Don Jones

Tech | Career | Musings

Twitter | LinkedIn | Facebook

Hello.

My name is Don Jones. I’m in the information technology (IT) industry, but it’s a bit difficult to describe what I do. On one hand, I’m a big fan of Microsoft’s Windows PowerShell, a product that’s included with their Windows operating system and which is designed to facilitate the automation of IT administration and operations. I’ve written and co-authored a crapload of books on PowerShell (six or so at current count), and Microsoft has recognized me with their annual MVP Award since 2003. I also help run PowerShell.org, the PowerShell Summit events, the Scripting Games, and a slew of other PowerShell-related things. I also speak at several conferences worldwide each year, mostly about PowerShell. I even teach classes, both public and private, about the technology. I’ve done video training for PowerShell through Pluralsight, and I have an extensive YouTube channel of free PowerShell videos.

My former company, Concentrated Tech, had almost nothing to do with Windows PowerShell. We did develop Microsoft’s official classroom training curriculum for PowerShell (courses 10325, 10961, and 10962), and when I did training it ran through the company. But what ConTech really did is act as a kind of mini-Gartner. We worked with a lot of independent software vendors (ISVs) to help them conduct market analyses, product comparisons, and other work. We also helped develop marketing assets like white papers and webinars, along with other more complex projects. We also kept in touch with a lot of business leaders throughout the IT industry, which helped us stay informed about current events, challenges, solutions, and so on. So, we helped vendors do a better job of talking to customers, and we helped customers do a better job of finding potential solutions to their problems. We didn’t do traditional consulting, and we didn’t sell anything but our own knowledge. And as of July 2014, we pretty much stopped doing business altogether – you’ll see why at the end of this.

But let’s go back to the beginning.

I grew up a Navy brat, moving up and down the US East cost. I eventually landed in Virginia Beach (next to the world’s largest Naval base in Norfolk, VA), where I graduated from high school. After school, rather than going to college, I enrolled in a 4-year apprenticeship with the Norfolk Naval Aviation Depot (NADEP), eventually becoming a civilian aircraft mechanic working on F-14 and A-6 jets. They put me through a full four-year program on airframe and power plant, including two semesters of a selected college curriculum. I got to spend a lot of time playing Photon near Lynnhaven Mall in Virginia Beach. I got good at it. Oh, and ask me about Denise Crosby’s (Tasha Yar) underwear sometime. At a bar.

Anyway, NADEP got “closed and realigned” under Clinton (it made more sense to truck the F-14s down to Cherry Point, NC to fix them, it seems), so I left the government and started working retail for what was then Electronics Boutique (you probably know it better as EB Games, and it was purchased by GameStop). I eventually became a store manager in Alexandria, VA (at the Landmark Center mall, if you know it).

After a bit, EB promoted me to a position in the home office’s nascent IT team, where I was the evening point of sale (POS) phone support person, and where I also learned to run operations on the company’s AS/400. We didn’t even have a LAN at the time. By the time I left, I’d written (in Visual Basic 4.0, running on Windows 95) a custom replacement POS for the company. This job incidentally moved me to West Chester, PA. Like most retailers, EB was a tough employer, but I got a massive amount of exposure to a huge variety of technology, and I just ate it up. I was literally running the Nortel Meridian phone system, along with other duties. The phone system. We had a computer that would track call details, and called it Contessa Delcina Renee (for the initials of Call Detail Recorder). Our first Web server was Charlotte, of course, and it’s where I was first exposed to Microsoft’s Windows Server.

My next job was with Info Systems, a small consulting firm in Delaware, where I was a network engineer. I earned my MCSE, CNE, several CompTIA titles, and a few other acronyms in my short time with them. I basically ran around fixing people’s backup tape drives and installing Windows file servers for churches and small businesses. They were a pretty awful employer, so after just a few months I started looking for a new job. They literally had an all-hands meeting where they told us that the “new guys” didn’t “get the culture” and then did this halfway-tongue-in-cheek “Six reasons you should quit now” presentation (“free health insurance through the end of the month!”). I took them up on it.

I landed at Bell Atlantic Network Integration (in Malvern, PA), eventually becoming their Network Manager and migrating a couple dozen NetWare 3.x servers to Windows NT 4.0, implementing Exchange instead of cc:Mail, and moving the whole environment (pretty much) to Windows (despite a general trend toward IBM products in the rest of Bell Atlantic). I also got my Compaq CNE during this time. After all that, I asked, “what’s next?” and they said, “just fight the fires!” and I said, “I didn’t build it to break. Bored now.” BANI has moved on to being part of Verizon. But BANI was a great job. I pulled Mark Rouse from EB over with me, and we rocked that world. Mark went on to co-author Windows Server 2003 Delta Guide with me for SAMS, which was the first book in my short-lived Delta Guide series.

So on to the next job! Micro Endeavors, Inc (MEI, still exists in Upper Darby, PA) hired me as a classroom trainer after helping me get my MCT. I eventually became manager of their Training and Courseware Group, and then Director of more or less the entire company, including the training and software development consulting sides. Two former coworkers ended up coming with me, Mark Rouse and Jon Kilgannon. It was a great, small company. The owner, Ed, made a big point of having a great holiday bash every year in downtown Philly, including hotel rooms for everyone so we could party the night away. The office is in this huge old house that used to be the manor house for the area, and then was a restaurant, and Ed kept the bar installed. Employee happy hours on Fridays! But being management was getting me down, and I yearned to play with the tech, more. So…

I left and took a Lead Web Developer position at Craftopia.com (West Chester, PA), which lasted for oh, about 8 months. Christmas of 2000 saw us fail our third round of financing (which was odd, because we were doing well, but it was the times), get purchased by HSN.com for pennies on the dollar, and saw me get my first book deal: Microsoft .NET E-Commerce Bible. With the closing of the company, I decided to go independent, and in 2001 that’s what I did. I always miss Craftopia a bit – we had a great team, and I reported to a wonderful CTO, Nicole Valentine. Fun story: near that last Christmas, we didn’t have money to hire more phone reps, so they wanted everyone in the office to take turns picking up the overflow calls during the holiday ordering rush. Except me. When someone asked why I wasn’t included, Nicole piped in with, “that’s not really Don’s contribution.” If you’ve met me, and can imagine me telling some granny why she couldn’t complete her craft supplies order, you’ll chuckling right now.

You’ll notice that, to this point, PowerShell (having been introduced in 2006 or 2007) didn’t exist. So while I’m well-known for my work with PowerShell – it isn’t even close to where I began. In chronological order, my technical expertise probably came about like this:

  • TRS-80 Model IIII BASIC
    (at the ripe old age of 16, I taught computer classes to fellow kids at the Norfolk, VA Boys Club, on TRS-80 Model IVs)
  • Commodore 64 BASIC
    (I wrote a program called “Graphics One” that helped you make splash screens for color BBSs, amongst other projects; my BBS handle was “Rodok” for reasons I can’t recall)
  • MS-DOS 5.something and Windows 3.0; Visual Basic 1.0
    (I traded in the “Wing Commander” games and expansions I’d been given for Christmas for a copy of VB1)
  • Visual Basic 4.0 and Access
    (as mentioned, VB4 is what EB’s first custom POS was written in)
  • Windows NT 3.51 and 4.0
    (when EB started deploying their first LAN, it was NetWare 4; that was scrapped for Windows after a few months)
  • SMS 1.2, TCP/IP, all that stuff…; also NetWare 3.2
    (This was my first MCSE, which was for NT 3.51, and my CNE)
  • Exchange 4.0
    (First version I deployed… and I’d go on to do 5.0, 5.5, and 2000 in production)
  • KiXtart and VBScript
    (Needed to be a login script hero)
  • SQL Server 6.5
    (first version of SQL Server I taught, and first non-Windows OS product I taught)
  • SQL Server 7.0
    (Beginning a long acquaintance with SQL Server, this is the first version I wrote a course for; I’ve kept up pretty well with subsequent versions although I’ve largely ignored the BI side)
  • Classic ASP
    (Needed to deploy intranet self-service tools)
  • SMS 2003, Application Center 2000, Commerce Server 2002, BizTalk, you name it…
    (kind of got interested in everything when I went independent; wound up writing about most of it and teaching classes)
  • PHP
    (decided to stand up a ScriptingAnswers.com Web site, and Linux/PHP hosting was cheaper, plus classic ASP was on the way out and I didn’t want to mess with ASP.NET anymore)
  • Windows PowerShell
    (yeah, finally; it was a natural progression from VBScript)
  • System Center Configuration Manager 2007/2007R2/2012+
    (still like the product, and still involved with it)

There’s so much more. I’ve written iOS apps, architected Active Directory infrastructure, taught network packet sniffing and analysis, written high school courseware for .NET software programming, tons more. I do most of my own Web design and development, so I know CSS/HTML pretty well. I know JavaScript quite well, and use libraries like jQuery for AJAX programming. Hit my Facebook page – there are photos of all the books I’ve written. It’s neat to just look at the titles. Some feel so random, looking back! I gave up on Facebook in late 2014, but punch “Don Jones Computer” into Amazon and you’ll get a pretty good bibliography.

That brings you more or less to the point where I went independent. I did spend about three years as an employee and part-owner of SAPIEN Technologies, which was a wonderful experience; I left because I’d gotten too attached to being independent, despite the constant risk and uncertainty. I founded Concentrated Tech with Greg Shields back in 2008 or 2009, I think. We had about six fantastic years, before both of us got to the point where we wanted to do more, and have a bigger impact, than we were able to do on our own. And so, in July 2014, we both accepted full-time positions with Pluralsight. I’m currently a Curriculum Director there, which means I help plan and manage the IT Pro-related content in the company’s vast catalog of video training titles.

The rest is… well, history. Still happening, and definitely a story for another time.