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Matt Sims - Microsoft Certified Master - Interview [Podcast]

Author by Matt Sims

In this episode Matt Sims discussed his career at Concurrency, Inc. as a Unified Communications Architect, UCT Lead working with Microsoft Exchange Server,  Microsoft Lync Server, and Microsoft Business Communications Technologies. Matt Sims is the only Wisconsin-based professional who has attained the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) Lync Server certification. Play now:  [display_podcast]

Podcast Transcript 

Marek: Hi this is Marek with the Concurrency Experts Podcast. Today we have Matt Sims, one of the concurrency engineers and I have the pleasure of speaking with him today. Hey Matt let’s start you off with an introduction of yourself. Could you explain to us about your current position with Concurrency?

Matt: My title with Concurrency is a Unified Communications Architect. The group that I work with, we work with Microsoft Lync Server and Microsoft Exchange Server. The whole scope of Microsoft’s business is Communications technology.

Marek: Great, that sounds like a very exciting job with communications and you probably do a lot of voice over IP?

Matt: Yes definitely a lot of fun and it’s an emerging field and it keeps us busy with many new challenges every day.

Marek: Matt could you tell us what you like best about your position as a Lync specialist.

Matt: I think I like best is the technology itself. It’s really fun for me to get under the hood of the technology to figure out how it works and how to best configure it and deploy it and to meet the businesses unique requirements. Every business is different and uses technology a bit differently, so it’s fun to craft a solution that fits best our clients’ needs.

Marek: Right now, interestingly enough, we are using Lync to conduct this podcast, aren’t we?

Matt: Yeah, absolutely! It is over the Wild West Internet, I am sitting in my apartment at home and linking back to the Concurrency server. It is pretty neat that we can be different spots and be able to conduct this.

Marek: Exactly. And you’re in Milwaukee right now and I am in Phoenix, Arizona.

Matt: Excellent. I assume that is much better weather over there than is here.

Marek: It depends how you define better!  Anyways, let’s get back to our questions at hand. I am really curious about the certifications that you are working on or have already earned while you are at Concurrency with Microsoft.

Matt: Oh sure. The certifications in the IT industry, I know you are well aware, are constantly changing at a very rapid pace and it is my job as an engineer at IT to try to keep up. The most recent certification that I went through is called the Microsoft Certified Masters program. This is a very cool program. It is held out in Redmond at the Microsoft campus. You go through three weeks of technical training and then you take an exam that is comprised of two parts. One part, is a four hour written exam and the other part, is an eight-hour lab exam. Once you pass both of those parts you’re now a Microsoft Certified Master.

Marek: Wow that sounds really serious man.

Matt: Yeah it’s fun. It’s a really cool program that brings people from all over the world together and it’s fun to trade stories back-and-forth about technology. In my class, there were folks from Western Europe, China, South Africa, and all over the place.

Marek: It’s amazing how technology brings the world together.

Matt: Absolutely!

Marek: Now, how many Microsoft Certified Masters in Lync Server do you have in Wisconsin?

Matt: I believe it’s just myself.

Marek: So you are the one and only man in Wisconsin with the Microsoft Master Lync server certificate.

Matt: Yes, I believe so.

Marek: Congratulations, that’s awesome.

Matt: Oh thanks Marek.

Marek: The next question that is on my mind is how your company, Concurrency, promotes continuing education.

Matt: Yes, that is very true. Much more so than any other company I have been with. There is a big emphasis on training and career development at Concurrency. It is one of the things that impressed me most about the company when I came onboard about 5 years ago. I can safely say that the company’s investment in me from the time that I’ve been a Concurrency has been increasing more and more so.

Marek: Absolutely. So do you have any special training programs that the company offers? Or is it just whatever you’re interested in you bring that up to the management and the support that? Or is it more something structured?

Matt: Within the different groups, we have a training program that is roughly based around the Microsoft program certifications. As a partner, the way we differentiate ourselves is by obtaining the Microsoft certifications. Much of the certification-training path is structured by Microsoft partner structure, but there are many opportunities for training outside this. For example, over the past couple months I have been going to a program called Sit School. This trains me about some of the protocols for voice over IP. That is just one example of a program that is outside of the Microsoft training track but we are encouraged to pursue it.

Marek: That’s great, it sounds like you have lots of opportunities for more education. Now, can you tell us what is the impact and the training of your certification on your career path and career goal.

Matt: Since starting at Concurrency, the passion I have for what I do during the day is much greater compared to before I started working. It is because of a couple of things. One, the challenging atmosphere and the high standards. I enjoy the challenges and striving to be my best. The impact of being at Concurrency on my career is that I am much more focused on where I am and where I would like to be in terms of my career. My goals have been constantly being processed because technology changes at a very rapid pace.

Marek: That’s great. You mentioned about your daily life about getting excited about his job now, let’s switchgears to a broader aspect. What type of influence does your position or chosen career have on your lifestyle.

Matt: That’s interesting. I don’t know if it’s had a huge impact on my lifestyle. One of the great things about the culture at Concurrency is our regional systems integrator. Many of our clients are local to Wisconsin and in the Milwaukee area. I know I’m not traveling five days a week and I do not have to deal with the stress that goes along with that because the business travel. The nice thing is, that I am able to be challenged and to go along with the culture of these neat technology challenges, but I am not encumbered of the traveling that goes alone with a gig like that.

Marek: Sure, but there are some opportunities to travel that you mentioned such as to Redmond, Washington, or to different tradeshows?

Matt: Oh yes, definitely. I attend a conference or two each year and that brings me to interesting places and it is a lot of fun, but it is a healthy amount of travel, not overkill.

Marek: Now let’s say you speak with someone that is just fresh out of college or in their last final years of college. What advice would you give them just entering this carrier track?

Matt: Oh, good question. I would say to anyone who is looking into information technology, to keep learning, technology will always be changing at a very rapid pace. Embrace that change to keep reading and to be on top of the changes. The second piece of advice that I would give is to always follow your passion. At the end of the day that is what you are going to be best at and what’s going to provide the most satisfaction. If you feed that, you will be all right.

Marek; Somebody smart said one time, “if you love what you do, you will never work one day in your life.”

Matt: Yes, absolutely.

Marek: A typical day or week, can you tell us what types of tasks you do in your function?

Matt: The vast majority of my day is working with clients and even more so on site with the client. For example, today I was working with the client with their Lync Server 2010. We were planning on what all goes into planning a voice system. Working with a carrier to understand how their server is structured and compiling reports from the recent past. Also, configuring network settings to be used with IP phones and scripting change within their active directory so they can make the most of their platform. That’s pretty much a typical day. Also, working with some technical pieces, like the nuts and bolts of the Microsoft technology and trying to figure out how to best apply technology to fit within the businesses unique requirements.

Marek: That sounds interesting. Do I also understand that Lync supports video and not just voice?

Matt: Oh yes, absolutely. Video is one of its bread and butter features. In fact the new release of Lync, which is coming to the market in the next couple of months, has video play that is much more pronounced from the last one.

Marek: Great! Now doesn’t Microsoft own Skype? One of the most popular video communication programs out there.

Matt: Yes, Microsoft did acquire Skype. In fact, one of the features that is coming within the next couple of months is interact ability with Skype. A link user and the Skype user can now communicate easily.

Marek: Sure, maybe one of our future podcasts can focus on the integration of Skype and videoconferencing tips and ideas from you?

Matt: Sure. Be happy to talk about that!

Marek: That would be fantastic. You mentioned something about corporate culture of Concurrency Inc. Can you tell us what is the corporate culture of Concurrency that you mentioned earlier?

Matt: Sure. If I could sum it up, it would be a lot of like-minded individuals who have a balanced perspective on work. Everyone takes their job very seriously and has high standards on what we do for our clients, but it is not a cutthroat environment by any stretch. It is a collaborative mindset. Often, I will go to a coworker with a problem that I can’t solve or I feel that I am at loss for or vice versa. We all work through things together. It is a very fun culture. There is a lot of joking around that we do. It is a great bunch of people.

Marek: That sounds great. And yet together as a team, you can brag about pretty cool accomplishments. This year alone, you have pocketed four Microsoft Partner of the Year awards.

Matt: Yes, we have been very fortunate in the last few years and it speaks to the group of people and to our clients. We are driven by our clients and try to do the best work we can.

Marek: That’s awesome. Well we have just a couple of more minutes. And I want to make sure that I ask you about the challenges in the industry or your current technology you are in. What is the industry looking at right now as far as your expertise?

Matt: Sure. There are a couple primary challenges in the IT department related to communication. One is that we are sitting with one foot in the past and one if the future in regards to connecting with a phone system. The public telephone network, is an aging infilstructure but is the lynch pin that connects all telephone networks. It connects the world, but it is not the future. It is very clear that the Internet is going to survive the future. Businesses are struggling and it comes down to when they should embrace what’s called Sit Trunking  for their telephony connections. This solidates their connectivity with their service provider with Internet and telephone connections. It is all pure IP connection. This is definitely where things are going, the PST’s days are numbered and a lot of businesses are struggling in trying to decide if they should make the leap to a pure IP connection.

Marek: Sure, is that related to what many cable companies of for their residential ISP, voice over IP is probably the same principles?

Matt: It is. Yes, absolutely. The idea is that if you can consolidate those connections, there are cost savings and eventually this will be how the market will be going. You can provide additional services that IP provides. A couple of quick examples of that, if you are incriminating an IP connection, you can offer enhanced 911 services from your provider. You can do video conferencing across your carrier connection and you can do presence awareness. There are many things that can be done once we ditch the PST, but it is just a matter of getting from point A to point B.

Marek: So that is basically adding new functionality to your communication and that is exactly what you are doing.

Matt: Yes, that is exactly what we are doing.

Marek: That’s great Matt, well there are a lot more questions that I want to ask you, but time is running out. Thank you for your input and hopefully we will connect soon again.

Matt: That sounds great. I look forward to it.


Matt Sims

Solution Lead - Unified Communications