What I’ve Learned from Doing IT Interviews

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WARNING: My humor tank is running low today.  This one is a semi-quasi-serious post with sub-humor ramifications and subtle uses of pontificatory inflection.  cough cough…

Like many (most) of you, for years, I’ve been the one sweating through an interview.  I’ve had bad interview experiences, and good ones; maybe even a great one, once or twice.

On the bad list was one with a well-known hardware vendor, where I was introduced to three “tech reviewers” on the call who regularly speak at pretty much EVERY IT conference on Earth, and have written enough books for me to climb a stack and change a light bulb.  I was in over my head, but thankfully, they appreciated my humility and sense of humor (had an interesting follow-on conversation at the end as well, but I’ll leave that for another time).

On the good list was the most-recent interview I had (my current job) where the interviewer took the time to share some fantastic technical advise which helped me on the project I was working on with my previous employer.  More than an interview, it was like a mini-training session.  Needless to say, he liked my mental problem-solving process enough to offer me this job.  Very, very much appreciated.

But this post is really about the flip-side of the interview process; what I’ve learned from interviewing others for various types of positions.  At a former place I was the administrative “lead” of a team of six (6) incredibly skilled people.  Part of my role was to interview new hires for a very uncommon set of skills to fit into that project.

At my current employer, I’ve been interviewing like mad to help a customer fill staffing needs for another set of uncommon skills. Not that the individual skills are necessarily uncommon, but the mix of skills in a single person seems to be uncommon.  I have to say, it’s been both enjoyable, and educational for me.

I hope that this experience helps me with future interviews when I go looking for a new job (or a promotion).

I’ve tried to apply the “good” experiences from my interviewee past as much as possible.  For example, not just grilling candidates to make them sweat, but help them along the way, in a give-and-take discussion.  Not a lecture.  And not a cross-examination.  It’s been eye-opening for me, to say the least.  So here’s what I’ve learned:

1 – Keep it Simple

When asked to respond with a “what would you do if…” scenario, start with the most basic step.  A classic example question is “You have a web server, that relies on a separate SQL host, to support a web application.  After working fine for a while, it now shows an error that it can no longer connect to the SQL host.  What would your first step be?

Bad answers: “I’d check the SQL logs”.  “I’d confirm the SQL security permissions”, “I’d verify that the SQL services were running on the SQL host”, “I’d Telnet to the SQL host”

Better answers: “I’d try to ping the SQL host from the web server”

2 – Know the Basic Basics of your Platform

If the role involves system administration (aka “sysadmin”) duties, you should be familiar with at least the names of features, components, and commands.  You don’t necessarily have to know every syntactical nuance of them, just what they are, and what they’re used for.  For example, “what command would you use to register a DLL?” or “What command would you use to change the startup type of a service?”

If the interviewer doesn’t focus on scripting aspects, then ask if they want to know the command or what PowerShell cmdlet.  Then take it from there.  If they ask about the command, just give them the command.  You don’t need to describe the various ramifications of using the command, or how it would be better/easier/cooler to do it with PowerShell.  If they ask about PowerShell methods, answer with the appropriate cmdlet or just describe the script code at a 100,000 foot level.  That said, if the interviewer is focused on your PowerShell acumen, dive deeper, but ask if that’s what they want to hear first.

3 – Don’t be Afraid to say “I Don’t Know”

If the interview question leaves you stumped, don’t hem and haw, and don’t make up something.  Just say “I don’t know“, but, and I mean BUT…. follow that with some next-step direction.  For example, “I don’t know, but I would research that by going to ___ and searching for ____

4 – Ask Questions

A lot of the time, the interviewer is also looking for indications of how the candidate interacts with a situation, such as an interview.  They want to know if you’re inclined to question and discover each situation, rather than just react to it.  Sometimes, the interviewer will ask you “Do you have any questions?“, and sometimes they won’t.  Regardless, it’s often good to ask at least one or two questions, even if it’s just “what’s the next step?

5 – Get a Critique if Possible

At the end of the interview, unless you feel certain you nailed it, like this, I always recommend asking the interviewer for some feedback how how you did.  Ask if there were any areas you could have responded better.  Don’t worry about getting granular details, just general responses can be very helpful.  Whether it’s technical, personal, or otherwise, anything is pure GOLD when it comes to this.

It’s a rare chance to get some tips that will help you on future interviews.  This is particularly true when you feel pretty sure that the employer isn’t going to make you an offer.  That doesn’t mean you are a failure, it just means you didn’t provide indication for the position they’re looking to fill.

Interview – Rob Spitzer

Name: Rob Spitzer
Job Title: Practice Manager, Cloud Productivity and Security
Home Town: Newport News, VA

Introduction

I worked with Rob during two separate roles at different employers.  The first was while I was still mostly involved with the applications world, and the second was when I first stepped into the consulting world.  We didn’t really work closely together during the first period, since we were in different IT functional areas.  But it was during the second period when I worked with him most.  We also shared the influence of a common individual, Brett, whom I late became friends with, until his death in 2009. RIP.  Brett introduced me to SMS 2.0 and helped lay the foundation for my eventual transition from purely app-dev into infrastructure and beyond.

Let’s go…

1. Describe what you do for a living – to someone who has no idea what it means.

Well, my kids describe my job as “playing with computers all day”. I describe myself as an Infrastructure Engineer. If the Network Engineers build the roads, we build the buildings along the roads. It’s all the stuff that people rely on everyday but it’s the stuff that kind of fades into the background if we do our jobs right.
My team historically were the Microsoft Active Directory and Exchange engineers. As Microsoft moved to the cloud, we followed suit, adding Microsoft’s productivity suite, Office 365, Azure Active Directory and EMS to the mix.

2. What aspect or area of technology are you most excited about?

It’s hard to not be excited by the cloud. The Internet has been and continues to be the great disrupter, leveling the playing field for businesses. Cloud services have made it possible for small businesses to meet the same compliance, security, and disaster recovery requirements as larger businesses and has allowed businesses of all sizes to concentrate more on their core business and less on managing their IT infrastructure. I do not miss fretting over backups, patching servers, or performing DR tests!

3. How did you get to be an IT consultant?

I kind of stumbled into IT in general. I came out of college (Go Hokies!) with a degree in Aerospace and Ocean Engineering. Throughout college I was always drawn more to the computer side of the program than the actual program itself. I was on the Five-Year Plan, so I picked up a couple of Computer Science classes during my last year. Because of my degree I ended up taking a job with Newport News Shipbuilding (where we met). This was the late 90’s and, if you showed any interest in computers, they would happily train you.  So, I made the switch over to IT.

A few years later, one of our colleagues, Brett Rivers, introduced me to Old Dominion University’s ITPro program. ITPro taught MCSE prep courses and I was given the opportunity to teach about AD and Exchange. I really became enamored with the idea of not just setting up and maintaining technology but showing others how to get the most out of their IT investments. That’s kind of become my personal mission statement over the years.

Brett ended up taking a job with Microsoft where he did some work with a local Partner, SyCom Technologies. SyCom was interested in setting up a Hampton Roads office and was looking for local resources. Brett introduced them to me and I’ve been their ever since. It’s been a great fit, bringing together all of my favorite parts of “doing IT” and “teaching IT”.

4. Name the 3 most inspiring people in your life or career?

My Mom and Dad. They never expected me to be perfect but they did expect me to always do my best. In a lot of ways, that’s a harder bar to reach and, to me, it’s the correct measure of success. You can’t be expected to excel at everything but you can be expected to put your best effort towards everything you do. In a lot of cases you’ll be surprised by the results.

My wife, Lesley. She does an amazing job of juggling being a Mom, a Student, a Leader, a Teacher, and a Wife. All are priority one to her. She even helped my GPA go up in college. She wanted to study and I wanted to spend time with her…. so I ended up studying more.

5. What 3 books, movies, or other works, have influenced or inspired you the most?

The Bible – I went for a long part of my life without it, but now I can’t imagine being without it. Jesus is the cornerstone of my life.

Start with Why by Simon Sinek – This little book has really shaped my leadership style over the last few years. It examines some really simple but profound questions… Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others? Why do some command greater loyalty from customers and employees alike? We spend so much time focusing on What we do and How we do it but we need to start with Why we do what we do.

The entire Star Wars franchise – Hey! They can’t all be serious, can they? I’ve loved these movies since I was a kid, and I love the fact that I get to enjoy the new ones with my kids. This once a year release cadence has been great! Keep them coming Disney!

6. Best and worst name for a technology you’ve ever seen/heard.

Worst is easy. Anything that ends in “Edition” or “R2”. So basically, most of the Microsoft server products. Also, any name that requires abbreviations because they are so long; RAID, SCSI, etc.
Best name is a little harder. There are so many technology names that don’t stand the test of time. Remember when putting the letter “I” or “e” at the beginning of any product name made it sound cool. Now it seems antiquated. I’m going to take the easy way out and say “Internet” is the best name ever. This is for a couple of reasons. First, it so simply describes what it is. No abbreviations, no extra marketing fluff. Second though, it has so profoundly changed our world.

7. If/when AI takes over writing program code, someday, what do you think human programmers will do?

They’ll do the same thing as they do today. Eat junk food and drink soda. 😉

8. Describe what technology an average business office worker might use in 2027.

I think the workplace is going to continue to become more mobile, more remote, yet more collaborative at the same time. I think the concept of having to live in a certain place because that’s where a particular job is will become more and more antiquated. I don’t see computers or smartphones going away as they definitely fill needs, but I do think they will continue to evolve and may look very different. I also think Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality will become more common place, if not ubiquitous, by this time.

9. There’s never enough ____

Time with family and friends…

10. There’s way too much ____

Strife in the world. I wish we would all realize we have so much more in common than we do differences. Yet we tend to focus primarily on the differences…

11. Best and worst part of working as an IT consultant?

The best part of being an IT consultant is the ability to get out and meet new people. It’s amazing how much of the technology is the same from business to business yet how different some of the approaches can be. There are so many great IT folks out there. Also, the non-IT aspects are great, for instance, learning where and how things are made. Did you know there is a company up in Richmond who makes the inserts in things like markers and AirWick air fresheners? That’s their primary product. I had no idea how much goes into something we ultimately just throw away.

The worst part is the assumption that we should know every possible scenario that may come up. Consultants are really just collections of “I’ve never seen that before” moments. We just hope we’ve anticipated enough things that, when they happen, it’s minor. I’ve had to remind folks that I’m not omniscient. If I was, I would have played the lottery last night and be on a beach somewhere.

12. What examples of stupid technology do you see today that you wish you could magically “fix” or replace?

I wish I could fix streaming video. Why do I need Netflix, and Hulu, and Vudu, and iTunes, and every network’s streaming app in order to watch what I want, where I want? Yet I still need a TV subscription because, at the end of the day, there’s always something missing. I would pay $100/month easily for a Spotify-like service that let me watch whatever movies or TV shows I want, when I want, where I want. And none of this nonsense of having to wait a week after a new show airs or only including certain seasons or episodes. I want to be done with DVR’s, buying movies, etc. Am I asking too much?

13. How do you feel about the importance of college degrees, and certifications as it pertains to IT careers? Do those credentials mean as much, or more, than they use to?

I don’t believe there is any single formula for success. I’ve met some very successful people that never completed high school. Conversely, I’ve seen Master’s students working retail because they couldn’t find a job in their desired field. At the end of the day, a degree or certification will get you what it always has. If a particular job comes down to you and another applicant, a degree or certification may be the thing that puts you over the top.

I also don’t know if it always matters that you have “the right degree” or “the right certification”. Look at me. I have an Aerospace and Ocean Engineering degree yet I’ve never made a server rack float or fly. What my degree did teach me that I continue to use today is how to take a complex problem and break it down into manageable chunks. The most important thing is you apply the knowledge you’ve been given, not the piece of paper.

14. What one piece of technology do you think will change society the most in the next 10 years?

I really think Virtual Reality, or more correctly Augmented Reality, will be the next Big Thing. The ability to overlay information onto the real world has so much potential from social media through business. Even the humble instruction manual becomes infinitely more useful. Instead of having to flip around a 3D image depicted on 2D paper, you could actually see what you are trying to do, overlaid on the thing that your trying to do. This would shave at least a good hour off of setting up my next gas grill!

15. Should consumers have to pass a basic skills test before being allowed to own a computer device? Why or Why not?

Hmm. That’s a tough one. Like a car, I think there should be a reasonable expectation that a user has learned some basic knowledge of the device they are trying to use. With that said, I think the onus continues to be on the manufactures to make devices simpler, safer, and more reliable. There is an expectation that I’ve passed Driver’s Ed before I can drive but there is no requirement that I’m an ASE certified mechanic to own a car.

More about Rob

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Interview: Julie Andreacola

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julie

Julie Andreacola is a Premier Field Engineer with Microsoft specializing in client operating systems. For the last 15 years, she has been working for medium to large enterprises in Retail, Finance, and K-12 Education. Her past areas of focus include Configuration Manager, Application Packaging, and PowerShell scripting, In her free time, she enjoys trying out great local restaurants, travel, and cheering on the Virginia Tech Hokies with her husband, Michael.

1. Describe what you do for a living – to someone who has no idea what it means.

I help the technical teams of large enterprises with their Microsoft software. My specialty is Windows 7, Windows 10 and System Center Configuration Manager. Configuration Manager is the way enterprises setup computers and take care of all the updates and software for the user.

2. How did you get into this type of work?

This is my second career. I grew up with computers (my Dad worked for IBM). He insisted that I know how to fix the computer when it broke or didn’t work correctly so I was always learning. He sent me off to college with an IBM portable computer. It weighed 30 lbs and I still have scars on my shin from hauling that thing around. After graduating with a degree in forestry, I worked out of a pulp mill helping land owners manage their forests. Computer skills were scarce in those days, so I was often called on to fix the office computers. I shifted into manufacturing management until I chose to leave the workforce and raise my young children.

Continuing to build my computer skills, I had a part time opportunity to do helpfile work and some light coding during this time. When I returned to the workforce after being home full time with my children, I got a job with the local school system fixing the school computers. Hardware, software, networking, there was always something new to learn and I loved working with the teachers to help them leverage technology in the classroom.

When the school system installed SCCM 2007, I packaged all of the applications for deployments and walked into the world of system management. I learned PowerShell and became active in the local PowerShell user group. My next job change brought me into the world of consulting with a focus on SCCM. I recently started with Microsoft and am loving all of the amazing learning opportunities.

3. What area or aspect of technology are you most excited about?

I’m excited about all the different devices available, phones, tablets, laptops. I love how you can do work across all these devices while keeping all the content in the cloud.

4. What gives you the most satisfaction today?

Teaching or helping others be successful. I love to mentor others and watch them grow in their career.

5. Name the 3 most inspiring people in your life or career?

In my current career, my father. He expected me to know and use technology. He didn’t fix it for me, but would teach me how to troubleshoot it.

Kent Agerlund, his teachings through books, blogs and MMSMOA has really helped me learn and grow. He spends a lot of time and energy to make self-learning for Configuration Manager available for everyone.

Ed Wilson (The Scripting Guy) – I met him after a presentation for a local IT Pro event. He convinced me to come to the Charlotte PowerShell User Group. I did and loved it. Once a month, we had free pizza, great discussions, and help with any scripting questions. Whatever the topic, Ed would participate and eventually say “I wrote a blog about that.”

6. If I hadn’t gone into this field, I’d probably be… ?

Some sort of planner? maybe events or travel planning?

7. Favorite place to travel?

Mountains feed my soul, but I love traveling everywhere. In the last year had great trips to Italy and Paris.

8. What 3 books, movies or other works have inspired or influenced you most in life?

The Bible, taught me about life and my place in the world.

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman showed me how to have better relationships with others.

Gone With The Wind showed me a strong woman finding a way to provide for her family in a man’s world.

9. There’s never enough ____.

Time to learn all this new technology.

10. There’s way too much ____.

Hate and division in the world.

11. What are your thoughts about the roles of women in technology today? And does the discussion topic bring up hope or dread when you hear it?

I think women can be extremely effective with technology. As a community, we need to continue to reach out and mentor students and women already in the profession, especially in technical roles. While there are large numbers of women in technology, there is a small percentage who are in a purely technical role. This results in many people with a unconscious bias that the woman in the room or in the meeting is not technical.

As a technical woman, it gets old really fast to always have to work to change people’s perceptions. The continuing discussion of women in technology brings me hope. I’m hopeful the discussions will encourage women, and everyone might consider how gender bias manifests in the workplace.

12. If you could go back in time and change the course of any one, specific, area of technology, so that it turns out different today, what would it be, and why?

It would be wonderful to change history so that there are no chemical weapons. Genocide, terrorism, and war are all awful and chemical weapons are an easy weapon of evil.

On a lighter note, ink jet printers. I so wish they had never been invented. Dried up ink cartridges, terrible USB drivers, and those evil all in one machines. So cheap, so slow, so problematic, the discarded carcasses just stack up at Goodwill.

13. How do you feel about the importance of college degrees, and certifications as it pertains to IT careers? Do those credentials mean as much, or more, than they use to?

This is always a hot topic in my household. I’m a firm believer in the importance of a college degree (but don’t pay a fortune for it, be savvy in your choice). It opens doors and the process of obtaining that degree teaches a person many things that are not academic.

I do pity those organizations that require a college degree, no exceptions. This eliminates some fantastic people who have found success through a different path. For example, military service teaches many of the same life lessons learned when getting a college degree.

An organization should recruit the best people for the role regardless of academic accomplishments. Certifications don’t mean much as the experience and actual accomplishments of an individual, but they are a resume checkbox recruiters love. Certifications can get you that first interview, but you better have a thorough understanding of the product and be able to articulate it. For those in consulting, they are often a requirement of the customer.

I don’t expect this to change as it an easy way for companies to create a vendor requirement. I am interested to see how certifications will keep up with rapid change in products. A great example is the Azure certifications. With the product changing and evolving monthly, the certification test has to change to keep up. At what point does the test become a different test?

14. Will most people still be using desktop computers in 2022? Why or why not?

I don’t think most people are using desktops now, especially in the consumer space. I think they will disappear just like floppy disks and CD drives. As tablets and phones continue to become more powerful, why have a desktop that stuck in one place? Technology is racing to provide the security needed with mobile devices to make this a reality.

15. If you could transport yourself back to ancient times, like say the 1100’s AD, somewhere in Europe, and you brought along a Surface Book (with a full battery charge), and you turned it on and used it in a room full of town locals, what do you think would happen?

Since most would be illiterate, I think they would find the device confusing and frightening. The glowing display and keyboard would seem very magical. With my red hair, I would probably be labeled as a witch and killed. I think I will stay firmly in the current century clutching my Surface Book tightly because it is just that awesome!

I don’t have any links to add.  Blog in the process of getting created.

(note: I will gladly update this when the link is ready)

Interview: Ami Casto

Preface

Ami is one of the people on my shortlist for information about Microsoft infrastructure management tips, news, and advise.  One of many people I’ve only followed online, but haven’t met in person yet.  Being a father of three daughters, I’ve always tried to find examples for them when it comes to charting a career path, and I’m happy to say that the list of impressive women in IT has continued to grow.  Unlike some career paths, technology is one in which you can’t flub your way ahead very long.  Sooner or later, skills become apparent and you either progress or find something else to earn a living.

Forbes posted a list of “The World’s Most Powerful Women in Tech 2016“, but in my opinion, the women who set the most valuable example are those in the trenches of IT.  They’re the ones who have proven they can handle the challenges that the majority of IT workers in general contend with every day.  They’re people that we can relate to (even if they often make us feel we need to catch up on our studying, ummm).   You’ll want to add Ami to your list of people to follow (online of course) when it comes to streamlining and automating your Windows environment as well.  Anyhow, let’s go…

Name: Ami Casto

Job Title: Technical Evangelist

Home town: Chicago

1. Describe what you do for a living – to someone who has no idea what it means.

I get to travel the world and tell people don’t worry be happy 🙂

2. What aspect or area of technology are you most excited about?

Peer to Peer tech

3. What gives you the most satisfaction today?

Helping people.

4. Name the 3 most inspiring people in your life or career?

Mindy Kaling

5. What 3 books, movies, or other works, have influence or inspired you the most?

Why Not Me, Yes Please, Atlas Shrugged

6. What new or promising technology do you see that can’t get here soon enough?

Intel’s Optane tech – it’s just now arriving and it needs to saturate, like NOW!

7. If you could magically introduce modern technology and supporting infrastructure to one place on Earth that currently doesn’t have it, would you? And if so, where?

Yes – Rural Appalachia.

8. Do you think the general process of deploying operating systems and software will ever become so automated or simple that the need for customization will become extremely rare? If so, how soon?

Yep. It’s already happening now, but I’m guessing it will be the absolute norm within the next 10 years.

9. There’s never enough …

Family Time

10. There’s way too much …

Housework

11. What are your thoughts about the roles of women in technology today? And does the discussion topic bring up hope or dread when you hear it?

I’m all for Women in Tech. I don’t want to force anybody into tech that doesn’t want to be there, regardless of gender. I don’t dread the topic, I just expect I won’t make any friends when I stand up for myself and other women.

12. In the future do you see major tech vendors divesting more, or less, of their customer-facing services to partners? Will it vary by service type? How and why?

Yeah, it’s all about partnerships/relationships. If you want buy-in from the market, you need bring both the goods and the community that goes with it.

13. How do you feel about the importance of college degrees, and certifications as it pertains to IT careers? Do those credentials mean as much, or more, than they use to?

College degrees are a great way to show your dedication to learning, they should not be the de facto standard to measuring a person’s suitability for a role. We all know tech changes so fast that it’s kind of pointless to major in “computers”. Get a business degree and learn to write and speak well. Minor in tech, get certifications, and get involved in the community. And don’t ever look down on yourself because you don’t have a degree. If you have real-world hands on experience and you can prove what you know, I’ll pick you over some stinky degree candidate any day of the week.

14. Will most people still be using desktop computers in 2022? Why or why not?

Yes, but they will get smaller and smaller. There are still a lot of things that smart phones can’t do, like drive a giant display and still have 4 days standby time on the battery.

15. If you could transport yourself back to ancient times, like say the 1100’s AD, somewhere in Europe, and you brought along a Surface Book (with a full battery charge), and you turned it on and used it in a room full of town locals, what do you think would happen?

LOL. There would be some jousting I’m sure. While humans were (and at times still are) controlled by superstition and fear, let’s not forget how curious we are.

And there’s more…

Deployment Research articles

Adaptiva blog post

MMS Speaker Info

Deployment Artist channel (YouTube)

Interview: Christopher DeCarlo

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Preface

I first met Chris while working for another consulting firm.  I was thrown ass-first into leading a software “packaging team”, for a municipal government customer strung out on crack (the customer, not Chris or I).  Well, actually, it was pretty good for the first three years.  And then the crack ran out, and a new dealer rode into town with chain-fed, water-cooled douche cannon, and the story turned tragic.

Anyhow, I interviewed Chris (I think, but it might have been someone else) and it was one of those moments like “oh shit, this isn’t a rock!  It’s a diamond-encrusted Dilithium Crystal, filled with Kryptonite and free food!!!”  Yes.  Chris is one of those rare folks who seems like a 50 year sage in a 20-something package.  Can find the bugs in things like AdminStudio.  Shit, the young man bought a house to fix up, while most goobs his age are blowing it on cheap car rims, flavored lite beer, and Call of Duty tattoos.

An infrastructure whiz-kid. Technical wunderkind.  Says he’s not a developer, but has all the good traits of one.  Figures shit out like MacGyver on IBM Watson juice.  Have I hyperboled-him too much?  Sorry.  If he knocks on your door, hire him.  You won’t regret it.  Let’s go…

Name: Christopher DeCarlo

Job Title: Implementation Engineer

1. Describe what you do for a living – to someone who has no idea what it means.

So, I get paid to stare at a screen for hours, sometimes during ungodly hours, implementing and improving automated stalking systems to learn everything I can about people and the devices they use.  I then openly share this information to those I deem worthy.  I also hit buttons loudly and occasionally I yell while hitting said buttons.

Or, I work with Config Manager in all aspects and also come up with creative solutions to gather new information from a PC or user accounts based on management directives.

2. How did you get into this type of work?

While in High School I was taking every computer class available.  Immediately afterwards the same school system I graduated from was doing a migration away from Novell on to AD and Windows XP at the time.  From then on I was involved in enterprise management systems and automation of those systems.

3. What area or aspect of technology are you most excited about?

Robotics.  And not just robots themselves but even robotic prosthetic limbs and nanorobotics.

4. What gives you the most satisfaction today?

Knowing that all my countless hours of hard work and sweat will be erased of all evidence in about 3-5 years……… oh, you said satisfaction, um… honestly, the act of taking something that is completely broken and fixing it.  You get that bit of satisfaction that us IT people understand when you resolve a major glitch or identify a bug.

[edit: my fault.  I accidentally curmudgeoned him with that “3-5 years” doomsday view. My apologies]

5. Name the 3 most inspiring people in your life or career?

My parents would be #1 as they’ve shown me what hard work truly is, and to have the pride not only in your work but in how you do that work.

#2 would probably be this character I met named Dave Stein.  I can honestly say that, intentional or unintentionally, he helped me not only realize my potential but also the potential in others with his rare ability to teach without talking down to people and his constant humbleness.

#3 would have to be Neil DeGrasse Tyson, his infectious charisma and honest love of what he does…… should inspire us all to do what we love.

[edit: I swear on a stack of plastic, wood-burning hotel Bibles – I didn’t add that or bribe him… yet.  He makes me sound like a decent person].

6. If I hadn’t gone into this field, I’d probably be… ?

A woodworker.  My earliest memories are always the smell of freshly cut wood as my dad would be building a deck, a fence, or even a garage.  The idea that even after 50 years the things that you can build would still be remaining and can probably even illict [sic] great memories from people such as a handmade crib that multiple generations have been raised in, or a favorite chair of a passed away relative.  Those are things that very few fields can truly capture.

7. Favorite place to travel?

When I’m trying to completely zone out to gather my thoughts I like to load up Google Maps and drop the little street view yellow guy in random spots.  One such spot which is always beautiful no matter where I drop him is Iceland.  So I’d like to travel to Iceland one day.

8. What 3 books, movies or other works have influenced you most in life?

Enders Game by Orson Scott Card (Book, though the movie was good too).  The Imitation Game (movie).  Band Of Brothers (Series).

9. There’s never enough … 

time.

10. There’s way too much … 

Politics.

11. What’s your favorite sound?

Thunder.  It’s such a powerful sound from nature and yet also beautiful.

12. What would you say to those who insist that technology has only made life worse?

I probably wouldn’t say anything.  Technology is everything, the wheels on your car is a technology.  The “invention” of fire is technology in use.  There is no escaping it.

13. How do you feel about the importance of college degrees, and certifications as it pertains to IT careers?  Do those credentials mean as much, or more, than they use to?

My opinion is to do what you feel is best for your path.  Getting a degree in the Liberal Arts is not going to help you in IT, you were better off saving your money and getting a few certifications and spending your time in a job gaining experience.  Also, certifications can be a good tool to show your knowledge if your just starting out and don’t have much experience (or money for college).  While I was in high school I had my MCP in Windows 2000 and MCDST in Windows XP, they both showed employers that even without experience I have the ability and potential.  As you start to get 10+ years of experience then certifications don’t matter as greatly as you have the years of experience that companies look for.  BUT you should still be getting a few that are relevant to your path as they can separate you from other candidates that have similar experience as you.  And you might actually learn something while studying.

14. You’ve crashed on a remote island along with 4 other engineers, and 5 sales people.  There’s only enough food for five people total to last a week. What do you do?

Meh, they all taste the same so why bother complicating things with rationing the supplies, drawing straws, or figuring out a pecking order.

15. If you could go back in time and change one piece of technology to end up better today,  what would it be, and why?

Batteries.  A power source that is more efficient, more powerful, smaller, cheaper, and quick to charge should already exist today and would have dramatically changed all the technology we see now.  Battery powered cars would be old news by now.  Society as a whole would be much better off as well (think countries with limited to no access to a reliable power source).

Shameless plug – I have a site PushDeploy.com that I use as a sort of note-taking/article dump to remind myself how I fixed something when I run into the same issue again.  Check it out.

Thank you!

Interview: Mike Terrill

Introduction

Each “interview” I’ve done has been a wildly different experience. This one was impacted by logistics and direction changes.  By that, I mean both Mike and I were in the midst of major scheduling demands, however, Mike is also navigating a job change, which is always a tough thing to try to insert extracurricular activities (like half-brained bloggers nagging people with questions).

Mike is one of my short-list, go-to people for information about things related to deploying and managing Windows devices via System Center technologies.  I’m not implying that’s all he’s good for, but that’s how I discovered his blog and Twitter feed. Mike is also one of several people I tried (and failed) to meet in person during Microsoft Ignite 2016 in Atlanta, due to crazy schedules, navigational challenges, and caffeine shortage.  I’m planning to be at Ignite 2017, so I’m going to be more diligent in meeting people (those that want to meet me in person, that is).

Name: Mike Terrill

Job Title: OS Engineer

1. Describe what you do for a living – to someone who has no idea what it means.

Architect systems to deploy and manage Windows devices electronically without touching them.

2. How did you get into this type of work?

I have always been interested in computers since the day when I got my first computer – C64. I was big into cars during high school and college, and I wanted to work on automotive computer systems when I graduated. I ended up getting into systems management instead.

3. What area or aspect of technology are you most excited about?

Self-driving cars and connected cars – people are idiot drivers and half of them should not be behind the wheel. It is exciting to see the progress in this area. The Systems and Industrial Engineering Department at the University of Arizona is one of the leaders in this space and have been ever since I was there in the 90s.

4. What gives you the most satisfaction today?

Family vacations, cart racing and Megadeth concerts.

5. Name the 3 most inspiring people in your life or career?

My parents and my wife. My parents taught me how to work hard to meet my goals. My wife has helped me make my career decisions, including my recent one (but she still thinks it is called SMS since I gave up talking to her about it a long time ago).

6. If I hadn’t gone into this field, I’d probably be…

an automotive engineer with an emphasis on engine (computer) management systems. I had a Mustang GT 5.0 growing up that I not only turbocharged, but I replaced the Ford computer system with a fully programmable after market computer system that provided engine management.

7. Favorite place to travel?

Hawaii (second to that would be Mars with skatterbrainz of course).

[edit: oh, this poor guy]

8. What 3 books, movies or other works have influenced you most in life?

Millionaire Next Door, Smart Couples Finish Rich, and of course one of Kent Agerlund’s books. The first two teach basic common financial sense and these concepts should be taught in high school. Kent’s books teach Configuration Manager common sense.

9. There’s never enough …

time in the day (or money).

10. There’s way too much …

hatred (and big government).

11. What’s your favorite sound?

Dave Mustaine’s guitar.

12. What would you say to those who insist that technology has only made life worse?

I would say “What about all of the technology that is now making things possible for disabled people that previously were only a dream?” Technology has made life better, not worse. Sometimes people use technology for bad things (like the recent WannaCry ransomware), but that is a people problem, not a technology problem.

13. How do you feel about the importance of college degrees, and certifications as it pertains to IT careers?

Do those credentials mean as much, or more, than they use to? Yes and no. There is still a need for advanced education. Formal college degrees and certifications show one’s desire and persistence to complete a goal (and hopefully learn in the process). However, there are plenty smart individuals out there that do not have formal education. As for IT, it is a mixed bag. Some people happened to fall in to IT as a career and probably should be in a completely different field (skatterbrainz knows what I am talking about – just read his tweets from his projects).

[edit: omg – I promise I did not bribe anyone for that mention]

14. You’ve crashed on a remote island along with 4 other engineers, and 5 sales people. There’s only enough food for five people total to last a week. What do you do?

The 5 sales people will end drowning since they believe they can walk on water. That will leave enough time for the engineers to come up with a plan and get off the island.

[edit: there is an alternate theory that the sales people will ultimately survive by way of verbally ‘synergistically envisioning’ the engineers to death]

15. If you could go back in time and change one piece of technology to end up better today, what would it be, and why?

Hmm…this is a tough one, but it would probably be with something that helps people or saves lives.

More about Mike

Mike’s twitter profile

Mike’s blog

Arizona Systems Management Users Group

 

Interview: Johan Arwidmark

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Preface

If you need an introduction for this guy, you’re reading the wrong blog.  That, or you don’t know what Microsoft Windows is.  From a personal aspect, Johan represents a particular sense of reality.  For example, when I start getting full of myself at work, I tune into a video, blog post or crack open one of his books, and get a fresh dose of, “sit down junior, you still have a lot to learn.

It’s been about 4 years since I last had the chance to bug him. And considering his crazy schedule, I was lucky enough to get him to agree to the following 15-question “interview”.  Anyhow, let’s go…

arwidmark_400x400

Name: Johan Arwidmark

Job Title: Chief Technology Officer

Home town: Halmstad, Sweden

1. Describe what you do for a living – to someone who has no idea what it means.

Shorthand: I’m a computer geek. – Longer version: I help organizations implement automated solutions to deliver software (apps, operating systems, etc.) to computers. I also produce training content on the same topic.

2. What aspect or area of technology are you most excited about?

OS Deployment

3. What gives you the most satisfaction today?

Being able to combine consulting, training and authoring work with a decent amount of travelling.

4. Name the 3 most inspiring people in your life or career?

Mark Minasi, Michael Niehaus and Steve Jobs

5. What 3 books, movies, or other works, have influenced or inspired you the most?

Apollo 13 (the movie), Awaken the Giant Within (book), and A Beautiful Mind (movie)

6. Virtual Reality gear, or Augmented Reality gear. Which will see wide-spread public use first, and why?

VR, it is already here, and is backed by the gaming industry.

7. What new or promising technology do you see that can’t get here soon enough?

Cheap, shiny, computer hardware.

8. Do you think the general process of deploying operating systems and software will ever become so automated or simple that the need for customization will become extremely rare? If so, how soon?

Eventually, yes, but probably 15-20 years down the road.

9. There’s never enough…

time.

10. There’s way too much…

distractions.

11. Whats some thing that you wish you could change in the IT field? (Good or bad)

I would like see more talented women to consider a future in the field of technology.

12. In the future do you see major tech vendors divesting more, or less, of their customer-facing services to partners? Will it vary by service type? How and why?

Software services scale out well via partners, hardware sales, not so much.

13. How do you feel about the importance of college degrees, and certifications as it pertains to IT careers? Do those credentials mean as much, or more, than they use to?

Technically, for the job itself, they do very little. But a degree may be required to get a job because of policies, or at least it will put your application in front of others.

14. Will most people still be using desktop computers in 2022? Why or why not?

Mini-computers yes, like a media-PC at home, etc. Intel NUCs etc.

15. If you could transport yourself back to ancient times, like say the 1100’s AD, somewhere in Europe, and you brought along a Surface Book (with a full battery charge), and you turned it on and used it in a room full of town locals, what do you think would happen?

I would be hanged, roasted on fire, been drowned, have my head chopped off, or a combination of all 🙂

There’s more…

Deployment Research

Channel 9 videos

Blog Posts at TrueSec

Books: Amazon

YouTube videos

Conferences (past/present/future): Microsoft TechEd and Ignite, MMS, IT Dev Connections, more (just search his name)