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!
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?
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?
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?
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.
Dan: I'll catch your run.
Andrew: Cool. Thanks a lot.
Dan: See that. Bye.