Don Jones

Tech | Career | Musings

Verne checks in with a bevy of questions:

1. What do you really think of Microsoft’s new direction? They’ve essentially told their loyal SysAds that there days are numbered and it’s all about the DEVS!

2. Have you yourself really switched to PowerShell 6 and or Visual Studio code? Or are you old school?

3. Your new job seems to have you doing more than just PowerShell and I see a new focus on your general writing skills. Is Don Jones branching out from PowerShell?

4. Do you worry about your career? I do mine and I still have a few years to go yet. PS I think a guy like you will be fine.

5. I saw your answer to the Exchange admin, I did Exchange for a while too but I diversified as a Sys Admin and tried to stay sharp in all of it, (Networking, WEB, Hardware, Database etc. .) are you saying I’m still screwed?

I hope you’ll ask a question, too! Visit here for info. And here’s the list of everything asked so far.

Let’s do this. Easy ones first.

2. Did I Switch?

Yeah. I use a Mac. No choice. I like ’em.

3. More than Just PowerShell?

The job I’ve been in since 2014 at Pluralsight has nothing to do with PowerShell. They just encourage me to indulge my passions as a hobby, which I do. As you’ve seen, those’re a bit broader than PowerShell, and I’m finding the courage to indulge them as well. “Branching out” keeps me interested, and I feel it’s good for my career overall.

4. Do I Worry About my Career?

Nah. I’ve got a strong background in both business and technology. I can code, and I can push buttons, and I can write a business plan. I’ll figure it out, whatever happens.

5. Are You Still Screwed?

See next answer.

1. Microsoft’s New Direction

I think I have a bit of a different perspective here. Let’s be clear: just as there are still plenty of PCs out there running Windows XP (worryingly, the one in my building’s elevator, for one), there’ll always be legacy-style businesses running small-scale, legacy IT. So there’ll always be a place for legacy administrators. That “place” might not be much fun and it might not pay top dollar, but it’ll be there for a good while, yet.

Lots of smaller companies are already divesting themselves of “overhead IT,” like messaging and stuff. Those things don’t differentiate the business, and in a lot of cases they’re right to simply rent what they need in the form of O365 or Dropbox or whatever. So companies that may have had an IT person or two may, increasingly, be able to do without them, or make do with fewer of them. This isn’t Microsoft’s fault; this is basic economics at work.

Microsoft, as a business, is not interested in legacy-style businesses as customers. That is because those businesses are not spending money on IT, as evidenced by their Win2003 servers. Microsoft pays attention to actual customers who spend money, more so than past customers who currently don’t. Ergo, Microsoft is serving the businesses currently spending on IT, and those businesses are increasingly asking for a new way of running the shop.

Admins are not going to go away. It’s not any more “about the devs” than it ever has been with Microsoft (and as a software company, they’ve always been strongly “about the devs”). But here’s the thing: companies spending big on IT these days are standing up more of what I’ll call “elements:” more virtual servers, more containers, more apps, and so on. Each of them may be a smaller unit of work than we’re used to with physical servers, so perhaps each of them takes a bit less work to manage, but there’s a crap-tonne more of them, so there’s a crap-tonne more work to do.

What do you do when you’ve got to perform the same routine action over and over and over and over against a zillion endpoints? You get a computer to do it for you. How do you get a computer to do it for you? You write code. It’s just that simple. Administration outside of legacy-style businesses is going to be less about button-clicking and more about writing code. Again, this is really just basic economics. It’s something every bit of IT outside Microsoft has known since the 1960s. How do you think I managed the first computer – an AS/400 – I ever helped run? OS/400 Command Language (CL), that’s how.

But admins aren’t devs, whether those admins are coding or not. Administrative coding is very distinct from application development, although they obviously have big areas of intersection and overlap.

Are Microsoft’s “loyal” admins’ days numbered? The ones who insist on legacy administrative techniques, yeah. The ones who’ve changed with the times and are no longer seeking to run their shop the same way they did in 1998? Nope. Those ones will be fine. To be really unpleasantly blunt, as it’s morning as I’m writing this and I haven’t had all my coffee yet, anyone who got into IT and thought the job wouldn’t change after a decade or more didn’t read the brochure all the way through in the first place. We’re an industry of change, sometimes massive change. Many of those “loyal” admins are the ones holding back their organizations’ IT ambitions; many of them are now sitting in CIO chairs holding things back even more effectively. If the Microsoft IT Operations world has a distinct problem, it’s a lack of new blood willing to do things in a new way that’s more suitable to modern times. We’re all a bunch of middle-aged geezers (I include myself), and we’re not all willing to take on the new challenges (although I’m lucky in that most of my readers definitely are).

So. There it is. The job of the IT admin is changing. There’ll still be places for people who don’t want to change. They won’t be fun places, or as highly paid, and they might get harder to find and might require a relocation, but they’ll exist. Choose your own adventure.

2 thoughts on “AMA: A Plethora of Career Advice

  1. davejdyer says:

    Amen.. and I’ll add that if Verne has kept up with his statement, “but I diversified as a Sys Admin and tried to stay sharp in all of it, (Networking, WEB, Hardware, Database etc. .)” GREAT!! Figure out how to break all those things into Docker containers, orchestrate, and automate. You’ve just tacked on another 20+ years. The devs will love you!

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