Don Jones

Tech | Career | Musings

Patrick writes:

As a teacher I often use your phrase “Learn PowerShell or learn do you want fries with that” to underline the importance of PowerShell. That was a few years ago. Do you still think so, or has your opinion changed?

I truly believe that all systems will get smaller and smaller over time and that PowerShell will become more and more important.

However, my experience shows that many Windows administrators still use the old vbs or bat strategy when it comes to scripting. My experience also shows that at least 7/10 are not familiar with PowerShell at all (European Region, small and middle sized companies). So I’m worried if we’ve missed the boat.

Have a question of your own? Please ask.

You didn’t miss the boat. VBScript was around for a decade before anyone even seriously started into it, and even then it never caught on as big as PowerShell has in that same timeframe. People take time to alter their habits and patterns, unless there’s some external force that pushes them to do it. Culture plays a huge role. Not to play into stereotypes, but all of my German and Scandinavian friends are PowerShell monsters, whereas I think I have maybe one fellow I know in France who really uses it a lot. I’ve no idea what that means, or why, only that culture clearly plays some kind of role.

Systems will get smaller and smaller over time, and automation – whether that’s PowerShell or something else – will play a more and more important role. Here in the Microsoft world, we need to acknowledge that not everyone is going to make it to the end of the journey. Some companies, and some people, just don’t have it in them to adapt, and they’re going to be stuck in whatever place they are right now. Yeah, there’ll always be room for GUI-based button monkeys. They won’t be the highest-paying jobs, anymore than a supermarket cashier is a high-paying job. So the industry will sort itself, and companies who can’t afford Automators will have to make do with Button Monkeys. And those Monkeys will have to be thankful for whatever salary they can earn from those smaller companies. That’s life.

Part of the problem is that people aren’t always really good at looking where their industry is going. I imagine the makers of horse-drawn carriages poo-pooed those horseless contraptions right up until they locked the doors on their workshops for the last time. If you can’t see where things are turning, you can’t make sure you’re in a position to capitalize on the changes ahead, right? I (and you, clearly) try to help people do that, but you know what they say about horses and water.

Good example: I have a PowerShell Scripting course in Microsoft’s Courseware Marketplace. It’s 55039BC. I get student feedback reports every quarter or so, and the #2 complaint about the course is that the labs aren’t the usual Microsoft “list of numbered tasks to complete.” People literally have come to a programming course and expect to be told exactly what to type, as if I’m going to go back to their jobs with them and tell them what to code there. Those are not folks who are, for the most part, going to make it much further on the journey. (For the record, the #1 complaint is from people who are experiencing PowerShell for the first time in that marketed as “Intermediate-to-Advanced” course and are having trouble following along; I don’t know how to fix that.)

There’s always room to catch the boat, though. Now, that doesn’t mean the best seats are still available on the boat, because the clever folks who got on early already took a lot of them. But it’s a really big boat, and we’ve got plenty of room for those who want to come along for the ride. In terms of serving your fellow humans, all you can do is keep making the case, pointing to the many people who’ve gotten multi-tens-of-thousands-of-dollars pay raises by getting on board, and help show them that the change isn’t as alarming or hard as they might be making it in their heads.

3 thoughts on “AMA: Did We Miss the PowerShell Boat?

  1. As things get more complex and granular, and dockerization, windows core, and other technologies make things scale smaller and broader for resiliency/agility/whatever, it will eventually push the button monkeys into a smaller niche. I don’t think there really is a way forward into the future without a stronger background in automation – whether that’s puppet/chef/ansible/pshell/a Frankenstein of all of the above, especially trying to wrangle hundreds or thousands of systems.

  2. After my first Powershell training (MS10325A) , I didn’t quite get it. Then in 2013 Don Jones had a Powershell Masterclass in Norway, and suddeny: That Toolmaking thing changed my life! I am actually the only one in my IT Department who uses Powershell only, believe it or not. All the others still are GUI guys and some Powershell. So, Yes! I believe many have missed that boat. Is it down to training? Yeah, I would think so.

    So what’s next? Running Remote Powershell against tens of thousands of users in Office365 is actually a challenge, due to throttling and session timeout and so on. But I guess we have to live with that.

  3. Mark says:

    I took an introductory Powershell course online last year and learned enough to start digging into it on my own. My primary scripting and automation skills comes from primarily using Python, so I simply integrated Powershell into my Python code. I basically use Python as the skeleton or logic glue and Powershell does all the heavy lifting…at least in my Windows environments. Actual Powershell only scripts look messy and very discombobulated to me. Python helps me keep a cleaner looking and easier to understand script but still allows me access to Powershell’s vast abilities.

    I’d say it’s never too late to jump on-board and start learning Powershell (or anything you want to for that matter). I just started last year and I’ve really enjoyed learning and working with it. I’ve saved hundreds of man hours for myself and my staff by automating repetitive tasks.

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