History Is Made by Those Who Show Up
By David Espinoza
On September 14th of this year, David Espinoza, Senior Program Manager for Exchange Server Technology Adoption Program (TAP) sat down for a little Q&A with TAP participant and Senior Network Engineer Sara Windsor as she discussed the many benefits of being involved in the TAP program and what it's like in the field.
It's About You
Q: How about a little biographical sketch? Where are you located, and what do you do?
A: I'm located in Tracy, California and I work as a Senior Network Engineer for the Tracy Unified School District. My job has evolved into a very broad position over time. Now, my major responsibilities cover Exchange, Active Directory in Windows, DNS, SharePoint administrator, Security administrator (firewall, PKI, antivirus), Network administrator and other duties as assigned. I'm still trying to invent that device that turns a 24-hour day into at least 36 hours of usable time, but no success so far.
Q: How long have you been on the job and doing this kind of work?
A: I've been doing this job for the last 10 years. The IT department started in 1996 in a DataPath network, and has grown dramatically. Our network extends to all classrooms, all sites, 110 servers, 3500 workstations, 1600 staff, and 16,000 students. We moved to an all-Microsoft environment in 1997 or 1998.
Q: How long have you been working with Exchange?
A: We have been with Exchange since the early 5.5 days, tasked with deploying e-mail for staff in about 1998 or 1999 when they were moving toward a pure Microsoft environment.
Q: How long have you been a TAP participant?
A: I started in the TAP program in 1999 or 2000 when it was known as the Joint Development Program, or JDP.
Q: What made you want to get involved in the TAP program?
A: I work in the California public education system where funding and resources are a challenge. We have a fairly small IT staff and at the same time our customers are our students. We need to do the best we can with the resources that we have. One of the greatest benefits is the access to resources that we wouldn’t already have. I use the TAP distribution list (DL) for the occasional tech support. And, in some cases, I have networking opportunities on the other side of the world.
Q: How has the experience played out compared with your expectations?
A: Early on, I was very excited to be able to participate, but I was somewhat skeptical because Microsoft is a big fish, whereas Tracy Unified is a small guppy. There's been great support and fantastic people! It has way exceeded any expectations I’ve had.
Q: Are there professional advantages to getting involved?
A: It's been a great education having the opportunity to work with emerging Microsoft technologies and have hands-on, real life training. Sometimes it's trial by fire, but I have all the support resources at my disposal. In a very real way, I am learning about environments around the world. Even if you’re interested in getting certified, it’s a good thing.
Hard Work Meets Teamwork
Q: What does being a TAP participant involve? What do we make you do, and what benefits do you or your organization gain from your involvement?
A: One of the requirements is that we be in a production environment. It takes a time commitment. However, it varies depending on the complexity of what you’re deploying. It's important to give some thought to requirements and milestones and be fairly sure you’ll meet those. Set benchmarks; see what’s slipping and what’s fine. As long as it is planned for and you go in with that expectation, it is doable. Typically, I'm doing something related to TAP even if it is just moderating the DL.
Q: How well does the program run?
A: I’m a worker bee, and from my perspective, it works great! I've encountered occasional communications challenges accessing the right person, but we have a good Microsoft account team that is there to help when we run into a road block.
Q: Do you feel that your questions, suggestions, and business problems get the attention they deserve?
A: In our case, we come from an environment where it seems like we wouldn’t get the attention. For example, Exchange Server 2007 was a large and fast deployment. We were really after the Unified Messaging (UM) functionality, which was one driver behind our early production. Because we are TAP participants, we were able to receive onsite support from Microsoft Consulting Services and a partner was brought in to help us with our UM deployment.
Q: What would you want to see changed about the program?
A: I'm so focused on where I am and just feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to participate.
Q: Have there been times when the program wasn’t meeting your expectations?
A: In my case, no. It has met and exceeded my expectations.
Q: Do you plan to continue with the program?
A: Absolutely! Every chance I get.
Q: What would you say to someone who was considering getting involved in TAP?
A: It’s an invaluable opportunity. If you have a business need for a particular technology or are eager to deploy, it is a great opportunity. You need to consider the time commitment, though. There are guaranteed long hours and late nights, but you will receive that back tenfold.
For More Information
The Exchange TAP program is designed to provide collaboration with your company or organization and Microsoft. The purpose is to validate upcoming Exchange Server releases through the deployment of prerelease builds. Your company will have the opportunity to provide design and performance feedback for the product. This program will provide customers with support from Microsoft Product Support Services. TAP participants receive many benefits including the opportunity to provide feedback on the next version of Exchange Server through direct feedback to Microsoft; conference calls with members of the Exchange team; and mature beta builds of the product.
For more information about the program or if you are interested in becoming a TAP participant, please contact David Espinoza (firstname.lastname@example.org), Program Manager, Microsoft Exchange Customer Experience Team.
David Espinoza - Senior Program Manager, Microsoft Exchange Server