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Atlanta SharePoint Community – A Behind the Scenes Look at Getting Involved

Find this Podcast “Atlanta SharePoint Community – A Behind the Scenes Look at Getting Involved” on the ThreeWill Soundcloud, Stitcher, and iTunes.

Atlanta SharePoint Community – A Behind the Scenes Look at Getting Involved

Danny:Hello and welcome to the ThreeWill podcast. This is your host Danny Ryan and I am here with Pete Skelly, the man who is taller than me here in the office. How are you doing Pete?

 

Pete:I’m doing well.

 

Danny:Yeah? Excellent, excellent. So we’re getting together for our little quarterly pow wow here. Catch up on things.

 

Pete:Good to be back.

 

Danny:Good to have you in here. You’ve been busy with some community events now.

 

Pete:Yes I have.

 

Danny:Excellent. We just did Oliver is here with me in the room and we went to the world famous SharePoint Saturday-

 

Pete:SharePoint Saturday Atlanta yeah.

 

Danny:Yes Atlanta.

 

Pete:17 17th.

 

Danny:Excellent, excellent. Tell me a little bit. I just want to cover some of the stuff that you do, some of the behind the scenes. What is it that you do for the community-

 

Pete:Sure.

 

Danny:We can talk about the specific events. I know we also have the monthly get together with the … what do you officially call it-

 

Pete:SharePoint user, well SharePoint and Microsoft 365 user.

 

Danny:Thank you. Okay gotcha.

 

Pete:Yeah.

 

Danny:Showing the love there.

 

Pete:Yeah.

 

Danny:So tell me more about what you do.

 

Pete:Little bit of a backstory. I’ve been involved in the community in Atlanta for, technical community in Atlanta for about the last four almost five years now. It started after my wife left her position at the CDC because we were a dual income family and both of us were working with kids. It was real hard to be involved in the community so-

 

Danny:Yeah.

 

Pete:About five years ago I started to get involved and about three years ago I really got heavily involved and became one of the co-organizers of the Microsoft 365 and SharePoint user group here in Atlanta.

 

Danny:Nice.

 

Pete:For about the past five years I’ve been involved in several of the conferences that go on in Atlanta, one being the most recent SharePoint Saturday that we had this Saturday and the Atlanta Code Camp, which is typically in the fall, this year it’s going to be September 16th.

 

Danny:Okay.

 

Pete:Then myself and Dan Attis and Tyler Bithell started a Cloud Saturday. Last year was the second annual and this year we’re targeting early January 2018 for the-

 

Danny:Okay.

 

Pete:-no date picked yet but those are the three conferences that we do. Obviously Code Camp is quite large so there’s several … there’s a lot of other folks who are involved in that. Planning committee-wise there’s some … I think six or seven folks that are typically involved.

 

Danny:These events are held in different places in the community or where?

 

Pete:Yeah so because Cloud Saturday is a little smaller event and it’s only the second year, Microsoft has typically sponsored that and through sponsoring it has allowed us to use the technology center here in Alpharetta so that’s typically also a Saturday event. That’s a smaller venue so typically four or five tracks and five sessions in each track per day or for the day.

 

Danny:So SharePoint Saturday is on a Saturday that’s what you’re saying?

 

Pete:That’s what I’m trying to say. Cloud Saturday too just to … I wasn’t clear.

 

Danny:Cloud Saturday is not on a Sunday?

 

Pete:No it’s not. Atlanta Code Camp although there is no Saturday in the name typically is on a Saturday as well.

 

Danny:Is also on a Saturday.

 

Pete:Just to be clear.

 

Danny:Do people find that they do their best coding on a Saturday morning or something like that or?

 

Pete:In all seriousness we’ve juggled and thrown around the idea of doing the conferences on a work day, wondering if that would be better. Most of the events are free or nominal charge really for lunch so speakers that attend, they’re there on their own dime, they’re volunteering their time. We don’t pay speakers. So the Saturday events, it can be hit or miss.

 

Danny:Yeah.

 

Pete:Especially in the Spring or Summer if we pick the wrong week and everybody’s on vacation, we can have low attendance so it’s a challenge. There’s a lot of events in the south east. South east is a pretty vibrant community between Nashville and Birmingham, Atlanta, Jacksonville. There’s a whole slew of … SharePoint Saturday is just one but there are many other conferences throughout the years.

 

Danny:Okay.

 

Pete:Yeah. Other than that, monthly we have the SharePoint and Microsoft 365 user group that meets at the Microsoft Alpharetta office in TC in Alpharetta and that’s run by myself, Dan Addis. Dan and Ron Jones started the user group about nine years ago, a little over nine years ago. I’ve been as I said heavily been involved in that in the last probably three to four years. Those are our monthly events, every third Monday night. So every third Monday we get together. We could have one or two speakers, sometimes some short lightning talks. They all center around … it varies. We try to mix it up so there’s some IT pro talks-

 

Danny:Yeah.

 

Pete:-some developer talks, what’s new, how do people use certain pieces of SharePoint overall as a collaboration tool, as workflow. Are there products that people have used and most of it’s all community driven so folks here in the Atlanta area we sometimes bring in folks from other areas. This coming July we’ll have a speaker from Jacksonville, Ben Stegink. He’s doing some PowerShell reporting. We’re on Meetup.com. So if you’re looking to find any information of if anybody is looking to find any information, they can visit Meetup.com and look for Microsoft 365 and SharePoint in Atlanta or any other group, there’s tons. There’s hundreds if not mid hundreds of user groups in the Atlanta area that range all over the place.

 

Danny:What’s been the most difficult thing about doing this, starting to get involved in the community and just trying to run these events and … what’s been probably a bigger challenge than you expected it to be once you initially took this on?

 

Pete:Two things, one that’s going to really hit home to you and you’re going to say, “I told you so”. The other is and I’ll say the other one first, just getting speakers.

 

Danny:Yeah.

 

Pete:I mean I think trying to get folks to realize that you don’t have to know everything. You can be working on something and just share something you learned. It may sound very funny or strange but a couple of the best talks I think I’ve heard are actually people talking about what they failed at. So somebody coming up and saying, “I worked on this project and we had x, y and z failures before we succeeded”. So really realizing it takes a certain personality to speak on a regular basis, but getting speakers is extremely difficult. A lot of people have impostor syndrome and “I don’t have anything to talk about” or “What I’m doing isn’t necessarily cutting edge so people don’t want to hear what I have to say” and it’s far from the truth. A lot of folks would say, in our case are we working with Microsoft 365. Do I know everything about Microsoft 365 or the SharePoint framework. I am hooking things up in Azure with Microsoft 365. Those aren’t necessarily the best topics. Some of the best topics are how am I using SharePoint out of the box and getting the most value out of that product. So it’s just really hard finding speakers in general.

 

The second thing that’s really hard. That’s in general across user group and any of the events. Second is marketing. That to me has been extremely difficult. I’m typically not the person very …  I’m not a huge Facebook user. I’m not somebody that’s typically throwing things out there all the time from a social-

 

Danny:Yeah.

 

Pete:Perspective.

 

Danny:Yeah.

 

Pete:So trying to do that and trying to stay on top of publicizing the event-

 

Danny:Yeah.

 

Pete:-making sure everybody’s aware of when things are occurring become a little bit better Twitter user-

 

Danny:Yeah.

 

Pete:-and a little bit better with Facebook and those types of things, but marketing is a huge challenge. Just letting people know what’s going on and making sure that folks are informed has been a big challenge. It’s been a stretch trying to-

 

Danny:Yeah.

 

Pete:-learn some new things. I know you use some marketing tools but for me it’s like, “Okay what can I use for free?”

 

Danny:Yeah yep.

 

Pete:So how do I schedule-

 

Danny:I have to do that a lot as well.

 

Pete:So how do we schedule tweets about the event. How do we use Facebook to publicize the event. What are we doing on the websites? Those are big challenges that as a “coder” or an engineer you don’t necessarily think about but they’re vital in anything, not just business in general but in community events especially.

 

Danny:Yep. It’s tough. It’s more difficult once you dig into it-

 

Pete:Yeah.

 

Danny:-than you expect it to be-

 

Pete:Yes.

 

Danny:It’s challenging in a good way.

 

Pete:Mm-hmm (affirmative) Oh yeah.

 

Danny:It definitely challenging. You’ve got the Code Camp that’s coming up and tell me a little bit more about what is a … I’ve never attended a Code Camp.

 

Pete:So Code Camp is a one day conference very similar to SharePoint Saturday or just a general technology event but where SharePoint Saturday or Cloud Saturday are niche, they focus on one specific area, Atlanta Code Camps or Code Camps occur across the country. Atlanta is an instance of Code Camp. They focus on anything. Where SharePoint Saturday may focus on Microsoft 365 and you get a lot of things like PowerApps or how do I use content types. Those are focused areas. Code Camp can be a wide range. So we can have anything from IoT to Cloud, using Amazon, using C# in Amazon for example. How do I use C#  for example. Can I do that? Take your pick, it’s a much broader spectrum. That pulls quite a large attendance typically close to 500 if not over range of registrants. The topics cover a much broader spectrum so it’s not Microsoft specific for example.

 

Danny:Okay.

 

Pete:For example last year we had a bunch of speakers that were IoT focused and Cloud focused.

 

Danny:So the Code Camp you’re listening in on sessions-

 

Pete:It’s a session … what we do, internally we have our [crosstalk] where it’s informative.

 

Danny:Informative and then we have … what’s when we get together later-

 

Pete:Oh the quarterly showcase?

 

Danny:No, where we actually code something.

 

Pete:Hackathon.

 

Danny:Thank you, thank you. I was having a senior moment. So nobody’s hacking anything at that point?

 

Pete:No, we’re actually working on one of those. One of the other community members here in Atlanta, Jared Rhodes who is big in the IoT community, we’re actually starting a hackathon for MedHacks this year, which we’re trying to focus for late summer. I’ve cursorily involved in that one-

 

Danny:Okay.

 

Pete:-but that’s hacking, that’s going to be a coding that’s I think a two day coding event, two to three day actually. Dan Addis and I have talked a lot about trying to do a hackathon for Microsoft 365 specifically and it is challenging. The one day event trying to get a single day venue those types of things, trying to find speakers for that is one challenge. We’re trying to have a hackathon where you’re doing something for a full day, trying to get judges, that’s a different challenge. We’re trying to get there-

 

Danny:Yeah.

 

Pete:-but that’s new territory for us. We do want to do that. We’ve got a couple of ideas as far as trying to do a hackathon for Office add-ins. Some of the newer technologies, user Office add-ins or SharePoint add-ins or trying to bridge how do I do things in Azure so that people get some exposure to those things.

 

Danny:Cool. I appreciate you doing all this stuff. I know sometimes it’s a thankless job. It’s a lot more work than people think.

 

Pete:Yes.

 

Danny:But I appreciate you doing it because it’s important for us to … there’s a couple aspects to this. One is what we do on a typical projects where you have to have a really well educated customer for some of the people that go to this. It’s part of the whole education process. It’s also I think for us as a growing company is also looking for the next … where is the next Threewill person going to come from and sometimes it’s through doing these community events where you get to meet other people-

 

Pete:Yep.

 

Danny:-and stuff like that so that’s definitely beneficial. I like that you guys have kept it up. Appreciate being a part of what you guys are doing. It’s not overly … some of these things it can be like showing up to a Georgia Tech party where there’s one girl there and 67 guys where they’re all consulting companies coming in and it seems like these events are an overall good sense of people are just trying to learn, what are you trying to learn. Oliver and I listen in while we’re down at the booth and everybody over there is just trying. Nobody’s overly sales-y and it’s a really good environment that you guys have set up.

 

Pete:Good, glad to hear it.

 

Danny:It’s really good so we really enjoyed being involved in that. We also liked the couches from … you probably saw my feedback on that. I don’t know. I’m so adverse to setting up that whole recruiting …

 

Oliver:A simple booth with some tables and folding chairs

 

Danny:A table sit down let’s talk. Let’s get real.  We enjoyed that. It was fun with the Jenga. Having people come over to the Jenga that was really nice. ‘ppreciate what you’re doing and I guess if people want to get in touch with you I guess you do check Twitter once in a while, what’s your handle on Twitter?

 

Pete:It’s peteskelley.

 

Danny:Okay.

 

Pete:On Twitter.

 

Danny:Excellent.

 

Pete:Obviously the same old places in LinkedIn.

 

Danny:Yep.

 

Pete:If anybody’s looking for how to get involved in community or even just attending community events, Meetup.com.

 

Danny:Meetup.com okay.

 

Pete:SharePoint and Microsoft 365 user group is the specific one for our monthly meetings. Third Monday of every month. Yeah, I mean get involved. If you have any desire to speak we’re always looking for speakers.

 

Danny:Awesome.

 

Pete:You do not have to be the world’s expert. It’s better to have some of those questions: what am I learning? Even if it’s a 15 minute lightning talk quote, that you just want to say something you learned, something you think is cool, just to spark a conversation so-

 

Danny:That’s great. So folks are looking to get involved in the community more and there’s the typical signup process but it’s good to reach out to Pete and let him know what you’re trying to do, what you’re trying to cover. Just the last question since I have you here in the room, you’re involved in our hiring … what types we’re looking for … I can go jump on our job openings page but anything you’re looking for right now in specific for or next at ThreeWill-

 

Pete:Right now senior consultants or folks that are early in their career as well so I think the exciting thing for us right now from a Microsoft technology stack and Microsoft 365 and SharePoint specifically is some of the things that have changed the last couple of years, have opened the doors to what I would call standard or typical web developers-

 

Danny:Okay.

 

Pete:So definitely I don’t want to say using the term SharePoint developer is a bad thing-

 

Danny:Yeah.

 

Pete:-but SharePoint development now is becoming more and more-

 

Danny:Job descriptable.

 

Pete:Yeah. If you know web development, if you know how to interact with web API’s, if you know TypeScript etc, saying you’re a SharePoint developer, it puts you in a box right. It’s hard to even do any type of recruiting with that. So now I’m trying to change my language to say web developer-

 

Danny:Yeah.

 

Pete:-who just happens to focus on SharePoint and Microsoft 365 at this point. The skills are becoming more and more transferrable where in the past they were a very specific tool set and you were in a box-

 

Danny:Yeah.

 

Pete:-from SharePoint developer and “limiting your career” when there’s none of that anymore.

 

Danny:Yeah.

 

Pete:Basically you’re going to interact with Azure, you’re going to interact with cloud services, you’re going to have to learn some different patterns, you’re going to have to learn TypeScript and web development in general, then treating SharePoint and Microsoft 365 in the graph and even on prem, just like standard web development is where things are headed so-

 

Danny:Cool.

 

Pete:So definitely looking for senior consultants and folks that are early in their career and look at web development in general, that’s really where we’re headed.

 

Danny:Awesome. Again reach out to Pete via Twitter-

 

Pete:Yeah absolutely.

 

Danny:-if you’re interested and learn more and definitely drop by Threewill.com and thank you for doing this Pete, ‘ppreciate it.

 

Pete:Yeah.

 

Danny:Thank you Oliver for sitting over there and listening to us and making sure everything’s okay. This is going to be your first post production of a podcast so you’ll have to listen to this Pete and see if you give it a thumbs up or not but it was fun. Thanks for doing this Pete.

 

Pete:Thanks again.

 

Danny:All right take care. Bye bye.

 

Danny RyanAtlanta SharePoint Community – A Behind the Scenes Look at Getting Involved

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