Interview – Dave Kawula – MVP, Consultant, Author

2017 is kicking off with my third interview blog post, this time focusing on Dave Kawula, MVP and author focusing on Microsoft Technologies. Let’s kick off straight into the interview itself, Dave likes to type! Longest interview yet, but its a great read.

(Dave is the one on the left, little known fact, but there is more pictures of Dave and Clint Wyckoff together on twitter than Dave and his wife 🙂 )

The interview is split into three area’s of discussion;

  • Life and Worklife
  • Thoughts on the industry
  • Thoughts for those working in IT, and those wanting to work in IT
Lets kick off with a brief introduction of yourself

I’m a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) with over 20 years of experience in the IT industry. My background includes data communications networks within multi-server environments, led architecture teams for virtualization, System Center, Exchange, Active Directory, and Internet gateways. Very active within the Microsoft technical and consulting teams, providing deep-dive technical knowledge and subject matter expertise on various System Center and operating system topics.

As the founder and Managing Principal Consultant at TriCon Elite Consulting, I find myself as a leading technology expert for both local customers and large international enterprises, whilst managing to find time to also act as an evangelist, most notably for Microsoft and Veeam.

Recently in late 2016, I’ve founded MVPDays Publishing.  It is a publishing house that helps aspiring and current technology professions get their content published in Book, E-Book, and Video.

Other Websites:

So you wear many hats, business owner, consultant, author, evangelist. If you had to cut back, which area would you choose?

That is a really hard question to answer. I love every aspect of what I do but if I had to choose I would cut out being a consultant. I have run my own businesses as a serial entrepreneur for the past 20 + years so it would be very hard to give that up.

Brilliant news on achieving best selling author on Amazon, what was the hardest part of producing the Master PowerShell books?

It was the first book that we had publish on our own.   So learning all of the mechanics of self-publishing through Amazon was a bit tricky.   Honestly it has gone so well that we are proud to announce that we have started a new Publishing Company under our MVPDays brand called MVPDays publishing.

We currently have two books out there:

  • Master PowerShell Tricks Volume 1
  • Master Storage Spaces Direct Volume 1

and 2 more that will be ready by March, 2017

  • Master PowerShell Tricks Volume 2  (It is done just in editorial)
  • Master Azure Templates Volume 1

All of the content is authored by expert Microsoft MVP’s or Industry experts.   Working with such smart people actually make this process quite easy.

What is the biggest challenge you have in your job day to day at the moment?

Staying on top of all of the new technology.   I have made a commitment to my family with 6 kids to be around and coach their hockey teams and participate in their activities.   This has taken away a lot of my evening time that I used to use to stay on top of everything.

So for me it is about being hyper-focused on the activities that I am working on and maximizing every single minute of the day.   That way when family time comes I can commit 100 % to that in the same way I do to my work.

My new motto is #LifeLifeBalance.

You can always find more work, different work, however you cannot replace the precious moments that you have with your family. I spent 15 years of my career with my priorities mixed up and now am trying to make up for it. It isn’t easy but it is worth it.

How do you make sure you have a good work-life balance? Surely its a struggle with the fact you also work with your partner?

Ahh yes the working with my wife question. Honestly we have worked together for almost the past 20 years. I wouldn’t change it for the world. Why … Because we 100 % trust each other in our personal and business lives.

This is something that makes it very difficult to run a business.

We make sure to surround ourselves with amazing people that can take care of things while we go away. Heck we spent the first 15 years of our business careers together without even taking a vacation. We waited 10 years into our marriage to take our honeymoon.

So yes now is our time for our #lifelifebalance. I know it seems like we are always traveling which we do a lot of for sure. But when we work we give 150% to what it is that we commit too. Because we know if we want to continue the lifestyle that we have … The continual hard work is a must.

I am just hoping that this rubs off on our kids so they can see if you not only work hard. But, work harder than anyone around you and give it your honest and absolute best effort… Greatness is waiting for you.

If you sit back and wait for something to happen you will be waiting a long time. Life is right in front of you go live it and have no regrets about your choices.

If you could go back and change anything about the projects  you’ve worked on in the past, what would it be and what would you  change?

This one is tough because all of the mistakes that I have made have made me into the person that I am today.   I feel that making mistakes is what improves us as individuals.
If I had to pick one thing though I would say I would have said no to certain projects and or fired some clients.   Not every project is a good fit for your organization.  Knowing when to say no and walk away at the beginning is sometimes very hard.   You an get yourself into a really bad spot biting off more that you can handle.

What’s the costliest mistake you’ve made in your career?

Growing my company too fast.   We had a company that was growing so fast that we ran it out of cash.   As I have become more experienced I know that Cash is king and that slow growth is safe growth.

How do you expect the IT landscape to change over the next 5 years, and how do you expect this to affect your role?

I believe that people like me are becoming obsolete.   The usefulness of IT PRO, Server Admins, and guys that help build on premise infrastructure are dying out.

As a Consultant I have completely changed our focus for our company to cloud first and deal with the remaining on premise infrastructure as required.

As a Business owner I have had to transform our model into a CaaS (Consulting as a Service).   We fix bid a lot of jobs and have had to re-focus our efforts into an annuity business as the project work is becoming harder and harder to find.

What industry changes are you seeing from your customers uptake? Personally, I see customers loving cloud services such as Office 365, but still weary of services such as Azure.

Azure IaaS services for me are the biggest surprise.   I know that in other parts of the world people are not seeing as big of a chance.  In our part of the world with the depressed Oil prices and our economy so heavily relying on it we have seen a massive uptake in the following:

No More CAPEX purchases.  Use what we have and put the rest in the cloud.   Don’t renew the VMWare licenses and let’s move it to Azure.

No more DR Site.   We are not paying for gear and a solution to replicate infrastructure.   Replicate it to Azure and call it a day with Azure Site Recovery.

Microsoft new pricing model for their enterprise customers makes the extremely attractive.

Basically for the price of your Co-Location costs your can get your compute and DR solution taken care of for you in Azure.   It’s pretty hard for a CTO to look at this and combined with no more future CAPEX purchases and IT at the flip of a switch…

IT is becoming less of a black hole to businesses.

Microsoft are certainly a different company now than a few years ago, they planned to move to being a services company and seem to be now achieving this thanks to Azure and Office 365. How have these changes affected your career path and business?

Yes absolutely… I think that Microsoft was on a path of obsolescence a mere 4-5 years ago.   If they hadn’t changed their CEO and made some bold investments in the Cloud they would have been history.   Now they are once again a market leader and companies are and continue to trust their most Critical infrastructure with the Microsoft Cloud.

Microsoft has taken this to the next level with making the transition from on premise infrastructure to the cloud nearly seamless.  Their Azure Stack on premise Azure Environment is absolutely amazing and the way they are willing to share with the Open Source Community is also a big reason for their recent success.

For me the new Microsoft = Transparency.

Avaya have just filed for bankruptcy, HPE have just swallowed Simplivity, what vendors should we keep an eye on, or are in trouble?

I think Avaya and other companies that haven’t figured out the cloud are going to be going away very quickly.   Cloud is the new norm for most organizations and if your company doesn’t have a cloud play you are irrelevant in today’s market.  Take a look at Microsoft … If they didn’t make this shift three to four years ago where would they be today.
It was a HUGE risk and it paid off big time for them.   Look their new CTO came over from their LinkedIn acquisition.   I think we will be seeing more and more takeovers for companies that are struggling to figure this out.

If you’re hiring, what are you looking for in the candidate?

I am looking for someone that is willing to understand the value of mentorship from someone that has been around and seen the IT Industry grow up around them.   I am not looking for someone that is looking for a quick paycheck and my company being a lily pad that they can jump off to the next best thing.
I understand the value comes in two folds… It is not only the value that is provided from the employee doing their job / work.  It is also about the value that the employer gives to the employee.
Biggest attribute for me is someone that is willing to take big risks in their professional career and be willing to learn new things on almost a daily basis.
It’s never boring working with us.

What skills should people be looking to learn at the moment (or what skill gaps do you see in the market at the moment)?

You must learn cloud from the big providers (AWS, Azure, Google, etc). Also, getting ramped up on their cloud service offerings like those of Office 365 are a must. The traditional certification like a Microsoft MCSE is becoming irrelevant and you must transition your skills before you become irrelevant as well.

What vendors/technologies should we keep our eye on, where should we be looking for the next big thing?

I think the #1 technology to keep your eyes on is Cyber Security. The modern attacks are happening every day and if a business isn’t prepared for this it is a real problem. So any vendor in the Security Space is going to be VERY Hot for the next 24-36 months.

Finally, its 2017, what personal and work goals have you set yourself?

In 2017 my BIG Goal is to continue building up our MVPDays brand and take the show global.  In 2016, we accomplished our goal of taking the roadshow all over North America.
Also along those lines build up our MVPDays Publishing brand and continue to provide some amazing content from outstanding authors.
Lastly, my Biggest goal is to spend just as much or more down time with my family.   Even at the risk that financially this isn’t as good of a year it is way more important to Cristal and myself to build our family memories.

I first met Dave and his wife Cristal at an event held by Veeam in London, UK. At the time I didn’t realise they were behind the #MVPDays buzz, something we haven’t really touched on in this interview, there was way too many topics we had to drop to be honest. It’s great to see the commitment to the community they both display, as well keeping things fun at all times. Thanks Dave for taking part, and I’ve no doubt you’ll continue to be a pillar of the community for years to come.

Regards
Dean


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