Fabulous 40 with Andrew Connell

Published on: September 24, 2019

The Fabulous 40 video series, hosted by VP of Product Technology Dan Stoll (@_danstoll) interviews members of the Office 365 & SharePoint community. Dan delivers a rapid fire of 40 questions that let you get to know about that things that drive and inspire the leading minds in Office 365.


This week on the Fab 40, Microsoft MVP of 15 years Andrew Connell (@andrewconnell) joins Dan.

Andrew is near and dear to our hearts here at Hyperfish as co-host of the Microsoft Cloud Show podcast with our Co-founder Chris Johnson. As founder, Chief Course Artisan, and Instructor at Voitanos, Andrew hosts courses and training on SharePoint, Office 365 and Microsoft Azure. In this Fab 40 we cover what he's doing in Seattle, his time in the SharePoint community and more!


Full Transcript

Dan:                      Okay. Yo, yo, yo, yo.

Andrew:              What's up man?

Dan:                      Man, man, what's going on?

Andrew:              Not much. How you doing, eh?

Dan:                      Oh, yeah, good, good man. What brings you to beautiful Seattle?

Andrew:              Well, a conference. We're here at SP Fest Seattle, right?

Dan:                      What's your favorite thing to do in Seattle?

Andrew:              Come to SP Fest.

Dan:                      Seriously? Not the chowder? Coffee?

Andrew:              No, you know what? Yeah, no. Going to the Museum of Flight.

Dan:                      Any time for sightseeing this trip?

Andrew:              No, not on this trip.

Dan:                      Were you able to catch the keynote yesterday at the Fest?

Andrew:              No, I wasn't able to catch keynotes. I was working on my session.

Dan:                      All right, yeah. And what session was that?

Andrew:             It was doing Robust and Reliable SharePoint Framework Components with Azure                                    DevOps.

Dan:                      A large crowd then.

Andrew:              Actually it was. It was a great crowd.

Dan:                      What workshop did you run this year?

Andrew:              I did two. I did one on Introduction to the SharePoint Framework on Monday, and                                     then I did a workshop on Using React to the SharePoint Framework on Tuesday.

Dan:                      Got you. And I guess talking about the SPFx is your favorite speaking topic right                                         now?

Andrew:              Right now, it is. Yeah, it's all I'm talking about.

Dan:                      What's the best thing about the modern framework?

Andrew:              It's fun. Every skill set you learned for being able to extend SharePoint now when                                     you're using the SharePoint framework, those skill sets they're just web dev skill                                       sets. You can take advantage of those outside of SharePoint as well.                                                                  So its transferable skills.

Dan:                      We saw that with the Hyperfish stuff, right?

Andrew:              Yeah.

Dan:                      We can now do our web parts within Office 365, but they can also be installed into                                   Teams.

Andrew:              Exactly, yeah.

Dan:                      Which is super cool. Do you have any of your own favorite speakers in the Office                                       365 community?

Andrew:              Oh man, I got to play favorites. Now, do I mention everybody or none of them? I                                         like going to see Seb. Sebastian Levert. I really like to go watch him speak. I like his                                     style.

Dan:                      Right, got you. And where is the best place to learn about SPFx?

Andrew:             Aside from the SharePoint framework docs. I'm a little partial, but my training is                                        pretty darn good.

Dan:                      Okay, yeah, I guess. Plug thereon.

Andrew:              That's fine.

Dan:                      What's your favorite part of the SharePoint Office 365 community?

Andrew:              Favorite? How engaged everybody is. How much everybody gives back and wants                                   to help each other and they contribute solutions without being asked to do stuff.

Dan:                      And what's the next conference this year where we can see you speak at?

Andrew:              You'll see me at Ignite, in November. That'll be the next one.

Dan:                      At Atlanta? Oh no, it's Orlando. It's Orlando, again.

Andrew:              Orlando! Right down down the street from me.

Dan:                      I know.

Andrew:              It's great.

Dan:                      It's going to be so much better in November than bloody September.

Andrew:              It will be better. It will not be nearly as bad, yeah.

Dan:                      No, exactly. Do you have a favorite Office 365 event?

Andrew:              A favorite event. You know what, I know I'm playing partial here. I love the                                                    SharePoint Fest events. All three of them. I think the attendees are probably the                                        most engaging of all the events I go to. I have the best conversations with them.

Dan:                      Yeah, sure. What was your first impression of SharePoint?

Andrew:              Of SharePoint? I hated it. I was forced into it.

Dan:                      When was this? Like, 1974?

Andrew:              September, 2003. We had to pick a portal solution for our company. SharePoint                                         was number four in our list. We were going to go with number one and the                                                     company said, "We just signed an Enterprise agreement with Microsoft. You're                                           using SharePoint." Like, what?

Dan:                      What were you doing before that? 

Andrew:              Homegrown. It was all Homegrown.

Dan:                      Oh, it was Homegrown.

Andrew:              All bespoke, yeah.

Dan:                      How did you get into SharePoint development and consulting in the first place?

Andrew:              I was forced at that time. We were working on our intranet. We said we're going                                       to use this and we had to customize it. So we just started to kind of, we just ... it                                           wasn't doing what we needed to do, so we just kept customizing it to do what we                                       needed for our intranet. That was the big thing. From there, we kind of maxed out                                     on the project and I brought a company in to teach us and that company reached                                      out to me after about a year and said, "Would you like to start teaching for us?"

                                I left them. One thing led to another, went independent, and started doing                                                      consulting.

Dan:                      You mentioned your own training. What's your elevator pitch?

Andrew:              My elevator pitch. I don't have a good one.

                                I teach SharePoint framework development to web developers and SharePoint                                          developers and I do it in a video based, on demand, at your leisure training class,                                        deep 30-40 hours of training material, demos and lectures.

Dan:                      Now I'm going to trouble you with this but where did you come up with the name                                       Voitanos?

Andrew:              Voitanos.

Dan:                     Is that like some gaming character or something?

Andrew:              No, it's not. It's actually, it was the name of another business I started that I                                                   decided not to do. When I started the training business I was like, well I already                                           got this thing registered. I've got a domain and everything, so this will be the easy                                     part. Come up with a name.

Dan:                      And when did you decide to start your own business?

Andrew:              Well, it was kind of the only option I had. When I wanted to sell my own training, I                                      didn't want to sell it under my name. I wanted to sell it under a brand because I                                            wanted to have other courses eventually be under it as well, and I didn't want                                              people to always think it was you had to go to Andrew for it because eventually I'd                                    like to have other people involved with it as well.

Dan:                      Just in case you know you got hit by a bus or something like that.

Andrew:              Yeah, exactly. It's an asset. Or maybe one day I want to end up selling it or                                                       something. Really, I just want to be able to just give me more options to kind of                                            expand it.

Dan:                      What's your favorite part of teaching Office 365?

Andrew:              I love ... well, what are my favorite part of teaching? That's a good question. It's the                                   web development stuff to show people that this is today with SharePoint                                                       framework, that it's just standard web dev. I don't like when other people make it                                      seem like everything is SharePointing. But if I can get them just the, you're a web                                      dev and your stuff is going to run in SharePoint, these skills you can use elsewhere,                                  like I talked about earlier.

Dan:                      Do you prefer online or in-person training?

Andrew:              Well, it's a mix. I prefer to do online, but for conferences and workshops, I like to                                       do them in person. I don't like to do like the multi-day classes in person. It's just                                           when once you've got a class you've taught at one or two times, you get into a                                             repetitive thing and it just, it's an energy sucked out of it.

Dan:                      What's the most in demand Office 365 topic that you're training for?

Andrew:              SharePoint Framework.

Dan:                      How long have you been a Microsoft MVP now?

Andrew:              16 years? 15 years. 15 years, yeah.

Dan:                      And what's the coolest place you've visited for work?

Andrew:              Coolest place I visited? Norway. Oslo, Norway or Trondheim, Norway. Those are                                       my favorite places to go.

Dan:                      Any reason why?

Andrew:              It was so different than what I was used to. I got to spend more time than I                                                     intended to there because I got stuck there when the volcano shut down air travel                                   in Europe for an extra week. I've been there a few times now. I love it. I love                                                   Norway.

Dan:                      Looping back on the MVPs here, what's the best thing about being an MVP?

Andrew:              You know, it's the passion around everybody else that is also an MVP. When we all                                   get together and come up with solutions, everyone is just trying to figure                                                         something out. Nobody's trying to work or most people are not trying to work an                                     angle. It's in their best interest. I like the fact that everyone is just ... it's like a very                                     intellectual, helping, and learning environment.

Dan:                      I've done a few of these interviews now and all the MVPs that I've spoken to have                                    always said it's the community. It's the other MVPs. It's not so much the program                                      or some of the content that comes out, but it's more so that the supporting                                                    network of other MVPs that they're surrounded by.

Andrew:              Well, there's stuff that I was struggling with over the last two weeks and I knew                                         there was one guy that had been working on it. I went, we started speaking about                                     it yesterday and we just started beating around the bush and it's like, "What about                                  this? What about this?" It's like, I didn't have these questions, but now I figured out                                  stuff I didn't know I needed to know.

Dan:                      That's awesome. Now, I heard that SharePint was your idea. Is that true?

Andrew:              It's true. It actually is. We did it, we started it in 2007, in the fall at a conference                                         called SharePoint Connections in Las Vegas.

Dan:                      I remember a thing called the SP runners, which I vaguely was a part of for                                                    about a month until I realized I didn't like running. Were you ever part of the SP                                         runners?

Andrew:              I ran with them, yes. The company I used to have, we kind of helped keep that                                               going for a while. I still do it every once in a while, but yeah, I do a little bit.

Dan:                      Any other Microsoft technology you'd love to see go away?

Andrew:              Go away? Yammer.

Dan:                      What's an Office 365 app that you can't live without?

Andrew:             None of them. I can do without any of them. I've spent a lot of time with Google                                          Apps and Google Drive and Slack and I can get by with anything.  So there's                                                    nothing that is really, that I could not do without. The thing about it that I like                                              Office 365 is everything goes well together.

Dan:                      Did you head out at Microsoft HQ this trip?

Andrew:              No, I didn't. I'm not going to make a chance.

Dan:                      What Office 365 app do you use for your own work?

Andrew:              For my own work? OneNote and Outlook are probably the most and now, which is                                   kind of ironic, is I've been pretty vocal against it, but now OneDrive. I love                                                       OneDrive.

Dan:                      How do you stay up to date with the latest Office 365 content?

Andrew:              Oh, I don't. Nobody does. Anybody that says they do is lying. I focused on the dev                                     slice of it and I stay up to date on that, but all the other stuff, there's so many                                                 features that come out. I have no clue about them until like six months later.

Dan:                      Favorite podcast other than the Microsoft Cloud Show?

Andrew:              Experts on Experts by Dax Shepard.

Dan:                      Ah, that is really fun.

Andrew:              Yeah, it's good.

Dan:                      I really like that. What news can we expect on the next episode of the Cloud Show                                     or the Microsoft Cloud Show?

Andrew:              Oh, our podcast? We've got a ... we just recorded today. We're going to talk about                                     Azure DevOps and then we talk about some new stuff with the Graph around the                                     Graph toolkit and a content pack that they added, and a couple of little new things                                   with Azure as well that are pretty cool.

Dan:                      If you could replace your co-host CJ, who would you get?

Andrew:              Honestly? Wow. You know what? I probably want to get Rob Windsor. I probably                                       want to get Rob Windsor. He's the guy I'd like to have on the show. Another                                                    SharePoint guy.

Dan:                      Do you have any double XLs in the Microsoft Cloud T-shirts?

Andrew:              Offhand, right now, we don't. We need to get some more. We got to do another                                         run pretty soon.

Dan:                      There's a ton of space in banter on the Microsoft Cloud show with CJ. Is that a                                             passion of yours?

Andrew:              It is. Oh yeah. I'm a space geek. Hardcore.

Dan:                      Well, I know CJ is.

Andrew:              That comes very naturally to both of us.

Dan:                      Do you have antennas attached to your house, as well, so you can monitor                                                     airplanes?

Andrew:              No, I don't get to. I don't do that, but I can stand at my window. When a rocket                                             goes off, I can watch it online and then walk outside and I can see it go.

Dan:                      Do you stream it for CJ?

Andrew:              I have before. We've done a Facebook Live. Or not a Facebook Live. It was called                                       FaceTime before.

Dan:                      Oh dear! Any plans to go to the moon?

Andrew:              No. When it becomes an option, I definitely will make plans.

Dan:                      How do you keep up to date with all of your content?

Andrew:              Oh man, it's really hard. Thankfully, things happen on a schedule, about a month,                                       month and a half between each one. And so when that happens, I can see is there                                       anything that's radically changed that I have to go update and if I do, try to do it                                          with text. But if I need to also record it, we record a video and publish it out in the                                      next release of my course.

Dan:                      All right, cool. Cool. Now you've already surpassed Mark Rackley on time for this                                      interview. Any parting words of wisdom?

Andrew:              Parting words of wisdom. Okay, how's this? I'm speaking to my SharePoint                                                     developers out there. Always be learning. That's one. The other one is: stop being                                     part of the problem, be part of the solution or don't get involved.

Dan:                      All right, cool. Well thanks, Andrew. Thanks for chatting and I'll let you get back                                        into it and then go grab some lunch.

Andrew:              Awesome.

Dan:                      I'll catch your run.

Andrew:              Cool. Thanks a lot.

Dan:                      See that. Bye.


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