John Lunn from South Wales, UK, is a Microsoft Technical Architect at BT Enterprise and an Azure MVP. You may also know John as one of the co founders of the Welsh Azure User Group. I don’t know John personally but following him on Twitter, he has a massive passion for tech, especially Microsoft Azure. He is always tweeting useful information and contributing towards sharing knowledge within the tech community. There is also a funny side of him, as you can see from his picture. He enjoys making Tech fun. A great quality to have, in my opinion.
John is an easy to approach person and will always try and assist, so do follow him via his social media platforms towards the end of this interview. As you’ll shortly find from John’s interview, he has committed most of his life to Tech, sharing knowledge and recently upped a gear to assist the tech community further via the Welsh Azure User Group. He’s definitely an individual you could have a laugh with. Let’s move on and find out more about John.
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John Lunn Interview
Tell us about yourself?
Hi everyone, my name is John Lunn and I live in South Wales, UK. My current position is a Technical Architect for BT Enterprise in the UK. I have worked in the IT industry for almost 20 years, starting off as that person in the office that ‘is pretty good with computers’ through to support generalist, IT analyst and developer, into the world of Consultancy and to where I now find myself working in Cloud Technical Architecture with BT’s customer base to help migrate and innovate on some really exciting and fantastic solutions built on Azure.
I live with my wife and 3 fantastic kids who keep me busy outside of my work and studies! I am an avid musician and have played drums in a band since a young age playing hundreds of shows up and down the UK, but haven’t really done that for a couple of years now (but the passion is still there!). I love watching Ice Hockey and tinkering with new technologies as you might expect!!
I love all things Science and Space related, adore physics, love watching Brian Cox, loved the Sky at Night, love skeptic evenings (when we could go to a pub) love learning about complicated things in a simple way……… I tend to find myself watching copious amounts of TedTalks and Science videos on YouTube……… my favourite style of video is Dr Quantum when Quantum Mechanics is explained in cartoon mode….. go check that out!
I think basically that I love to learn about complicated things and I really enjoy it when I find someone that explains it in a really simple way. I would love to have those kinds of talents!
Anyway, hopefully that gives you a little peek into my mindset!
What is your greatest achievement whilst working in the world of Tech?
I absolutely love working in technology, I think every engagement that I have worked on with each customer has been different and rewarding in so many different ways. Whether it’s helping a customer understand technology better, or finding a really clever technical fix to a problem, I have been privileged to have worked with so many great teams of people that have helped me nurture my skills and learn as well as working with some absolutely brilliant customers. It is so difficult to name one achievement as the greatest.
In an attempt to choose one greatest achievement, I think the journey that I have very recently turned to has had the most profound effect on the way that I think. I have spent so many years working internally with my employer and doing great things and taking the opportunity to turning those learnings and finding a platform to give back to the community via blog posts, social media interaction, speaking or videos has been a great achievement that is still a work in progress for me at the moment. It has taught me so much so far, and I am keen to keep learning from this way of thinking!
I know that was a very long answer to what I could summarise to being, my greatest achievement is realising what the ‘power of the community’ is and how rewarding giving back has been so far!
How did you get into IT?
I’m sure like most people who I speak with that work in technology of a similar age to me, I am no different! I started off with taking advantage of my older sisters C64 at about the age of 7 or 8 and remembering that blue screen of Basic! I started writing my first GOTO command not long after and actually all the rage at the time was trying to get a programme into a computing magazine that offered it to others on a cassette! I remember building a World Wrestling Federation indexer that had all the stats from the WWF Pay Per view events, and to compliment that, an Ice Hockey programme that explained the rules!! I remember them getting onto a cassette when I was about 10 or 11 years old and I was elated! Basically, the passion never turned off from there, I ended up moving from C64 to PC in the mid 90’s and have never looked back. Tinkered with a java script with a bit of web design for a while, dabbled with graphic design for a while, built PC’s for friends and family, loved hacker films and stories (I think Kevin Mitnik is a living legend!– go read his books!). So, by the time I got into a paid job I was hooked! I guess from there I worked my way up in Business, learnt a lot about commercial relationships and how enterprise IT functioned and worked, moved onto datacentres and ended up having a real mixed bag of skills, from changing the plug on a kettle to managing an implementation of a complicated CAD platform. From here I broke into the world of consultancy via a great guy who is still working in the industry. I think he could see my passion to want to help others and gave me a shot in the bug leagues!!
What would you recommend for someone wanting to start a career in IT?
Simply just go for it……… find your passion and run with it! Find the people with the same energy and passion as you have, stay positive, nothing is a problem, keep that mindset! Oh and always try and make things as simple as possible, don’t try and think you know any more than the person you are speaking to, don’t have an ego but equally be confident in what you do know! Most of all, just enjoy it! That shines though in people I have worked with and they have gone on to become uber successful in their jobs! Make sure you never lose that element of fun!
How did you get into the world of Microsoft Azure?
When I moved into the Consultancy space around 9 years or so ago I was very much focussed on Microsoft technologies, and in particular O365 just as it had moved from BPOS and so I kind of hooked into Messaging and Unified Comms and Voice for a few years. But because of my generalist background I have always been an ‘Infrastructure and Ops Guy’ at heart with a bunch of coding skills that were kind of going rusty from not really being used! I think probably around 4-5 years ago I recognised that Azure was heading to become this huge cloud platform and I felt that I was like a kid in a sweet shop (and still do by the way!). So realised that that is where I wanted to shift my focus. I have been so fortunate to work for a company that hugely values its employees and having a fantastic boss who supports me, and my choices is an obvious huge benefit. So working with a focussed team of colleagues, we formed a focussed Azure practice probably around 4 years ago and it has grown from there, and it still growing. I still get involved in the peripherals of 365, but that knowledge I believe has helped me well with being able to understand the broad spectrum available to us! Being T shaped I believe the DevOps phrase is! So having that broad range of awareness and skillsets, with a deep dive and focus on a specialism! That focus has been the case for me for probably about the last 3 years at the mo!
What are your areas of expertise? Are you still working with other Microsoft products apart from Microsoft Azure?
I’ve probably answered this in the other questions above, but to keep it short, I heard someone coin the phrase ‘Specialist Generalist’ a few years back and thought, yeah I think I’m one of those!!!! I think my expertise lies in being able to take a business requirement and help customers shape that requirement to something tangible to meet whatever the motivations or key criteria are. Then I try and help customers realise what technologies they need to implement to form their solution. I still stay hands on quite a lot, I like to make sure I can deploy and understand as much of the detail as my brain will retain. I used to call myself a Messaging and UC SME up until I became a Tech Architect, so now I guess I see myself as the glue that pulls a solution together using the power of Azure (and 365)!
What certifications have you achieved, or the certifications you are working towards?
Over the years I’ve always managed to keep my Microsoft Certs up to date. I did my first official course on Windows 2003 but didn’t start on the cert route until around 2011, I think. I have the Microsoft 365 Expert, M365 Security, Teams and Messaging Associates and Fundamentals on the 365 side. Then I have the Azure Expert Solutions Architect, Security and Admin Associate and Fundamentals, as well as the Data and AI fundamentals. I think an older MSCE is still kicking around there somewhere as well!
Over the last year or so my attention has been turned towards the DevOps world and have been really interested in learning more and resurrecting my Dev skills, so I am really keen to tick off AZ-400 DevOps Expert and the AZ-204 Azure Developer. I am also keen to get the Hashicorp Terraform Associate badge as I’ve been doing a lot of study and working with colleagues at work on some really cool things around Infrastructure as Code and CI/CD.
Having said that, I have a lot of passion for Data, ML and AI, and feel I would love to get deeper skills in those areas to help work out some fantastic solutions for customers as well as wanting to work on IoT solutions, so have thought about looking at putting those skills on my roadmap for the future as well and maybe aiming to pick up the IoT specialist exam! So lots on my roadmap!!!
We noticed via your blog that you have recently had an interest in Serverless apps? Could you please explain Serverless and the benefits? Why did you decide to learn Serverless apps?
To be honest Serverless is something that I have only very recently started to get a bit more hands on with. I was first introduced to Logic Apps as part of the original scaling service in the original Fall 2019 release of WVD, and also after tinkering with the Power Suite and Power automate aka Flow, and I kind of had a little play and watched a few learning videos and I was sold! The benefits of Serverless in Azure are things like speeding up the whole Development process to get applications up and running faster. The breadth of Serverless capabilities in Azure is getting broader and broader spanning everything from Compute and Containerised services like ACI and K8s, through to Azure functions and the more traditional Data, Database and monitoring services! All consumed and paid for on a known cost model which may not suit every scenario, but it certainly broadens the kit bag for solutions developers to get up and running really quickly!
Like I say, there is still a lot for me to learn around serverless capabilities and I am sure I will turn to MS Learn a lot more to do a few more studies at some point soon!
Azure Security is something that you have written about on your blog and are passionate about. Could you please provide us some information on the importance of Azure Security? Is Azure secured by default? Do new Azure users need to take security seriously?
Ok so, yes Security is a huge topic in its own right and you should think of Security not just as a product, but a series of capabilities, so a defense in depth approach is more suited when speaking about Security.
A quick takeaway if you are running any Azure subscription is to check you have Azure Security Centre turned on in your subscription. There is a free tier you can use to assess its capabilities. This offers a very comprehensive set of dashboard reporting and integration services to essentially keep tabs on your subscription security and offer insights and recommendations. Check out this link to see how to enable it: Security Center
Azure Defender for Servers was launched as the new name for Azure Advanced Threat Protection at Ignite last week so have a read of some of that information as it offers some great features to turn on within your tenant and allows for Security monitoring in Multi Cloud or Hybrid scenarios as well which is really cool!
Outside of the core Azure portal offerings, Security configuration in Azure can be as focussed or broad as you need and Azure offers security baked in at virtually every level, or at least features you can turn on or off to suit right from the Identity with Azure AD and associated security features, through to Storage, Network and computer. So just think security as multi layered and make sure you take it seriously. If you are an Admin or a solutions developer I would strongly advise you checking up on the Azure Well Architected Framework and have a read of the Security information, this will give you some great information on how to position security when moving or developing in Azure: Azure Well-Architected Framework
What would you recommend for those wanting to learn Azure from scratch?
Learning Azure from Scratch is such a broad statement and it covers so much technology. I think the first thing to do would be to study for the Azure Fundamentals Exam AZ-900, use the superb Microsoft Learn Materials, check them out at the bottom of this page: AZ-900. Whether you choose to do the exam or not is up to you, but this will give you a brilliant grounding on what Azure actually is, and in some cases isn’t!
I really believe that if you are new to technology or lacking knowledge in the area you would like to know a bit more of then just remember that a lot of the technologies in the cloud have some history! So traditional Compute, Networking, and Storage have been around for years, so grab some core concepts by using your favourite search engine, which of course is Bing yeah?!
Microsoft offer a few other fundamental exams around Data (AZ-900) and also AI (AI-900) that do discuss a different aspect around entry into Azure, so maybe one of those ideas might take your fancy as a starting point!
But hey, just remember that there is not one single person that knows everything there is to know about Azure, it’s such a vast set of tools as services that it will keep you amazed for years to come (refer to my previous comment about a kid in a sweet shop). There is simply too much for one person to know, and hey technology changes, very rapidly in the cloud world, so prepare yourself for learning something one day, and the next time you look it’s changed! That’s the way things are at the moment.
My recommendation would be to get back to the basic forms of what Computing is all about, understand what the Cloud offers and take it from there. Have an appreciation for the areas that you can get to grips with, and keep digging into the areas that keep you interested, sprinkle in a bit of that passion and go for it!
Finally, reach out to the community in your local area. There are some brilliantly awesome people always willing to help out, assist, point you in the right direction and try to give a bit back and get involved if you can!
We noticed that you run a Welsh Azure User Group. Could you please explain what this group involves? And can anyone at any stage of their career join these events?
That’s awesome you spotted that. So, anyone familiar with the huge and fantastic community that surrounds Azure #azurefamily, you may know that there are a few people across the UK that have set up local support groups and are supported by all different types of people, from Developers, admins, sales people, hobbyists, Computer Scientists, basically anyone with any knowledge at all. I guess the only prerequisite is that you want to learn about Azure!!
Since I have been involved with helping get the group off the ground, it really has been a huge whirlwind but incredibly rewarding!!
Basically for a short while I was hunting around for a community group in South Wales to join and help be part of the community…… one thing led to another and I found myself tagged into a post by the amazing Anna McNally (Cloud Solutions Architect) @ Microsoft, she introduced me to a few others that had a group running for a while, and as I like to call it, the Azure Avengers assembled for the Welsh contingent!!! So it’s myself (BT), Richard Griffiths (Confused.com) Abul Khair (Clear Bank) and George Wachira (IPO), supported immensely by Anna McNally, Matt Fortunka and Ahmed Laajam @ Microsoft have formed the Welsh Azure User Group (Follow us on twitter @welshazure) and we have a group on LinkedIn.
We have a fantastic sponsor for the group (www.servent.co.uk), who also sponsor a few of the other UK groups. We also have some great news coming up about further support which is fantastic to see! Watch this space!
We currently meet virtually every other month, and we aim to cover any topic that our audience would like to see, but absolutely it is open to anyone with any knowledge and at any stage in their career.
The group manifesto is as follows:
• Educate the Welsh community on all things involving Azure technologies.
• Promote the usage of Azure technology in Wales.
• Encourage the local Welsh community to speak about their experiences with Microsoft Azure.
• Organise events to showcase Welsh employees and businesses using Azure.
• Collaborate with Welsh technology enthusiasts to help with achieving all of the above.
Clearly as we are still in a virtual meetup state, it has been awesome to see so many people joining in from right across the UK, which is absolutely fine with us in the group and we are actively encouraging it!
If you are not Welsh, no fear it’s not a prerequisite, jump in and have a bit of fun, or alternatively check out this super Map created by the awesome Sarah Lean (Twitter: @TechieLass), where you can find a group close to you, I really would advise anyone to get involved and enjoy the experience. There is loads to learn by being active in the community and loads of interesting people to get to know!
The bottom line is that all the User groups are created for Users of Azure to learn, share ideas, have a laugh, win some prizes! And just generally meet up with like minded people to learn and grow from, so if you are not a member of a local group, go and join up with one now and help spread the word!
I follow some great Azure community folk on Twitter and LinkedIn that always give me loads of great info to read first thing each morning!
Also, Alexey Polkovnikov developed a super site to keep updated with Azure changes at azurecharts.com so go and check that out as well!
I then try and dip into MS Learn modules on anything that is brand new, or dip into the Azure Portal to have a ‘play’ and make a conscious note to work out if I need to dig deeper, or park the study for a later date, basically depending on my work load and focus that particular day or week etc! If I am working on a particular customer project or opportunity, I tend to align my study with the project I am working on, basically so I can put my learnings into practice. Once you have done a few different Azure projects it’s really surprising how much knowledge you pick up, so you can’t beat hands on learning really.
However, I think the reality is that you probably don’t keep up to date as Azure is huge, you just do what you can but keep going!
What would you recommend for someone who wants to become Azure certified?
Work out what you are going for. Understand your motivations and what being certified will mean for you. Everyone has different reasons and motivations. I can say that for me becoming certified gives me a good goal to aim for when learning a subject, but don’t stress or get overwhelmed if you are just starting out. Azure is huge, set yourself some goals and targets, use that winning ‘can do’ mentality and make it happen!!! Just remember you can do it and enjoy the process of becoming certified, for me it’s more about the process of learning than the cherry on the cake when you pass your first Microsoft exam. Oh and also, don’t be worried if you fail! Some of the exams are simply put…… hard! So remember failing is all part of learning! I have failed my share of exams and I suspect if you ask anyone in the community they will say the same! The only thing to remember if you want to become Certified, don’t give up and you will get there!
What’s your advice for someone who wants to become a public speaker but not confident, or not sure where to start?
To be honest this is where I am in my own personal development. I have been fortunate to be asked to speak at a couple of events over the years at events like Future Decoded in London, but I’ve never really done a lot of public speaking.
I think my own view is that I would very much like to get to the point of being able to tell that story and to make it fun and engaging for the viewer as well as informative and coving the correct information of course!
If you work for a business, find an area of information you think would be beneficial to a colleague or small group of people. Practice putting together a simple presentation with some notes and see if you can spend 20 mins or however long you feel is right taking those colleagues through an idea or concept! Get feedback and actively use that feedback to make your next presentation different, or better. Find what works for you. If you have the confidence, use your computer and record yourself and put it up on a YouTube channel, again see how people react and listen to feedback.
Like I say, this is where I am at the moment myself and have used the above techniques internally with work and I’m now looking to structure some knowledge and face it externally to the community.
What’s next in your Microsoft Azure journey?
Well for the next couple of months I am hoping to continue on the 100DaysOfCloud Challenge at time of writing I think I’m currently on day 36! Check out the challenge here: 100 Days Of Cloud
I’m not necessarily a newcomer to cloud, but I guess I’m using the construct of learning something new each day and applying it to my own journey which has taken me on some interesting paths!! It has been intense but enjoyable and I’m still on that journey!
I mentioned I have a couple of exams I’m looking to tick off along the way and we are looking into Azure Stack Edge as well as the Azure Migrate/Innovation work that we have going on in work at the moment, which is really exciting!
I really want to give back to the community in as fun and engaging way that I can make it. I have loads of exciting things lined up with the User group……… some ideas around getting more involved with Live Streaming and YouTube content.
Do you have any final words of wisdom?
I’m not really very good with words of wisdom, but I guess there is always one statement that sticks in my mind when talking about technology.
Arthur C Clarke (Inventor of the telecommunications satellite) is credited with stating “Any sufficiently advanced technology is equivalent to magic”
I remember hearing that back in the 90’s whilst watching a TV show he used to host on the Discovery Channel and it has always stuck with me.
I guess I’ve always wanted to be the magician that knows how the trick is done!
Stay inquisitive, never stop learning, stay humble, and be kind!
The most important question of all 😊
From a scale from 1 – 10 how crazy are you about Microsoft Azure? (10 being the highest)
In the words of Spinal Tap – I’m on 11 😉
End of interview