In from the cold, and looking to the future – Part 1

Wow!!, has it really been almost four years since I last sat down and wrote anything for What have I been doing? Why return now? What are you going to be writing about? – these are the questions that I hear no one ask!

What have I been doing?

Probably easier to really ask – “what the hell happened?” I could lead into some rather creative dialogue along the same lines as Martin Blank (anyone seen Grosse Pointe Blank – totes amaze balls movie) So, there I was four years ago, doing quite well.

I Was loving my work with Exchange (and generally everything nerdy and Microsoft related), at that time had been awarded the MVP award for my work with Exchange for the 5th time, and certainly all was well on the technical front.

I had secured a good role in a new company and was busy getting my head around how the land lay in the new organisation and meeting new people – but there were a couple of problems, which being honest I had been ignoring for a long time (alert, people who don’t really do deep conversations, or just generally couldn’t give a monkeys should stop reading now and find something nerdy on the site to look at …).

My marriage had not been going well. In fact, I think back now (had a long time to reflect) – and the most common thing that people used to say to me was:

Where do you find the time to run telnet? The research alone must take days!

The truth was that I had been ignoring the fact that my wife (at the time) and I were growing more and more distant and whilst this distance wasn’t as a result of, it was linked to changes that were going on in each others lives which ultimately led to us going our separate ways.

However, rather than deal with what was inevitable – I had thrown myself into my professional life and the work that I did through this website was a means of refuge to hide away from dealing with the truth. This naturally impacted further upon the relationship that I had with my ex-wife.

It’s ironic that you can find all the time in the world to spend hours doing less important things such as blogging when you are trying to avoid dealing with the real issues in life. I of course am not suggesting that anyone who finds themselves in the sad situation that I was in would be hiding from it by writing an online blog, but, from my experience of human nature when people are avoiding stuff; they fill time with something else to release them from the reality.

So, the situation came to a head and I was faced with the stark reality that I had to move out of the family home and the way things transpired – pretty much had to start again with everything in my personal life; whilst at the same time trying not to let my work (that paid the bills) – fall by the way side as well.

I will skip the parts about moving back into my mothers for a brief period of time (as that could be a complete blog post on its own) – however I will say that looking back now – it did have some bad situations which I laugh about now – for example; my mum breaking my toe via a strategically placed vacuum cleaner at 04:00 one morning, my mum almost killing me with raw Southern Fried Chicken …. hmmm, you know what now that I have written that down I can see a disturbing pattern …

Needless to say, when you are looking for a new home, and trying to rebuild your life – whilst working and trying to keep a relationship with your child – the website took a considerable “back seat”.

I had on many occasions in those early months post breakup, always intended to come back to, but life got in the way – and indeed as ours is an industry that stands still for no man, the raw technical skills that I had, especially in connection to Exchange Server began to become stale.

That in itself wasn’t just the main problem, I had refocused on a number of things such as making the most of my professional career which thankfully had taken off in-spite of the personal troubles that I had – but in a slightly different direction to what it had been.

As well as the breakup, I was also being faced with perhaps the most terrifying moment of any “die hard” techie’s life … letting go of the “hands on” and securing promotion to far more senior, strategic ranks.

That skill staleness was a problem for me.

How can a former MVP who has not really actively been “hands on” for a period of years, really give something back?

That was a thought that stuck with me for a long period of time – so almost became my epitaph to the technical community – a tomb of historic knowledge that for a while I was happy to let sit there and languish.

I will also admit, that whilst I was exceptionally proud to have been a Microsoft MVP – and will never regret the time that I had within the programme, it was also something that towards the end of my time I begun to find personally quite restrictive and pressurised.

Now I want to make clear that my feelings are nothing to do with the Microsoft or the MVP programme as an entity and are more to do with how I personally felt – but there is a certain weight of expectation when you are presented as a community leader.

I found myself doing two main things that began to kill my passion for writing:

  1. I found myself beginning to write stuff, just to keep the award. Worrying about how many posts I had made or not made. I think that overall the quality of what I was doing was dropping because of that pressure I put on myself (again, please note; Microsoft does NOT put MVP’s under that pressure to perform – the award is about the quality and independent assessment of each nominee) – I put myself in that position.
  2. Perhaps most restrictively I was deliberately avoiding confrontation with individuals online. Part of being an MVP is being a role model within the technical community, which can also mean that you have to watch what you say to people and try and always maintain a level of respect that isn’t necessarily shown to you.

There were a couple of occasions where I had done some commercial writing for some well known publications on the web about the Microsoft cloud, which drew some ire from a particularly ill educated section of our technical community.

I was reduced to justifying my writings (which were factually correct – and indeed as the cloud has grown have been vindicated) where really all I wanted to say included at lot of expletives questioning their parentage as they were quite obviously written by small time sysAdmins who were afraid of losing their jobs to the cloud.

Although I knew that I was professionally and technically right in what I had written, I had to effectively take the nonsense that was being spouted. That hurt and completely demotivated me, so I guess I quit and needed to lick my wounds a little.

Anyhow – of course during this four year period, it wasn’t all doom a gloom – I managed to drink beer (a lot of beer), learn a number of life lessons that whilst at times hard I will value for the rest of my days, pick up some incredible professional experiences and friends that I won’t ever forget, met some new people that if the status quo had been maintained I perhaps would never of met and (most importantly) …. I drank a lot of beer …

Why return now?

That’s a good question (I would say that I asked it!), the simple answer is because I think that I now have a plan about what I would like to do with – and perhaps most importantly have something to say which:

  1. I want to write about, just me and my thoughts. Not doing it because I have something to achieve but because I enjoy it.
  2. Want to give back in a slightly different way.

Unsurprisingly, there is a story behind how I got back here.

It started with some private work that I did for a business website. The person who I was working for is very close to me and therefore I wanted to do a good job. She isn’t the most interested in technical stuff so gave me quite a lot of license over the visual, technical and creative design of site.

This really did re-ignite my love for technology (as it was the first really technical thing that I had done in a long time) and involved some relatively straightforward stuff such as DNS tag transfers, DNS configuration, setting up WordPress, MySQL, PHP, Apache etc, but also then ended up in some pretty entertaining WordPress migration issues that I had to work through – which were very exciting (well I found them exciting).

I thought whilst I was getting her up and running, there were several things that I would have liked to have written about (technically) that might help someone along the way. This train of thought led me to realise that actually whilst I’m not perhaps as technical as I used to be – I have had some IT experiences over the last four years that people might want to hear about (which I will cover a summary of in part two of this post).

Also, another reason for coming back …. Facebook is getting boring!



  1. From a Zimbra lover, employee and enthusiast, I must admit I’ve reading you for years, and I had you on my RSS, today I saw finally a new Blog entry!!!

    Good to have you back!

    Best regards

    1. Cheers Jorge, nothing wrong with Zimbra either – you never know, there might be a few posts coming about it 🙂

  2. Good to hear that you’re back. This site was really helped me a lot while im doing my Exchangr server test lab and production tasks..

    All the Best..


  3. Hi Andy,

    I totally understand what you are saying here, great to have you back and that you took the time to do your personal work.
    I’m going through something like that too…


    1. Thanks Koen, really appreciated. I am sorry to hear that you are going through some problems. I wish you well brother, and just remember – it does get better, just takes a little bit of time!

  4. Thank you all very much! I didn’t think that my return would generate one comment 🙂 so for you to have taken the time to say hello means a lot. I had better get cracking on writing something meaningful on here now! Cheers fellas!

  5. I have been following your site for a while, its nice to see you back. I am a basic exchange user, and your sight has helped me loads. 🙂 Looking forward to what comes next. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.