Be a Part of PowerShell History (Please!)

I’ve decided to embark on what will doubtless be a months-long project: a book that covers the history of PowerShell, from its earliest inception to the shell we all know and use today. But I want to do more than just document the dry facts: I want to capture the impact.

Read More

"Leading to Learning," Part 1: Here's Where We Are

I’ve been in a lot of recent discussions with people who work in tech within medium- and large-sized business. There’s been a common – by no means ubiquitous, but certainly common – thread that I want to spend some time pulling.

Read More

How do I Get My Team Inspired to Learn?

From Twitter:

I’m a tier 3 Systems Engineer in a room of my teammates, tier 1 & 2. Informal discussion, tech meeting. I ask them what they want to learn or teach the team, and no one has response. What are we missing? What can I and other tier 3s do to inspire the others?

There’s a lot to unpack there, actually. Let’s begin.

Read More

Whither Piña Colada?

So, it’s Christmas Eve Day. It’s cold outside. It’s raining. Blegh. And so obviously, I get to thinking about tropical cocktails, and piña colada drifts through my brain.

I know that piña means pineapple in Spanish. But colada? I mean, as far as I know, it means wash, with a kind of connotation for laundry. Washed pineapple?

And so down the rabbit hole I go.

Read More

My 2020 Resolution: Stop Being Selfish. (You Can Help.)

So, in looking back at 2019, and even 2018, I realized that I was being a bit selfish in a super-specific way. It’s something I want to change for 2020, and it’s something you can help me with.

Here’s the deal: I know a lot of folks in the IT industry, a lot of whom are renowned experts in their space. That’s partly because I’ve been around a while, and some of the people I “grew up with” are now doing amazing things. It’s partly because so much of my career was spent at conferences, where I got to meet these incredible professionals. And it’s partly because I’ve been able to work with some of the best tech companies out there, meaning I’ve worked with the wonderful people who make those companies so great.

I’ve leaned on these people, believe me. They’ve gotten be out of technical jams, given me career advice, helped me understand how different types of businesses run, and offered me some fresh new perspectives on things I thought I’d already figured out. They asked nothing for all that help, because they’re simply great people. They’re a big part of what I wrote Be the Master, which is more than anything else my distilled effort to “pay it forward” like they all did.

But I’ve realized that not everyone has ready access to such a diverse pool of wonderful people. And so for 2020, I’m going to try and open up my pool of people to you.

Read More

At this point, you should probably assume your data will always be public.

Well, yet another data breach from yet another business that couldn’t afford top-shelf security, or didn’t understand the need for it. At this point, I think we should probably assume that all our data has been stolen, and it always will be.

We’ve focused for a long time on the idea of “let’s keep our information secure,” and it hasn’t been too long before we started to admit defeat with ideas like, “don’t use the same passwords on every site, so that if one is breaches, the others remain secure.” I think it’s probably time to move to an assumption that nothing can stop our data from being stolen.

That can actually change how you act.

For example, consider making everyone in our life invest in a password manager of some kind – even if, God help us all, that’s a paper journal you buy on Amazon. We really do need distinct passwords for each site, and they need to be phrases like “I-am-Using-Twitter-Right-Now-12345” or something. Forget 8 characters; make ’em long. Doing so makes it significantly harder for bad guys with hash tables to reverse-engineer your password, should they obtain hashes in a breach.

Press everyone to use tap-to-pay whenever possible, and kvetch to local merchants who don’t yet support tap-to-pay. NFC payment systems create a unique, per-transaction code that’s essentially useless anywhere else. If that number gets captured in a breach, it doesn’t matter. More websites need to start accepting Apple/Samsung/Whatever Pay as well, so that we’re not asking them to store permanent credit cards which will eventually be breached.

When asked to create “security questions” for account recovery (“what’s your mother’s maiden name?”), use a distinct, fake answer for each website, and note those in your password management tool or journal. For example, I’ve one website where my “mother’s maiden name” is DarthAvon. But there’s more you can do to protect yourself than making fun of Mom.

Read More

On Success

One of the first things The Grind (from Be the Master) has you do is Define Your Success. I can’t stress enough how important this is, or how much people can overthink this.

Look, I’m not saying you need to sit down and write stuff like, “I will be the new Bon Jovi.” People hear the word “success” and they start thinking about Dumpsters full of money, fame, cars, houses, and everything. Yeah, that’s success for some people. It wasn’t mine, and it doesn’t need to be yours. Success doesn’t need to be something other people see as “sexy” or whatever. You’re not defining what other people think you should be doing to “be successful;” you’re defining what YOU think a successful YOU looks like.

If you think to yourself, in the quiet of your own mind, “hey, I’d be pleased as heck, and consider myself a runaway success, if I just got to a point where I could be teaching my passion to other people as a part of my regular job,” well, then that’s YOUR success. That’s not aiming low. It’s not cheating. On the contrary, it’s achievable, it’s objectively measurable, and above all it’ll make YOU happy. That’s your success. Write it down.

Your success is going to change over time. I always hated those “where do you see yourself in five years” questions, because a lot of time the “me of today” can’t even imagine what might be possible in five years, let alone what I’ll be doing within that possible. One you achieve your success, you might find that there’s a step or few beyond that. Cool. At that time, when it comes, you can redefine your success.

Your success definition might not even last out the year. Maybe some amazing opportunity comes along, and changes your entire vision of what’s possible. Fine! Seize that opportunity, and redefine your success within that new world.

The point of “define your success” isn’t to set some unreasonable limit, or to cater to others’ expectations, or to limit yourself. It’s to give yourself a set of clear, concrete goals that make sense for you TODAY. If the time comes and it seems like a re-definition is in order, you can do that. What I like about “The Grind” though, is that it forces me to actually THINK ABOUT IT. When that new opportunity presents itself, I need to look at my current definition of success, and DECIDE if I want to step away from that path and define a new one. It’s not something that “just happens.” I don’t flit from one life path to another without thinking about it — “The Grind” makes me think about it. It makes me make decisions, like an adult. I like that.

Don’t rush this. Draft up a definition of success and sleep on it. Tweak it over the coming few days until you’re happy with it. Test yourself by asking, “if I come to a point in my life where I feel absolutely successful, what will I be doing?” Whatever you write down for your success definition should answer that question clearly.

Now, before I let you go, we need to have a brief understanding of the word “discipline.” I want you to be disciplined about keeping up with “The Grind,” and this mailing list is designed to provide some help. But “being disciplined” simply means “being able to remember what you want, and why you want it, and how important it is to you.” You’re not going to BE successful unless you BECOME successful; “The Grind” is not about the end-state as much as it is about the journey. So you’re going to have to walk the walk and do the work. I want this mailing list to help poke you each week, so that you’ll take the time to do the work, BUT YOU GOTTA DO IT. It’ll be way easier to not do it, and you gotta fight that.

Time to get started. Define your success.

Writing Workshop Conclusion: Review Your Piece

Time for part 5, our final installment! If you’re not familiar with this workshop, read the overview first. In this part, you’re going to review what you’ve written before you unleash it on the world.

I always wait a day or two before I re-read a piece; it lets me get into a different frame of mind so I can do a “fresh” read. I’ll sometimes catch some typos (although I’m admittedly terrible at doing so, usually), but more often I’ll run across an awkward phrase, or a sentence that doesn’t scan like I wanted it to, or something substantive like that.

I start by taking my original bullet list (from Part 2) and making sure I’ve hit all those points. If I didn’t, I revise.

I don’t do this as much now, since I’ve got 19-odd years of experience, but especially for short pieces I used to read them aloud. If something sounded stilted, or “off” somehow, I’d rewrite it. I don’t want my writing to sound formal or cold or standoffish; I want it to sound like me. Reading it aloud is the best way to see if it does that.

If there’s to be a formal edit of my piece, this is where I’d turn it into the editor. If not… it’s off to publishing.

Assignment

Take a look at what you wrote in the last piece, with the above advice in mind. Do a revision pass or two, but leave it there: don’t get into an endless cycle of modifications. A published piece is useful; one in and endless loop of rewrites isn’t.

Wrap-Up

Hopefully, this little workshop has illustrated the process I use myself, and offered you a tip or two that you’ll find useful.

I’m super-biased toward the written word. While I acknowledge that it’s not a perfect form of communication, it’s one that’s served humanity better, and for longer, than anything else. I don’t know if we’ll be able to watch today’s digital videos a hundred years from now, but I’m betting we’ll still be able to read.

With that in mind, I hope you can find something to write about, and that you do it. Eventually (trust me), if you do it enough, you will be amazing at it (assuming you’re not already), and it’ll start to be a habit that you don’t want to break.