a bit of a Fitness nut as of lately. Consequently, I love training for and participating in "mud runs". There is such a cool atmosphere and culture at these events! I am gearing up for my third Tough Mudder in Central Florida with my wife in October, and am stoked! Also, I really enjoy wood-working as a hobby, and have made a lot the furniture in our home.
Laurie: What is your favorite Skype for Business Feature and why?
Josh: I suppose the ability to just escalate a current IM session into an A/V call, and even invite other participants from there is still a big deal to me. As someone who has done remote working for the last 5 - 6 years, I am very aware of the challenges that can occur with feeling like part of a tight-knit team. IM is great, but just jumping onto an ad-hoc conversation with voice, and seeing your co-workers faces, expressions, and reactions really helps with building a bond with your team, even being remote. Unfortunately, so many organizations really struggle with Video adoption. This could be network restrictions, or other technical considerations. Often, though, I think there are just a lot of camera-conscious individuals. I am on a mission to make Video the new Voice!
Laurie: Tell me about a Skype for Business Success Story
Josh: At a previous job, working for a web hosting company, we were selling Hosted Lync. The goal was to use the Lync Server 2013 Multitenant Hosting Pack. If you ever deployed this iteration of Lync Server, then you are aware that it has its own special nuances that are fun to navigate. However, going beyond these differences in deployment, we needed to provide a way for our customers to be able to manage their users and settings from within our proprietary control panel. This involved coordination between our Portal team, our Dev team, and me on the Lync Server team. Clearly there was API work to be done, which was not necessarily my strong suite, but getting all the pieces and parts to work properly was indeed quite a challenge (involving lots of frustrating late nights). To cut to the chase, though, we eventually met with success, which was obviously a VERY good feeling. These users were able to manage enabling/disabling both Lync services as a whole for their org, and enabling/disabling individual users, from within the same portal that they managed their Hosted Exchange from. I believe we provided the ability to manage a few other settings per â€œtenantâ€, as well. Given that this was not your normal Lync Server deployment, I felt pretty good about getting this up and running, and integrating so nicely with our own Customer Portal.
Laurie: How has the MVP Program contributed to the success of your career?
Josh: I love that the MVP program shows recognition to individuals that have already contributed a great deal to the larger social community for their given product area. However, the number of ways in which this program has enhanced my career since then, even in these last few months, has been incredible! For starters, there are several well-known benefits given to MVPs, both by Microsoft and by 3rd-parties, that make it much easier for you to build labs, test, and create more content. Among these are MSDN access, Azure credits, an Office 365 tenant with E3 licenses, and free SSL certificates from Digicert. Moving beyond the freebies, though, probably the biggest impact is the close relationship that exists with the Product Teams, internal access to specific MVP groups, and the opportunities that are offered to Speak, Blog, and contribute in other ways for special events and/or conferences. These opportunities don't only present an opportunity for you to continue to build your own personal brand, but they also give you the chance to grow and mature in your own professional personal development. Finally, it is no secret that having an MVP Award attached to your name adds a lot of personal value to your career, and most of the time, your employer knows this too. They know that having an MVP on staff will only serve to strengthen their relationship with Microsoft as a Partner. Clearly, this can work out to the benefit of all involved.
Laurie: How does the Microsoft Technical Community help you in your role?
Josh: The Microsoft Technical Community has been an incredible resource for keeping up the latest announcements about product developments and changes. It seems that any time I learn about something new in Skype for Business or Teams, it is tied back to a blog post on the Tech Community. And these posts are always so clean, concise, and informative. It makes it easier for me when it comes to preparing content for my [somewhat] weekly #Skype4BRecap webcast! Beyond the news, the Tech Community has become a thriving resource to not only help individuals troubleshoot and dig into their technical questions, but to also ask a question when I find myself on the side of needing some help! If you have not created a profile out on the Microsoft Tech Community, but you live in the Skype for Business and Teams worlds, you are missing out!
Laurie: Who is another MVP who you respect and why?
Josh: Anthony Caragol was kind enough call me out on this question, and I would just like to say that he is definitely someone that comes to mind as well. He has been insightful, answered questions, been accessible, and extremely supportive since I first started cranking out webcasts. Thank you, Anthony!
While there are so many MPVs that are just incredibly invaluable to the community and great embodiments of the Award, @Greig Sheridan is one that comes to mind immediately, and that I want to call out. I was well aware of who Greig was before I ever started contributing my own content because of his blog, which continues to rescue me at random times to this day. When I really started to become involved in the community, though, Greig would surface occasionally to show support for what I was doing, bring encouragement, offer very helpful feedback and advice, and even correct my grammar mistakes! (He is probably tearing this paragraph up as he reads it!) Aside from being an incredible Blogger, being very technically detailed, and a being supportive and encouraging member of the community, Greig is also a very talented developer. One of the most annoying problems I found as I started needing to troubleshoot various environments was the need to constantly sign in and out of my client, several times a day, with various sets of credentials. It turns out, Greig thought that was annoying too, and had created an AMAZINGLY helpful tool called Bounsky. My troubleshooting world was transformed, as I was not able to sign in-and-out of various accounts with the click of a single button! This is probably one of the most widely used tools that I know of among Microsoft UC professionals. So, a very big THANK YOU to Greig for all you have done for the Skype for Business community, and all you continue to do! Tag you're it!
Hey Josh - Thanks for sharing a bit more about yourself and your passions. We look forward to seeing you at Ignite. For those of you joining, please look for Josh (and the other MVPs) and say hello.