I’m feeling a bit nostalgic. I had a great (but busy) week at work - from customers who are succeeding with Windows / Chef / PowerShell and DSC, to community members finding value in Test-Kitchen for DSC, to the unexpected honor of being promoted to Principal Engineer at Chef.

I am so very grateful for my co-workers (past and present) and the Chef and PowerShell communities. Because of all of you, I am blessed with the opportunity to help do work that matters to the communities that mean the most to me.

Wow - 10 Years in IT

April 2006 marked the official start of my career in IT, when I went from being a police clerk to the IT specialist for the Greenfield Police Department. This was a great environment to learn in. There was no formal IT before me and new systems were being added all the time. We went from 2 servers to over 40 by the time I left. So much fun and learning.

In August of 2009, I went to work for a public safety software company - doing everything from training and installation, to a bit of development, to performance profiling and troubleshooting with customers, to delivering sales demos.

In November 2010, I returned to full time sysadmin work at Edgenet and started to get involved in Microsoft TAP (early adopter) programs. While I was there, I also got to attend the first PowerShell Deep Dive conference. This was a defining moment, as at the conference I was able to meet Jeffrey Snover and Kenneth Hansen. With their help, I (and Edgenet) were onboarded to the Windows 2012 TAP program and I got my first chance to roll out pre-release software in a coordinated fashion. I got to dive into PowerShell 3 and kick the tires on all the new features. It was during this time that I received my first MVP award.

In December 2012, I had the opportunity to join the Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) team at Stack Overflow. This was like a dream come true - smart coworkers all aligned to common goals. I had heard of DevOps before, but this is where I learned what it felt like. It was at Stack Overflow where I had my first encounter with declarative configuration management. We used Puppet for the Linux servers, but I got to explore DSC on the Windows servers and was able to put the first production usage of DSC in place. I was bit with the configuration management bug.

So, in July of 2014, I joined Chef as a Technical Community Manager. I had never used Chef before (I started working myself through an online series of videos my new boss had done to get a feel for the technology). I had written about 10 lines of Ruby before starting at Chef. Fortunately, the main part of my job was learning Chef but talking and teaching PowerShell/DSC/testing/source control and other good practices that can set you up for success with configuration management.

That went well for about six months, until we re-org’d and my team went from Community to Community Engineering - with the focus being on shipping code and helping others in the community ship code that benefits our ecosystem. I became a software developer that week. I was actually classified as a Senior Software Engineer later that month as things shook out from the re-org. Since then, I’ve become a maintainer for the Chef project and active in a number of other open source efforts, including Test-Kitchen.

As I approach the 10 year anniversary of my entrance to the IT field (I owned a garden center and flower shop for 8 years and was a police clerk and dispatcher for 2 and a half years before that), I was humbled and honored in my review to have been promoted to Principal Engineer. I don’t quite know exactly why, but I’m very proud of that accomplishment.

What About You?

How is your current job preparing you for your next role? Either in your current company or the next?

For me, learning PowerShell, learning development principals and patterns, watching the industry, has been tremendously helpful.

I love Scott Adams (author of Dilbert). He has a very interesting way of thinking about things that is just different. In his latest book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life, Scott suggests that each skill you learn doubles your chances for finding the next job. Not everything is weighted equally, but rather than getting bogged down in the details, let’s think about it with an example - me

  • I know PowerShell - there are a good number of other admins out there that really know PowerShell
  • Then add my experience with Windows Server roles and features - still a good sized pool
  • Now add a bit of C# and T-SQL - smaller group
  • Now add my experience with speaking and teaching - much smaller group.
  • Now add Chef - there’s like five of us with that same stack of skills.

I’m not the best at any of it, but when you combine all these things - it screams opportunity. And I’m living it.

You can too. Lots of good stuff out there, check out my reading list for some great ideas on where to start.

What are you learning today that’ll help increase your chances for luck to find you?