A warm welcome to Sjoukje Zaal, Microsoft Regional Director, Azure MVP, co-founder of the user groups Tech Daily Chronicle, Global XR Community and the Mixed Reality User Group; and board member of Azure Thursdays and Global Azure, as she joins us for ‘Voices of Azure’.
We hope you enjoy this insight into the work Sjoukje carries out to support the Azure Community.
Please tell us about your own role with Capgemini
I have multiple roles at Capgemini at the moment. I work as a CTO for Microsoft technologies, which means that I am responsible for the strategy and vision we have around implementing Microsoft technologies at our customers. Next to that I am a cluster lead for the Custom Software Development practice, where I am mostly responsible for business development and sales. At last, I am involved in our Cloud Center of Excellence, where I work as a cloud solution architect.
You are a frequent speaker at national and international events. What advice would you offer to those who wish to gain Speaking experience?
To be honest, speaking in public was my biggest fear. However, I really wanted to overcome that fear, because it prevented me from sharing my ideas with others and speak up about my work. That’s why I decided to start giving presentations. I started small, at local user groups and signed up for the MVP mentor program. My mentor gave me some good advice on how to structure my storyline, we’ve practiced the sessions together and he attended my first presentation and gave me tips afterwards.
I recommend others to do this as well, look for a mentor, someone who has been doing this for a while and start speaking at small user groups. And of course, keep practicing! It takes time to become good at it.
As a co-founder of the user groups Tech Daily Chronicle, Global XR Community and the Mixed Reality User Group; and a board member of Azure Thursdays and Global Azure, would you describe how you have become so actively involved in the Community and what drives your involvement?
I really enjoy what I am doing and working with the community gives me a lot of energy. The community helped me to become a better Microsoft professional and I want to give something back to the community and help other to learn and become better.
I really love organizing events and I was very lucky to meet others that share that passion with me. This resulted in founding several user groups and meeting new friends. We all have that drive to share knowledge and connecting people.
You are also an author of several books; with such a varied workload could you describe what your working week entails?
With my busy schedule at Capgemini and the different communities I’m involved in, I need to do a lot of planning. This means blocking my agenda to have time to work on books, blogs, new presentations, and reading about new stuff. This is always a big challenge, but it gives me the chance to really dive deeply into different technologies and keeps me updated with new things.
Most user groups I’m involved in organize meetups in the evening, so I’m busy with that as well, several evenings a month. Normally, I travel often for speaking at conferences, but of course during the pandemic this has stopped and I have shifted to doing everything online now.
Would you outline what you find to be the most challenging and the most rewarding aspects of your work?
Most challenging for me is time management. It is really a big challenge to keep on doing all of these different things and combining this with the responsibilities I have at Capgemini. But because I can do what I really love, working with technology, the community, and sharing my knowledge, I can still manage it.
Have you had or do you have a mentor?
Yes, like I said before, I had a mentor from the MVP program. But throughout my career I had a lot of different mentors, people that were eagerly sharing their knowledge and inspired me to take this path as well.
To date what has been your proudest accomplishment?
I have a lot of accomplishments that I’m proud of! But what I’m mostly proud of, is my first MVP award in 2017 and of course becoming a Microsoft Regional Director in July this year.
In your opinion what is the most exciting thing about working with Azure?
I think most exciting about Azure is that the platform is evolving rapidly. And also, the last couple of years you see clients embracing Azure, which means that you can put all these awesome products in practice. And that is where it becomes really exciting!
What is your favorite Azure Product and why?
This is a very difficult question! I have lots of favorite Azure products. But, if I have to pick one at this moment, I will go for Azure Kubernetes Service. I really love the way application development is evolving and transforming at the moment.
What in your opinion has been the biggest advance in Azure in the past 18 months?
Definitely, Azure Arc. I strongly believe that this will bring lots of opportunities for Microsoft and their partners in the future. In my opinion this is also what differentiates Azure from other Cloud providers at this moment.
You are both a Microsoft Regional Director and an MVP. May we ask about the path to receiving both of those Awards? Do you have suggestions for other community members who hope to become MVP’s?
I only have one advice for this, do what you love and this all will follow! And this is also the only way to become an MVP or Regional Director. It takes a lot of dedication, time, and effort and you can only keep doing this when you really love it.
Could you describe what the unique spirit of the Microsoft Community means to you?
Being part of the Microsoft Community is very rewarding to me! You meet a lot of new people and make new friends, with whom you share the same passion: Microsoft technology. You meet these persons again and again when you travel the world speaking at different conferences, getting to know them better each time you meet. For me this is the most rewarding part of it. Connecting with people, learning from others, and sharing our passion for technology.