Simon Lee from Bradford in the UK is a co-organiser of the Cloud Management User Group and currently employed as a support engineer at an MSP located in Leeds. I have followed Simon on twitter for the past year and can recommend this individual as someone who has a huge passion for learning, sharing his knowledge and actively supporting the tech community. He was recently awarded the Cloud Champion award, an initiative run by Microsoft MVP’s Gregor Suttie and Richard Hooper.
Simon is also known for running a mini datacentre and provides some tips on how to get started with a home lab in his interview. There is a lot more to know about Simon so let’s continue to the interview.
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Simon Lee Interview
Tell us about yourself?
I am Simon, originally from Birmingham (UK) but now very much a Northerner having lived in Bradford, West Yorkshire for most of my life. I currently work for an MSP in Leeds as a Second Line Support Engineer. Outside of Technology, Gaming and Twitter, I enjoy engineering, photography and am an avid Rell Bull Racing Formula One Fan!
How did you get into IT?
I think it is my Dads Fault, He always had an interest in computers and a background in Electronics, so from a very young age I was able to access Computers back around the Windows 95/98 era (Yes shows my age!!) and from there my interest grew. When in secondary school, I was known for helping in lessons where any technology was required, that being setting up projectors or fixing the odd bit of hardware in the classroom. Post School I opted to do a BTEC Course over A Levels and from that I then started volunteering at a local Primary School, I knew a friend who worked there as the lead IT Tech, He then left over the summer, and I was asked if I would like to stay on. And that is how I got my first job in the world of IT!
What is your greatest achievement whilst working in the world of Tech?
I would say to date, back In July 2020, just before moving back to Bradford I was working for a college and was helping with a Windows 10 Fast Track deployment and helped write a lot of PowerShell (Over 1500 Lines worth!) for their Image Automation Progress. This would take a vanilla VLSC Windows 10 Image, deploy it through MDT, apply updates and customise to the requirements of the build, capture it back into WIM Form, Backup the previous month image and then inject into the production task sequences, and then kick off their VMware VDI Gold Build images and then update the VDI Host Pools.
What would you recommend for someone wanting to start a career in IT?
Join Twitter and Spiceworks, I cannot recommend these platforms enough, When I first started out, I spent hour on Spiceworks talking to other IT Professional, Learning, and then helping at the time with OSD, primarily around WDS and MDT. Then in the later stages, I have been able to repay the community with writing the odd script to help remove/improve/update/automate processes.
Twitter, Twitter is an invaluable resource to me, I have met so many amazing people, who have given me so much support and advise of the years. It is a brilliant community where everyone just loves technology and wants to see other people grow and develop in their careers.
How did you get into the world of Microsoft Azure?
So my background for the most part has been On-Premise, Hence why the blog I have was dubbed ‘The HypervLAB’ as at the time I was working for an MSP in Leeds and needed a test domain for some web project we were working on, Having also being an avid Microsoft fanboy and loving Hyper-V at the time. I Bought the domain.
That said, From January 2020 I have started to branch out more into the Microsoft Cloud, again sticking with my OS Deployment roots and starting with Windows Autopilot. Fast forward to June 2021, I’ve just completed a mini-series with Shabaz Darr on Azure Virtual Desktop, the series is built around the Zero to Hero principle of Shabaz being the hero and my self-having never deployed it learning the in and outs of what is required to get the service deployed on Azure.
What are your areas of expertise? Are you still working with other Microsoft products apart from Microsoft Azure?
Windows 10 (and soon to be Windows 11)
Windows Server – 2008 – 2019
Windows Server – Hyper-V
WDS, MDT, WISM and ADK (OS Deployment Tools)
Linux, Ubuntu CentOS.
M365 – Intune, Autopilot, WIP/AIP
O365 – Exchange, OneDrive, Teams, SharePoint.
What certifications have you achieved, or the certifications you are working towards?
In February, I sat the MD100 – Windows 10 Exam, then after a lot of study four months later I sat the MD101 – Managing Modern Desktop exam. Having completed that this now means I am an ‘M365: Modern Desktop Administrator’.
Looking forward, I am wanting to sit the following:
MS100 – Microsoft 365 Identity and Services
MS101 – Microsoft 365 Mobility and Security
Az104 – Microsoft Azure Administrator
Az140 – Configuring and Operating Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop
Az700 – Designing and Implementing Microsoft Azure Networking Solutions (beta)
You have been involved with a AVD Zero to Hero series on You Tube. Could you explain what this series is? And who is the target audience?
The Series idea came from a conversation with Shabaz Darr, we were wanting to do something for the community in the style of video content to help grow his YouTube Channel I Am IT Geek. I suggested why not do a Zero to Hero style of video, based on what I had seen Richard Hoopers and Gregor Suttie do with their AKS Zero to Hero series, where Richard teaches Gregor over a series of videos. – Shabaz loved the idea and thus the series was born.
The scope of the series is to teach me (the zero) how to configure and deploy Azure Virtual Desktop from the conception and planning phase, building out of the network services and storage resources on Azure, Configuring the Reference Image and then building out the Host Pools.
We’ve also recently completed a podcast with Chris Pottrell, who has done many deployments of AVD, from when it first went GA, So we sat down with him and discussed his take on how it has changed over the last year or so and what impact it has had over the 2020/2021 Coronavirus Pandemic. So to wrap this section up, I would say that this series is for anyone who wants to learn how to deploy Azure Virtual Desktop Host Pools from end to end.
You are a co-organiser of the Cloud Management Group. Could you explain what this is? and how does one get involved?
The Cloud Management User Group was created in March 2021, It is designed to be a group and not focus just on the Microsoft Product Stack, But be open to Google Cloud Platform and Amazon Web Services. I Co Manage the group along with Dean Ellerby, Dan Stradling and Andy Jones. We meet on the First Tuesday (Patch Tuesday) of every month.
You can join the group via the following meet up link Cloud Management Group Meetup or follow on Twitter via Cloud Management Group Twitter
You are known for your home lab (mini data centre) 😊. What advice could you give to someone who wants to setup a home lab without the huge expense.
Ha, the ‘MiniDatacentre’ has been a brilliant learning device for me. I would dread to think how much I’ve invested into it over the years, in terms of upgrades for servers and replacement disks. The Rack itself alone was a steel for only £300 form eBay. The two R620’s I bought back in January 2020 which were at least £500. But that did include the rack rails as well.
A side from that, If you are not wanting the hassle of managing and maintaining an enterprise level rack, You can get away most of the time with a standard Desktop Computer. For example, my current primary rig has an i5-8600K Processor, 32Gb DDR4 Memory and a dedicated Western Digital 500Gb NVME Drive. This works for quick labbing or playing with some Linux is great. However, on the Mini Datacentre, I have a complete enterprise lab setup with RDS Servers and Hybrid Exchange along with Azure AD Sync and some Intune Enrolled devices., So I can replicate and test most things before they get pushed into production for clients. So, I know that what is going to be deployed is correct.
You recently presented a session on the Bradford Cloud User group for the first time. What was the session on? How did you feel? Any tips for those who want to get started with public speaking?
Brilliant, my advice for anyone who is wanting to get into presenting is… well pick a topic you know well, Having just completed the Windows 10 and Managing Modern Desktop Exam I’d spent 6 months playing with Intune and enrolling devices. So, I figured it would be a good place to start as a Level 100 Session. Just to cover what Autopilot is and how it can help improve your deployments going forward. Having now completed my first presentation on Intune, I have got lots more ideas around what I could do next for either full length talks or some lighting session of configuring specific parts of Intune. So, watch this space!
What would you recommend for someone wanting to get started with Microsoft Endpoint Manager?
This kind of goes back to the Lab, however this time you’re going to need an Office365 Tenancy, and ideally a domain if you want to learn about email management – it’s not technically a requirement but you might as well, then start blogging!
For my current lab tenancy, I have Enterprise and Security E3 to allow for testing of Autopilot and Intune Management and two Microsoft 365 Business Basic Licenses, which allow me to get into Teams, Exchange, and SharePoint.
That said, for anyone wanting to start out, Microsoft offer a Developer Program which gives you access to lot of awesome resources for free for dev and learning purposes! So, I would recommend you check out: Microsoft 365 Developer Program
What is your favourite Azure service? One only 😊
This is a tough one, I would say Azure overall as there are so many awesome services and tools you have access to!
How do you keep up to date with the latest Microsoft Azure products?
Twitter, The various Microsoft Road Maps,
– Azure: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-gb/updates/
– Azure Virtual Desktop: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-gb/services/virtual-desktop/#updates-announcements
– M365 Roadmap: https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/microsoft-365/roadmap?filters=
What is next in your Microsoft Azure journey?
Automation, I love anything I can automate, so will start with some PowerShell and start building some Azure Networking and Virtual Private Networks back to the Mini Datacenter and blog that!
Do you have any final words of wisdom?
A Good Friend of Mine, Richard Hooper has this saying ‘It’s a deferred Success’
This to me is such a brilliant way of taking an exam failure, You take stock, review and resit!
I’m also an advocate of the #AlwaysLearning hashtag, As the IT World is forever changing and improving, you can never learn it all, every day is a new learning day!
The most important question of all 😊
From a scale from 1 – 10 how crazy are you about Microsoft Azure?
That’s Simple 11/10 – Live, Breath, Sleep Azure and Microsoft 😎
End of Interview