Wesley Haakman is a Lead Azure Architect and an Azure MVP who lives in the Netherlands. When I originally approached Wesley for an interview he responded with, “Hi Imran, Of course happy to share my experience”, and he definitely fulfilled his promise by providing us with a great interview. If you need to get in touch with Wesley, I’m sure he will be more then happy to help. He is really passionate about Tech, enjoys sharing knowledge and loves his job, as you will gather from his interview.
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Wesley Haakman Interview
Tell us about yourself?
My name is Wesley Haakman. Living in the cold, wet but beautiful Netherlands. I started in IT when I was 17 as an intern managing a Linux / Novell Netware environment. Challenges always kept me going and I always had the opportunity to pursue those challenges throughout my career. After my internship I was offered a job and worked there for the next 11 years in different roles. For the first couple of years I was a systems administrator and after a couple of years I grew into the role of information manager (like a CIO). Soon after I joined my current employer (Intercept) as a consultant and over the years I grew into the role of Lead Azure Architect. I’ve been working here for 6 years now and still enjoy it every day (that means I have been in IT for 17 years now 😊. We have a focus on Azure and Software Companies and recently won the Country Partner of the Year award. Still pretty excited and proud of that.
Next to working (I absolutely love my job), I spend my time doing sports (running and fitness) or just binge Netflix or any other streaming service. Really waiting for Season 2 of the Mandalorian.
What is your greatest achievement whilst working in the world of Tech?
I would say that being rewarded the MVP status is one of my biggest achievements. But in general, I’m proudest of where I am today in life. A good career and a reward like the Microsoft MVP award certainly contribute to that. 😊
How did you get into IT?
I think like most people in my generation, I was hooked on video games. When a I got a bit older, I started experimenting with the more technical aspect of computers. I started experimenting with installing Linux customizing my window manager (hands up if you did this!) and started hanging around in IRC channels. From that I started getting into coding as a hobby and that is where it all started.
What would you recommend for someone wanting to start a career in IT?
If you are passionate about it, you will manage. Do what interests you and don’t give up.
How did you get into the world of Microsoft Azure?
My current employer was delivering on prem infrastructure and was a system integrator. When Microsoft Azure started growing more popular, out of interest I fully jumped onto that train and started digging into the technicalities.
When we grew bigger and our Azure business did as well, I started focussing on the automation side of things. Ever since, my focus area has been Platform as a Service, Infrastructure as Code and recently also Governance. Additionally, I’m spending a lot of time digging into the technicalities of Partner Center (The partner side of Azure) to help integrate our Cloud Management Platform with Partner Center.
That having said. The last couple of months I’ve been doing a lot of Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) and I feel confident to say that this will remain one of my focus areas for many years to come. 😊
What are your areas of expertise? Are you still working with other Microsoft products apart from Microsoft Azure?
I mainly work with Microsoft products as mentioned in the previous question. Though, AKS (Kubernetes) can be somewhat of a “non-Microsoft” product. Additionally I’m now getting into Istio and other service mesh solutions (yay for Open Service Mesh) more and more.
What would you recommend for someone who wants to start learning automation within the cloud?
For both people with a tech and non tech background there are different solutions you can look into when it comes to (Microsoft) Cloud automation. I would definitely advise to look into Logic Apps for Line Of Business application automation and Power Apps if you want to start get into developing applications without a development background.
For the more tech-savvy I would recommend Azure Automation and Azure Functions where the latter has so much to offer. I haven’t even experienced everything myself.
Is it important to use ARM Templates within Azure? Could you explain what ARM templates are and the benefits?
Yes and no. I’m somewhat opinionated on this. ARM Templates have a steep learning curve. If you’re just getting into it, ARM Templates can be quite overwhelming. Though, the recent developments in Project Bicep are promising (Azure Bicep). The thing is.. If I go to a customer who is just getting started in Azure and is looking for a technology to repetitively deploy their solution, ARM Templates can be quite scary, especially if they don’t have a background that helps them read and understand JSON.
In practice I see a mix of ARM Templates and scripting (Azure PowerShell or Azure CLI). Scripting is usually easier to learn for people with a sys admin background and allows for more flexibility at first sight.
The overall benefits of both solutions is having the ability to re-deploy an environment over and over again without too much work (friends don’t let friends click in the Azure Portal 😊).
What certifications have you achieved, or the certifications you are working towards?
I currently have the following active certifications:
- Microsoft Certified: Azure Security Engineer Associate
- Microsoft Certified: Azure DevOps Engineer Expert
- Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate
- Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert
- Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate
Currently looking into getting my C# certification and something in the field of data science. Got to keep pushing!
What would you recommend for those wanting to learn Azure from scratch?
Definitely start with Microsoft Learn and get a free Azure account!
How do you keep up to date with the latest Microsoft Azure products?
Social Media is a good start but I also keep track of the recent announcements (Azure Announcements). Through my employer and the MVP status I also have access to programs that allow us to get up to speed on new features.
What would you recommend for someone who wants to become Azure certified?
Start with Microsoft Learn but also look at the available study guides, they definitely help getting into the right focus and topics for your certification. Gregor Suttie is a good example of someone who started from scratch and started learning to get certified. He also wrote a lot of good study guides (Gregor Suttie)
What’s your advice for someone who wants to become a public speaker but not confident, or not sure where to start?
Funny question.. I actually started by just doing it. I even had a black-out at some point. This was when I was presenting about Azure and totally lost it. I started sweating, forgot what I wanted to say and couldn’t even open my water bottle! After a couple of minutes I decided to sit down, calm down and try this again. It went “alright”, but I felt even worst after. After that I decided to do another public speaking gig, I think 2-3 weeks after that happened. It was also my first English speaking experience, so I was really thinking about that black-out again. I prepared well and then totally aced it. Ever since I felt so confident.
Now this doesn’t sound too much of a confidence booster but what I’m trying to say is: just do it! You have to keep in mind that probably 90% of the people in the room are thinking “I’m glad I don’t have to do any public speaking” because that’s a fact, most people are afraid of public speak and you’re actually doing it!
How did you become an MVP (Microsoft Most Valuable Professional)?
I really wasn’t in the “market” for being an MVP as in.. I didn’t aim for it. I just enjoyed sharing my experience with both the community, Microsoft and my peers. At some point I was nominated and I have been very thankful of that. I think becoming an MVP is a reward of being passionate about what you do and share that with the community.
What’s next in your Microsoft Azure journey?
Getting more into development so to be a better partner for software developers. In my opinion, that is where the world is going. If you don’t understand development then being an architect is going to be challenging at some point!
Do you have any final words of wisdom?
Be your own hero. Use your powers to help others 😊
The most important question of all 😊
From a scale from 1 – 10 how crazy are you about Microsoft Azure?