Eric Legault: My story
Hello everyone! I’m very honoured and excited to be the newest member of the Add-in Express team!! And what a team it is! I’ve been a heavy user and fan of Add-in Express for Office and .NET and have had many dealings with various members of the team over the past few years . Best software support I’ve ever experienced, to say the least!
So now I have a chance to tell my story. Let me start with a key event from a recent chapter in life, which changed dramatically after becoming a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for Outlook (development, that is). So how did I become an MVP – and for that matter – how did I become an Office developer? Now let me jump back to the beginning…
Entering an 8-Bit world
I first became a developer at the tender age of 11, learning BASIC on the Commodore VIC-20. Yes, loading code from a tape drive was somehow fun, even if it did take 15 minutes and all the code did was draw a circle! Yet I was stuck with that clunky 21KB RAM wonder (expanded from 5KB via a 16KB expansion cartridge!!) until I bought my first PC (a 486 DLC 33 with a TURBO BUTTON!!!) in 1993 during my university years. Before you could say “Windows For Workgroups 3.11” three times fast, I was diving into Unix shells using Pine, gazing upon endless and mysterious directory trees on mainframes around the world via Gopher, cursing IRQ settings, longing for a 28k baud modem, creating my first web page (heavy on <BLINK> tags) for a new program called Netscape (I didn’t like Mosaic), and of course – leeching FTP sites for .wav files of sound bites from The Simpsons (even if it took overnight to get 1 MB worth and fill up 1% of my drive).
Fast forward a few years to my first few jobs as the “computer guy”, and I’m creating my first database with Access 95, e-mailing and arranging schedules with Schedule+ (although personally I loved AIR Mail), designing corporate web pages with Front Page 97 (anybody remember HotDog? WAY ahead of it’s time), building crazy brochures and posters with Publisher 98 or creating complicated spreadsheets and docs with Excel and Word. Aside from becoming a burgeoning Office guru, at some points I was even found to be trolling through underground IRC channels looking for the latest codes to burn into the firmware of my shady employer’s satellite TV access card writer that was assembled from Radio Shack components (SHHH!!). Or then there was the time I was trying to get an original IBM Thinkpad running Windows 3.1 to recognize a briefcase sized satellite phone as a Fax machine (I got it working after about 6 hours with the longest set of modem commands you’ve ever seen).
"Commando" programming (Rambo On Rails?)
After earning my Office Power User stripes and longing to do more tweaking, I started learning Visual Basic 5.0 and received my first Microsoft certification as an MCSD in 1999 while working for my first Microsoft Certified Partner (MCP). Those credentials eventually led me to my next job (another MCP), where I was a programmer for projects involving various document management and imaging software that we marketed to customers. They usually needed these programs to be integrated into their Office applications and LOB systems, so I did a lot of what I call “commando programming”, doing everything from writing ODMA aware add-ins for Word, using VBScript against the Outlook Object Model to extend 1st generation Exchange-based DM and workflow systems, or even building Intranet portals with Digital Dashboards (an early precursor to SharePoint). Later, being the “Microsoft guy”, I was tasked with becoming an expert on SharePoint Portal Server 2001, and I stayed focused on the SharePoint platform into my next job with yet another company that was an MCP. There I worked on at least a few dozen projects, pilots and demos for both SharePoint 2003 and MOSS 2007. But that’s another story… :-)
An OOM with a view
Yet no matter what I was working on, I’ve always had a special affinity for Outlook, which I’ve had open in front of me for hours a day – nearly every day – since Outlook 97 (you wont’ find me using Gmail!). When I first started learning to program with Outlook I was constantly going to the microsoft.public.outlook.program_vba newsgroup to get help, and soon after found myself answering everybody’s questions! Eventually my efforts were recognized and I became an Outlook MVP in 2003, and I’ve been one ever since. In the Outlook and Exchange world alone I’ve worked on probably 50 projects by now (many in the last three years as an independent consultant), building everything from Shared COM Add-Ins with VB6, to Exchange Event Sinks (never again!), Windows Desktop apps with Office/Outlook integration, Windows Services applications using Redemption (can’t run OOM in a service!! CDO? Forget it -dead.), VSTO add-ins, and of course – ADX add-ins. I’ve even been selling my own Outlook add-in for a few years, and I thank Microsoft for feeling inspired by my product and “borrowing” my idea with the new attachment preview capabilities that was soon introduced in Outlook 2007 (I’m sure they got the idea from my MSDN article that was an early version of my product). :-)
A little bit of this, a little byte of that
Aside from all that programming, I’ve kept busy writing the occasional article (Office Online, Windows IT Pro Magazine and for various tech newsletters), tech editing books on Access and Outlook (Sue Mosher’s Outlook 2007 Programming book), and speaking on either SharePoint and/or Outlook at conferences around the world. If you wonder what I do for fun (when I have the time!), then when I’m not raising my two awesome children or doting on my wife I’m either playing guitar, playing my fancy drums in Rock Band, saving the world in various Xbox 360 games (gamertag: Goombah), circuit training at the gym or waiting for the Winnipeg Jets to come back.
Well, that’s one Office developer’s story, and what a long and winding one it has been! But now I have the distinct pleasure of getting to know YOUR stories. I want to know how our story works with your story. I also want to know how we can make new and better stories. It’s all about the stories!!! All kidding aside, it’s time. Time to assemble and grow the Office Developer Army! I and the rest of the ADX team will do our best to make sure you’re ready for battle by arming you with more and better weapons with videos, blogs, articles, sample projects – you name it!
Also make sure to keep an eye out for myself and our Technical Evangelists, Ty Anderson and Pieter van der Westhuizen. We’ll be doing our best to meet up with you wherever you may be online and whenever you want to talk. Furthermore, make sure you follow us (and myself) on Twitter, or drop by our work-in-progress Facebook page. We’ll be using social media to promote some cool contests in the near future, so you wouldn’t want to miss your chance to win! Also stay tuned for – wait for it – ADXConnectx TV!