A warm welcome to Vladimir Stefanović, MVP; Founder of the Azure User Group Serbia and organiser of Azure Saturday, as he joins us for ‘Voices of the Azure Community’.
We hope you enjoy this insight into the work Vladimir carries out to support the Azure Community
Please tell us about your own role.
Hello all. I work as a Cloud Solution Architect for a Serbian company SuperAdmins, where I lead a team that is dedicated to Azure operations, as well as the other Microsoft related services. More than 10 years of experience, numerous delivered training and projects, Microsoft MVP and MCT Regional Lead titles, definitely makes my career successful. I’m also an active conference speaker, having spoken at a long list of conferences around the globe. With my colleague and friend, Aleksandar Nikolic, I started Azure User Group in Serbia, the first Azure User Group in this part of Europe. Also, this year we successfully organized the first Azure dedicated conference, Azure Saturday (www.azuresaturday.rs) in Belgrade, Serbia, that collects together speakers from Europe and region for a full-day dedicated free Azure event.
Please outline your involvement with the Azure Serbia User Group & community?
We have started with the Azure User Group Serbia in late 2018. The idea of a founding user group was initiated from “my kitchen.” Aleksandar jumped into the user group activities quickly, so we can say that group is led by two of us. Today, after 20 months of the user group existence, we can proudly say that we had 12 meetups and one big community conference organized behind us. Of course, more than 200 people are members of our user group.
What are the greatest benefits of getting involved with the Group for attendees?
Connections with people and knowledge sharing are definitely the most significant benefit. Although we are a small market, I’m delighted that the number of people that follow us at the meetings, growing day by day. Also, their interaction in sessions proves that we are doing a good job.
In your opinion, what is the most exciting thing about working with Azure?
I started work with Azure 4 years ago when I began to transform my traditional system administrator job. As someone who works in a service provider company that is responsible for providing infrastructure and support clients, I worked at all “layers” of the IT lifecycle. But, with Azure, things are definitely changed. You don’t need to take care of physical infrastructure, you can focus on your workload and how to improve it using services that Azure offers. While many of the IT population was scared and concerned with Azure, I started with improving my skills and learning new things, such as automation tools and languages.
What is your favorite Azure Product, and why?
There is a lot of Azure services that I like, but Virtual Machine Scale Sets and App Service are on the top of my list. I came from the SysOps world with rich experience with delivering infrastructures for web portals. VMSS and App Service help us to transform some of the clients and move their workloads to Azure, with improved embedded capabilities, such as auto-scaling and application logging.
What are the key skills required to make a great Azure Developer / Architect?
There is not rocket science. You need to have a deep understanding of Azure services with in-depth knowledge of services in a specific area. Learning, as a top activity in the lifecycle, needs to be an ongoing and never-ending process due to frequent changes in Azure.
What in your opinion has been the biggest advance in Azure in the past 18 months?
Definitely, Azure’s most significant advantage is the number of available and announced regions, as well as the improving of a lot of services. That allows many industries from specific areas to move their workloads to Azure, especially if they need to handle sensitive data.
What are the biggest challenges you face working with Azure?
From a technical perspective, there were a few challenges I faced over the last years, and all of them are completed successfully. But, the biggest challenge that is still on board is related to the clients. Over and over again, I need to spend dozens of hours explaining to them a proposed solution in detail. I think that is not a regional-based issue because a lot of my friends and colleagues around the world have the same problem.
With the COVID-19 crisis, how have Azure Serbia adapted to continue to provide valuable support and connections to the Azure Community?
Like other user groups, as well as the many conferences, we moved our meeting to the digital experience. Honestly, we had a few online meetups earlier, as an experiment, but now that is the only possible solution. Also, all user groups from the ex-Yu region are now tightly connected because online events don’t have boundaries, so we are working together on some events.
How did you become an MVP? Do you have suggestions for other community members who hope to become MVPs?
That was a long process. Over the years, I was involved in community activities, in the first place as a speaker and later as a user group founder and leader. Hours of delivered sessions on regional conferences, as well as on the international, and dozens of blog posts, are something that definitely helped me to achieve the Microsoft Azure MVP award. For all of those who are interested in a Microsoft MVP award, I have a few bits of advice. Be more active in community activities, share your knowledge selflessly, and share what you do. Of course, this is not possible if you don’t like to do that.