This year, BitTitan is proud to announce that we have three Microsoft MVPs!
We’ll be featuring each in our MVP Series to learn more about their backgrounds, skills, and careers as community leaders and IT professionals.
To get us stared, we interviewed Darrell Webster: a Senior Technology Strategist at BitTitan and true community leader. He’s a teacher at heart whose goal isn’t perfect expertise — it’s finding a product’s unique ability to support better collaboration, communication, and coordination.
[CB:] Can you tell us a little about your MVP specialties?
[DW:] To me, an MVP is mainly a community leader. Narrowing it down, I’m focused on productivity and collaboration, which circles mostly around the tools in Office 365. I focus on how to use these tools to communicate, collaborate, and coordinate.
I don’t really see myself as a deep expert in anything, though. I’m someone who can use something, put pieces together, say “here take this and this” and help you be more productive.
[CB:] Can you describe your professional career as a movie montage?
[DW:] Paint the Forrest Gump picture: I began studying as a primary school teacher, got partway through and realized teaching at schools wasn’t for me. But, I did have a passion for helping people.
After that, I got into IT because I could type.
I was selling clothes part time, needed full-time work, and was offered work for a business company that was hosting a basic cloud environment back in the early days, for a nationwide optometrist.
The learning curve was very on-the-job, almost cowboy-ish. They’d say, “Hey Darrell, can you do that?” I’d say, “I can learn it.” They’d reply, “Okay, so we’ll sell that.”
I also left that role and took a break as a snail-mail, bicycling postman. I got a true appreciation for email…
A few years later, I returned to IT and got into Office 365 and the cloud, helping deploy for customers. Around that time, Local folks in NZ encouraged me to blog and share what I know. Over time, I became more adventurous in how I shared my knowledge, including running webinars. Eventually, I was nominated to become a Microsoft MVP.
[CB:] A mail man is an interesting shift away from IT! Were there skills you learned that help you now?
[DW:] Persistence. You have days where mail is pretty light and you can finish your day within a few hours, then get paid for 6! Then there were days, like during an election year, where anyone over 18 would receive multiple letters to make sure they’re enrolled t vote, to remind them to show up to the polls. I remember there were weeks I’d start at 6:00 AM and I’d still be delivering mail at 5:00 at night. I know it’s not a physical thing with IT, but it’s still about persistence and keeping at it.
[CB:]You have a lot of different experiences, so what is your proudest career moment?
[DW:] Opportunities just seem to keep coming, like with Forrest Gump. A recent one was when I was at Microsoft Ignite in Atlanta last year. I had an opportunity to speak at 3 sessions, two of which were the public theater style out in the expo hall. The third was a new event Microsoft was doing with the Surface hub and I kind of bumbled into the presentation.
I had just begun to learn how to use the Surface Hub and the day I came in they were doing a huge presentation to some medical professionals about Azure. They asked me to give an impromptu lesson to them. Then, they realized they wanted some training for the other Microsoft MVPs.
There I was, on opening day of the Hub thinking, “If I can figure out how to use it, then I can also pass it on.” These two sessions ended up being quite interactive and I had to present everything from an iPhone, showing some “working on the move” tricks, completely devoid of a Windows phone at the Ignite Conference!
While it may not be my proudest moment, it demonstrates how I roll.
[CB:] You began your IT with your typing skills — which is no longer a common point of entry. What industry shift during your career has surprised you most?
[DW:] I know it plays nicely into what we do and the whole cloud story but this is kind of why I’ve gelled so well with Office 365. Here’s a technology that used to be difficult to implement yourself, on-prem, and now it’s just as easy as “I want to use that.”
These sorts of things now feel cliché, but it’s actually a beautiful, amazing thing. It’s a bit like going on a flight — you might get used to it, and I certainly did a lot of flying last year — but every time I’m taking off I think about how amazing it is that a huge hunk of metal can get you into the air like that. The accessibility and ease to get things into the cloud is similarly taken for granted, but it’s truly amazing.
Follow Darrell on twitter: @DarrellaaS