My Connection—Life as a Microsoft Cloud Solution Architect

Justin Striano

My career started in 2014 when I was hired by Softmart, a company that was acquired by Connection in 2016. Prior to my employment with Softmart, I had no real IT experience. I worked 50–60 hours a week for a restaurant chain in their Menu and Operations department, but at Softmart, I was given a chance to come into a business in which I had no familiarity and prove my worth.

In my 2.5 years with Softmart, I advanced through three different positions, providing value and leadership to the operations and customer service side of the Softmart business. When Softmart was acquired, Connection leadership approached me to ask for my help training and onboarding Softmart’s Account Managers and support teams to Connection’s systems and processes. Again, I was provided with a chance to prove myself. It was definitely a challenge, but Connection supported our team through the entire process.

Post-acquisition, I had my first real deep dive into the world of Microsoft. With the support of leadership, I transitioned out of my Lead Sales Support role into a Microsoft Concierge position with Connection’s Microsoft Center of Excellence. While I spent the better part of a year with that team, learning the ins and outs of Microsoft contracts, support processes, and management portals, I developed a passion for Office 365.

Fortunately, Connection promotes exploring internal advancement and professional development, and my director at the time supported me and my goals to advance my career and interests. There was an Associate Microsoft Cloud Solution Architect position open within Connection’s Technology Solutions Group under their Microsoft Services practice, and I was encouraged by my peers and manager to apply for the role. I am happy to say that I was able to earn the Associate Microsoft Cloud Solution Architect position and have been with the Microsoft team for over a year now.

Related: You’re Already Supporting Multi-Cloud–But what’s your Strategy?

Who? What? Why?

These are questions my co-workers and I answer all the time. Who are we? And what do we do? Why?

To put it out there plainly, technology is advancing at a rapid rate, and it’s hard for companies and businesses to keep up with the change. At Connection, we can not only help customers decide on the best hardware and software solutions for their business, but we can also provide managed and project-based services to consult, plan, deploy, and integrate these technologies into your business for you.

My team, the Microsoft Services team, specifically focuses on helping businesses with their Microsoft on-premises and cloud technologies through consultation, assessments, planning, and deployment. We are composed of experienced pre-sales architects and post-sales engineers providing those services.

The Microsoft Cloud Solution Architects work with companies who are facing a variety of business challenges. We provide demonstrations of a number of different Microsoft cloud technologies, including Office 365, Microsoft Intune, and Azure Information Protection. We also help Account Managers qualify services opportunities and speak with customers about their business needs and goals and provide the framework of possible engagements that could be of benefit to the customer. The Cloud Solution Architects then dive deeper into our customers’ environments and create a roadmap of planning, design, and deployment tasks in order to meet a company’s needs and goals. We constantly work alongside our customers to fine-tune that scope of work before it gets approved and passed to our post-sale engineers for deployment.

The Connection Difference

Becoming a part of Connection was a great experience. I was able to take advantage of programs like the Tuition Reimbursement Program so that I could continue to pursue my bachelor’s degree. I also enrolled in the Employee Stock Purchase Program, a benefit I didn’t have previously. Along with all the perks, came the best part: the people. I have many colleagues I consider friends, and I have had the pleasure of working with some really great leaders as well. I always get the support, encouragement, and feedback needed in order to continue to grow and succeed here, and for that I am very grateful.

Staying Connected

In my opinion, I think there are two things that separate a job from a career: satisfaction and passion. Without these two things, I think work becomes stale and boring, but finding a career where you are constantly stimulated and challenged can make for an enjoyable work life. Of course there are going to be hard days, but I have found that knowing I helped someone solve a problem or answer a tough question makes it all worthwhile—and gets me excited to come back the next day to do it again.

I believe that success isn’t a destination, but a journey and progression. Connection has a similar sentiment when it comes to employee growth, development, and satisfaction. I may be just starting out on my path, but I know that if the road diverges and I have a choice to make, I have a support system in place in order to get where I want to go. For me, I have already become a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate for Office 365, and I am continuing to further my knowledge and career within the Microsoft Services Practice here at Connection. I am seizing the opportunities that Connection has provided me.

Justin 7 years of experience in reseller operations and customer support. He is also a Microsoft Certified Professional in Office 365. In his free time, Justin enjoys playing golf.

One thought on “My Connection—Life as a Microsoft Cloud Solution Architect”

  1. Mike Stein says:

    Justin – congratulations on your progression! No stopping a person that is real good in what he or she does. Saw that in you from the beginning!

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