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Q&A with Jeff Ammons of the Gwinnett, Georgia, Microsoft User Group
Jeff Ammons is a developer with over 20 years professional experience under his belt in a variety of industries. He has worked with an array of technologies, including Microsoft Azure and the .NET stack. A self-proclaimed "technoloon", Jeff is also the President of the Gwinnett, Georgia, Microsoft User Group (GGMUG). Since Jeff started the group in 2008 with two other local IT pros, it has grown to over 600 members. The group is dedicated to helping developers and architects that work with Microsoft technologies stay on top of the latest developments. As the hosting sponsor of the GGMUG since 2010, we wanted to learn more about Jeff and his group and we talked with him recently to get the details about what he has going on and how it all came to be.
Thanks for talking with us Jeff. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your professional background.
Jeff Ammons: I've worked for a variety of companies over the past couple of decades ranging from very small to very large. My longest experience was with the Atlanta Journal Constitution where I spent ten years. I love the AJC, but newspapers are having a hard time in the 21st century.
How did you start the GGMUG?
Thanh Le and Anupam Chakravarty were co-workers at the AJC and are two of my closest friends. In 2007, we decided we needed to really step up our game in terms of career advancement since we weren't sure how things were going to go for newspapers.
We knew that user groups are a great way to keep current on technology trends and build your professional network. We all lived in the north east part of the Atlanta metro area in Gwinnett County and there were no user groups close to us. We attended a few others, but with Atlanta traffic we had trouble attending regularly. That's when we decided to start our own group.
At the time, we were working with Microsoft technologies as well as Java and Oracle. We debated whether we wanted to start a .NET or Java user group. A large part of our decision was based on the support Microsoft gave user groups. We just didn't see that level of support from Sun or Oracle.
Talk to us a bit about what it takes to actually run a group like this.
Starting a group is a huge undertaking. The biggest hurdle before starting is finding a location.
We took the leap of faith approach. We publicized the group and starting planning meetings before we had secured a meeting place. We decided we would rent a space at first if we had to. It's kind of like throwing a rock in the water. Ripples spread out.
Sean Gerety, a fellow who is very active in the Atlanta user group community, heard about our group and hooked us up with someone he knew at Gwinnett Technical College. Our first meeting was in May of 2008 and we've been meeting at Gwinnett Tech ever since. I can't say how grateful I am to Gwinnett Tech. They have given us a great place to meet and have been awesome to work with.
Once, there was a mix up and they had scheduled an event in the room we were scheduled to use. I showed up and there was a line of people waiting to get into the room. I turned on the lights and everyone lined up to talk to me. The first person asked in broken English if this was the place to sign up for English as a second language classes. I told him no, but he showed me his letter from the school and sure enough, he was in the right place.
After some quick scrambling, the school found us another room. The only free room that night large enough for our group with a projector was the cosmetology lab. That was a fun meeting. They have all the cosmetology trappings: chairs, practice heads on sticks, hair dryers, pedicure stations. I've attending lots of meetings over the years, and that holds the distinction of being the coolest meeting space ever!