humor, interviews, Personal, Technology

Dr. Skatterbrainz Answers Reader Mail

Warning: The following text may contain adult-ish offensive language which may cause unwanted side effects.  Read at your own risk.

“I was just wondering what you think about going into IT consulting for someone who’s never done it before, but who’s been working in IT direct for about ten years?” – Brad

It’s not for everyone, but some really enjoy it.  It also depends on whether you’re working from home/remote or on-site mostly.  If you’re used to being in a room full of people and a bustling office environment, then switch to being alone all the time, even with online communication tools, it’s sometimes lonely.  If you have pets or someone at home to talk to it helps, otherwise you should get outside frequently and mix with other people.  Coffee shop, park, etc.  It also requires you to impose your own control over scheduling, sleep, eating, exercise, etc.

If you prefer keeping hands-on with things after you build them, it might be tough letting go of each project and moving on to the next.  If you like having a steady office environment, that too may be a tough adjustment.  If you don’t like traveling a lot, or meeting strangers and getting used to strange places, accents, rules, customs, and so on, it may be a tough adjustment.

Other things to consider are how well you adjust to working alone, or with different teams from one day/week/month to the next, as opposed to being with the same group of people for months/years.

I would suggest that if you’re really curious/interested in consulting to give it a try.  You will be exposed to more variety and more ideas than you typically get with a steady office role.  But, no matter how it turns out, it will still be more experience, and more experience is good no matter what (as long as it doesn’t kill you or leave you brain-damaged). And you may get to rack up lots of flyer miles and hotel rewards points.

“Why do CIOs so often turn down requests from their own IT staff to improve tools and processes?” – Jim

Because most technical people suck at communicating things in terms of money.  Remember that old book “Women are from Venus. Men are from Mars”?.  CxO’s like numbers and charts.  The more colors and spiffiness (I made that term up) the better.  The situations where I’ve seen (or done by myself) a proposal laid out in terms of what it will provide in terms of the following, it got a positive result:

  • Cost savings
  • New revenue (not always welcome, unless it’s in a core competency)
  • Added capability (e.g. competitive advantage)

Any idea you have to improve things needs to be distilled down to what “improve” really means.  Improves what?  How?  For whom?  Keep walking that question back until it comes to a dollar figure.  And one other aspect I find that helps is to focus more on the repeat financial benefit, rather than a one-time benefit.  A simple one-time cost-savings doesn’t usually get them excited enough to set down the Martini and whip out the credit card, but a pay-off that keeps getting better every quarter/year is hard to ignore.  In the end, if you have to fluff the numbers to make it work, you need to ask yourself if you really have the best idea.  If it really makes sense you shouldn’t need to oversell it, but make sure you present it in the language the suit-clad folks really love to hear.

“Some of my siblings and cousins have a condescending view of the IT profession.  They’re all lawyers and marketing people, but somehow think IT is like dishwashing.  What’s the best thing I can do for that?” – Charles

Hi Charles.  I can completely sympathize.  I have a few of those people in my family as well.  You can either hold a grudge, or let it go. I prefer to let it go.  Time is your most valuable asset.  Don’t waste it.  The time you would spend on debating them could be better used on learning new skills or finding more projects to grow your experience.  Changing someone’s mind about things is almost impossible without proper firearms and pharmaceuticals.

“I’ve seen you pick on Microsoft Access a few times.  What do you hate about it?” – Chris

I don’t hate Access itself.  It’s a great product, especially for small scale needs.  But it’s not built for large-scale, shared use, and it couples the application (forms, reports, logic) with the data (tables, views, etc.) which doesn’t scale or lend itself to flexible maintenance.  It’s also very dependent on the version of Office installed, so upgrading the rest of Office then becomes hostage to it.

The other issue is that shared-use problems often lead to proliferation of multiple, standalone copies throughout the enterprise.  Maintaining consistency and centralized reporting becomes increasingly difficult.

Then when IT wants (or needs) to roll out a new version of Office, it turns into “Now hold on a minute!  That’ll break our precious Access DB ‘application’!”   The longer the Access app remains in production, the more intrinsic it becomes to business operations, making it more sensitive to disruption.  And the longer is remains in production, the more likely staff will have quit/retired/died/joined a cult, whatever, and now nobody is left who knows how to maintain or modify the code.

This often leads to the following discussion playbook scenarios, complete with the eye-rolling, mumbling, and drooling package…

Version 1

IT: “You guys in Finance need to upgrade this Access thing of yours so it works with 2016!”

Finance guys: “The guy who wrote it left months/years ago and we don’t have anyone who can update it”

IT: “Not our problem. Make it happen.”

Finance guys: “Then fuck you.”

Version 2

IT: “You guys in Finance need to upgrade this Access thing of yours so it works with 2016!”

Finance guys: “Okay, but since this is YOUR requirement, then IT should pay for all that work.”

IT: “No!”

Finance guys: “Then fuck you.”

Version 3

IT: “You guys in Finance need to upgrade this Access thing of yours so it works with 2016!”

Finance guys: “Okay, but we don’t have anyone who can do it due to schedules and other work.  Can IT do it for us?”

IT: “No!”

Finance guys: “Then fuck you.”

Version 4

IT: “You guys in Finance need to…”

Finance guys: “Just fuck you.”

Then we break for lunch, listen to IT complain about how <insert department name here> are a bunch of a-holes to work with.  We come back to the office, fighting off the carb-coma sleep monster, and repeat the same discussions again.  Someone will suggest the usual workarounds…

  • “Let’s install the Access runtime for 2007 or 2010 along with Access 2016!”
    • “Adding more complexity to our environment is not the answer.”
  • “Move it to Citrix or RDS!”
    • Citrix/RDS guy: “No!  I need funding to buy more hardware.”
  • “Let’s App-V or ThinApp it!”
    • “Carl – Do YOU know how to sequence that?”
      • “Ummm no.  But I hear it’s really cool.”
    • “You thought Justin Bieber was cool.”
      • “What’s wrong with Justin?!”
    • (continues on until some smacks the table to break it up)
  • “Let’s rent an unmarked van and kidnap that old guy that wrote this!”
    • “I have $53 on me.  Can we rent one that cheap?”
      • “I have duct tape, maybe a gift card too, hold on…”

In the end, the most expensive, least efficient and most painful “solution” will be chosen and everyone will be unhappy.  After a few months they will have left for other jobs and a new staff will be looking at it, wash rinse and repeat.  Or, in some cases, they hire someone to rewrite the app using modern tools that support shared use, are easy to maintain and even move to the cloud.

“I’d like to use Chocolatey at my company, but management won’t allow it and won’t pay for the business version.  Can I still leverage pieces of it somehow?” – Larry

There are several things you can “leverage” without using the public repository, or buying the business license features.

  • Set up an internal repository.  If there’s no objection to internal sourcing of packages.
  • Crack open Chocolatey packages for the silent installation and configuration syntax to use elsewhere.  Scripts, SCCM, etc.
  • Apply for a new job elsewhere.

Option 1 – Setting up an internal repo…

  1. Read this –
  2. Test, test, and test some more
  3. Pilot deployment
  4. Production domination and ultimate anihilation

Option 2 – Cracking open a warm one…

  1. Locate the desired package (e.g. Microsoft Teams desktop app)
  2. Click on the “Package source” link along the left (opens the Github repo)
  3. Inspect the .nuspec file for some general details
  4. Inspect the xxxinstall.ps1 file for the code and tasty stuff
  5. Copy / adapt when you can into whatever else you’re using


  • If you intend to “keep up” with the latest releases of a given package, you may need to repeat the above steps, or monitor the vendor source location(s) to react as they post new versions.
  • If you want to expand on this, you can post your own packages with internal modification requirements (icacls, registry hacks, etc.) as needed, or adapt them into your own deployment scripts or task sequences.


Send more questions via Twitter DM.  If you follow me, and your account doesn’t smell like a bot, or a weird cats-for-kids black market thing, then I will usually follow you back.

interviews, Personal, Society

Interview: Favorite Quotes

Question: “What is one of your favorite quotes?



Amy Casto @AdaptivaAmi

I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.

Johan Arwidmark @jarwidmark

Failure is not an option

Mike Terrill @miketerrill

Moving on, is a simple thing, what it leaves behind is hard.” – Dave Mustaine

Arnie Tomasovsky @arnietomasovsky

I have no particular one, but I quite like this one: “Money can buy you a fine dog, but only love can make him wag his tail.

Julie Andreacola @jandreacola

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together

Rod Trent  @rodtrent

The mind, once expanded to the dimensions of bigger ideas, never returns to its original size.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

Nickolaj Andersen @nickolajA

I have some time, but I’m not really a quotes guy. The only one I can think of is when it was said that “64k of RAM is enough” (or something like that) 🙂

Jon Szewczak @VBJV

IT: “Everyonee writes terrible code. We can’t help it. The goal each year is to suck a little less.

Life: “Affirmation can change the course of someone’s life.

Nicke Kallen @znackattack

Well, odd one that sticked with me for years. About 17-18 years ago we had some workplace training (perhaps a bad translation..) (still in high school then) and the mentor that was assigned to me just gave me some pretty straight forward rules – including this: “You can wait for me, but I can’t wait for you

Obviously- this was that he wouldn’t wait 5 minutes for me, but i should value his time and if getting somewhere on time meant i had to stick around for 2 hours just waiting that was OK. Great mentor that really gave the lessons that i needed to hear at the time. Met him around the industry a few times – still share a laugh every time I meet him. Realize that as I wrote this that the quote was more valuable in the context than a general quote.

Rob Stack @londonnoise

Well, I’ve always loved “Insecure people try to make you feel smaller. Confident people like to see you walk taller.” – I’ve never known who that’s from.

The other is mildly more humorous and is “Do unto others as they would do unto you …. then run like hell before the police arrive.” 😦

Me @skatterbrainzz

Everyone has a plan, until they get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson

You can’t reason anyone out of something they didn’t reason themselves into.” – The Great Henry Lapo

interviews, Personal, Technology, Uncategorized

Interview – 5 Places You Could Get Lost Within and Not Mind at All

This time the question was: “Name (up to) 5 places you could easily get lost within for hours, and not mind at all.

Amy Casto @AdaptivaAmi

  1. Anywhere there are horses
  2. BÃ¥stad Sweden
  3. Antelope Island near Salt Lake City, UT
  4. Iceland
  5. Gulf of Mexico

Niall Brady @ncbrady

  1. Kitwe, Zambia. Because I grew up there as a child.
  2. Victoria Falls, Zambia. Because it is the most amazing place you will ever visit or see.
  3. Kariba dam and Kariba dam lake. Amazing place to be.
  4. Diarmuid and Grainne cave in Sligo, Ireland. Wow, what a view, both outside and inside (pot-holing).
  5. Ben-Bulben Sligo. A mountain with many different faces.

Julie Andreacola @jandreacola

  1. Any big research library
  2. a County Fair
  3. Reddit
  4. Forest Service roads in the mountains in my Jeep
  5. New York City. Hmm, that’s a pretty eclectic mix.

Jon Szewczack @VBJV

  1. Any hiking trail.
  2. A beach
  3. When I was younger: a Suncoast Video store.
  4. Detroit auto show – I have never been there but I can imagine that it would be just a sublimely blissful way to spend a day.
  5. In water boat show in Miami. The sheer extravagance on display is mind-numbingly weird in a very pleasant way.

Maurice Daly @modal_it

  1. Microsoft HQ
  2. Porsche Factory
  3. Lamborghini Factory
  4. Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory
  5. Corona Bottling Plant

Nicke Kallen @znackattack

  1. Diving any place with good visibility. Being under water and breathing while there is exhilarating.
  2. A good book. Kicking off a journey to an imaginary place or time is a way to checkout from reality.
  3. A rabbits hole. Like wikipedia, or that issue that spawns new findings all the time.

Me @skatterbrainzz

  1. Fry’s
  2. Twitter
  3. Nature and Hiking Trails
  4. New York City
  5. Abandoned structures
interviews, Surveys, Technology

Interviews – Will IT Be More or Less Fun in 10 Years?

Question: “Do you expect that IT work in 10 years from now, will be more fun or less fun than it is today, and why?”

Mark Aldridge

I think that it will be more fun as there will so much more technology to learn in 10 years time and so many amazing features in ConfigMgr 2706!


I think it will be more fun as open source projects become more the norm. Also as Infrastructure as Code becomes all things as code (ATaC?), the challenge level is going to go up. We will be more focused on solving the problem than running the infrastructure. Also the kinds of industries will change from country to country as the Human Development Index shifts and Nation State ranking changes. The level of Virtualization in all areas life will continue down Moore’s law critical path, even as the compute hardware reaches Moore’s limit. te things we IT will get shinier. …or Skynet.

Stephen Owen

More fun! IT has only gotten more interesting and varied, with the introduction of mobile devices and tons of new form factors. I think in ten years we all will finally know what we’re doing with Windows updates, and probably have a better handle on security practices.

I think the Wild West days of IT are behind us, and I for one am happy about it. My phone definitely rings less on weekend now than it did five years ago.

Damien Van Robaeys

When I see all available technologies, I can imagine that, in 10 years, the working environment will also change.
This will be the time of mixed reality, even if Minority report won’t be for now.
I hope we will work with Holographic computers, like the Hololens.

Maybe computers, like laptop or desktop, if they still exist, will use an holographic screen and holographic keyboards.
Imagine your computer, in a small box that will display a screen above, and a keyboard on your desk.

Meetings would be done with holographic system, like in Star Wars , with a system that will allow you to say Hey call Mr X, and Mr X will appear in front of you in hologram, like Obi Wan Kenobi.

Rob Spitzer

Fun is such a relative thing. I’ve met DBAs that are super passionate about their jobs yet I can’t imagine how that could be any fun. Conversely I’ve been asked on multiple occasions how I deal with Exchange every day. It’s just something I found that I enjoy doing.

There’s no doubt IT is changing. We’ve seen this happen before. We rarely build hardware anymore and now we’re seeing things like software installation and configuration go away as we move more to the cloud. I’ve seen Exchange change a lot over the last 20 years but, at its heart, it’s still the same thing I’ve enjoyed all along, even in the cloud.

You just need to make sure you find a role that you’re passionate about. If you have a hard time putting down at the end of the day, odds are you found it.

Ami Casto

IT, fun? What? IT has been and will always be what you make of it. 10 years from now you’ll still be fixing some idiot policy you didn’t create but have to clean up the mess now that the poo has hit the fan. You’ll just have to keep looking for the things that make you passionate about what you do.

Arnie Tomasovsky

I expect it to be less fun, as thanks to AI, everything will be a lot more automated. BUT human being will remain as the end user, therefore fun won’t disappear 🙂

Johan Arwidmark

I expect it to be more fun, and more complex. Why? Hopefully less politics, and more ongoing maintenance/upgrades, and more automation.

Nicke Kallen

There are two directions that this can go in… either we aim for a specialized knowledge set where employees will continue tinkering as they do today. The number will not be as many as we have today, but larger corporations will still depend on this knowledge and for the people that have actively developed this skillset – it’s a lot more fun.

The other option is that we are somewhere down the journey to be completely commoditized. Perhaps a few service providers have staff, but apart from that we define business requirements and ensure the logistics part of delivering IT works. Its most likely not the cup of tea for today’s it workers…

Mike Terrill

I think IT will be even more fun 10 years from now. The reason for this is because our field is growing at a rapid pace and will continue to do so over the next 10 years. Just imagine some of the gadgets we will have in the future and how much AI will have progressed.

Rod Trent

A: <Beavis and Butthead mode on…> Hehe…you said work in IT is fun </Beavis and Butthead mode off>

Chris DeCarlo

So I’m sure everyone you asked this question will say “More fun…” So I’ll play devil’s advocate here and say less fun. AI is already making decent strides, and with the great progress of robots and VR already I envision AI being fully integrated into robotics in the next 10 years. These AI enhanced robots will take over our call centers and end user support roles with 24×7 support and no need for breaks or health care. From there AI will be integrated into the Windows OS and automatically Google( or I mean Bing) and fix any errors that appear on your server/sccm software leaving us “organ sacks” or “blood bags” with basic tasks such as lubricating the robots joints, and polishing the robots shiny metal ….


More fun for some.  Less fun for others.  More work for software folks, less work for hardware folks.  In all, I think there will be some serious reduction in IT staffing for many data center roles, as those things morph into “Software-Defined <x>” while evaporating into the cloud.  Then again, it’s not inconceivable that some unforeseen events could trigger a massive reversion from cloud back to on-prem.  Government intrusion, for one, might have that sort of impact.

interviews, Surveys

Interviews – Undervalued Internet

Q. What aspect of the Internet do you feel is undervalued and under-used by most people?

Jon Szewczak

The ability to stream video and audio over thousands of miles so that personal communication can be made easier. So many people avoid face to face, and so the ability to video call is hardly ever taken advantage of by the mainstream population.

Stephen Owen

Interactivity with authors and developers. People who write or those who produce code for a living share their work for free on GitHub or elsewhere, and they more often than not have contact forms. Use them! I’ve gotten so much help over my career by asking people politely, and being appreciative of their hard work.

Julie Andreacola

Undervalued – YouTube how to videos, we have saved thousands of dollars by watching how to do something (like remodel a kitchen, wire a switch, etc) How did we survive before YouTube?

Johan Arwidmark

Twitter 🙂


Common Sense

Rob Spitzer

This is probably not so much “under-used” as it lost “lost” but I really miss the openness of the original Internet. While many modern things like social networks, IM, etc. are great, I hate the fact that they are walled gardens.

Chris DeCarlo

IPv6. That’s hands down the most undervalued and under-used by near everyone in relation to the internet.

Rod Trent

I think the most undervalued and under-used aspect of the Internet is the second and third mouse click. There’s an enormous amount of information on the Internet and the majority of it is bunk. If people would just click a few more times instead of believing (and sharing) the first piece of information they are presented, our society would be so much better off. I mean how lazy have we become when reading just one more piece of contrasting information to get the full picture is too much work?

Ami Casto

Trying to think of a good way to say fact checking or brain using section. As opposed to the easy access and often paid to be placed content.  Yeah I think that’s my final answer. Stop using the internet to find the answer you want and use it to find the actual answer.

Nicke Kallen

I used to think blogs, but twitter is the exchange. For some reason – its the way to have a genuine conversation. Unfortunately, its also a method to have negative conversations and therefore people sometimes miss the valuable talks.

Arnie Tomasosvky

Interesting question. The more I think about it the more I come to the conclusion that the answer in my case would be “(proper) searching for information”. I am older than the modern Internet and I was lucky to experience it since its infancy (dial up modems :D). I can say, almost everyone was using it for either communication or hunting for information.

Due to becoming mainstream and available, young generation uses it only for shallow things or few lines info that come and go. If you ask a younger generation a question, you might get an answer like “I dunno, Google it”. As I grew up with Google search operators, finding a proper info can be fairly easy. I do know a few things in general and remember them, so I do not need to google every single thing. But can it be said the same about other/younger generation on the internet? Hardly. Internet offers many options and possibilities, yet it is generally reduced to cats, meal pics, selfies and trash talk… So sad.



business, interviews, Personal, Technology

Interviews – Common Misperceptions

Q: What is something that you think people assume about you, or your profession, which might surprise them as not being true?

Rob Spitzer

That we know everything about every OS, device, or app that someone is using. Its true that as IT folks we can typically flub our way through and figure out the answer but, just like everyone else, we really only know what we need to know to get our job done. I’m constantly learning new tricks from others.

Johan Arwidmark

That I don’t do mistakes :)”


People assume I served in the Marine Corps.  People assume all IT people are brilliant geniuses.  Wrong on both assumptions.”

Rod Trent

People think I never sleep as it seems I’m online 24 hours a day. While, I *am* online a LOT, and do actually work quite a bit, my work/life balance is actually excellent. I’ve worked from home since around 1999 and have learned to become a high-efficiency person, i.e., everything I do, I’ve taken the time to maximize efforts through efficiency. So, essentially, I’ve found a way to script daily, physical tasks much like I used to do with VBScript/PowerShell in my IT Pro days.

Marc Graham

That because I surf and skate I’m also an extremely avid stoner!

Julie Andreacola

I think sysadmins are assuming that if their systems are patched and they have a good Anti Virus, they are protected from today’s malware attacks. My eyes have been opened to the devastation of today’s malware, and just patching and AV is not enough

Stephen Owen

That I’m always completely certain of the solution to a problem. There is always the opportunity cost of troubleshooting, and sometimes the client cannot afford to find the root cause of their issue. We have to move on, and that’s a shame when it happens.

Mike Terrill

hmm…not sure about that one, although my kids think my job is conference calls since i am on the phone a lot.

Chris DeCarlo

“I’d probably say “one thing people assume about the IT profession is that you need a college degree to get above entry level. I’d say that’s not true. You can get far with finding a section of IT you like and becoming a master in it through certification and many many hours of dedicated research/lab time at home. Showing confidence in your skillset becomes visible to others and you start to become the “go-to” person in your field.


E. All the above.

interviews, Personal, Technology, Uncategorized

Interview – Cris Weber


Your Name: Cris Weber  @cweberits

Official Job Title: Development Architect

Functional role: Consulting / Internal Product Development

Home town: Grand Rapids, MI

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

I lead a team of developers to make our consultants and our managed services more efficient by automating everything I can.

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

Where to even start… Azure, Windows 10, EMS and ConfigMgr… I love the new MSFT that moves so fast.

3. What gives you the most satisfaction from your job today?

Either the moment where I’ve been working on a problem for hours and I finally solve it or when I finish a product and show it to our engineers and see how much it helps them.

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

Troy Whittaker – My manager and mentor.

Jeffrey Snover – PowerShell and…

CGP Grey –

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

The phoenix project. I’ve worked at companies that are exactly like that book and it helped me bring some sanity to the company.

Time management for sysadmins. – As a sysadmin I used to be overwhelmed with all the things to do. This book has a good system for helping sysadmins out.

Getting things done – I’m kind of a task management nut. So much so that I wrote my own custom task management app that brings scrum and getting things done together… (Yea… I don’t get out much. I do this in my spare time from 5 am to 6 am.)

6. You just stepped out of a time machine in 1100 AD in London or Rome. You have a smartphone in your hand and you demonstrate some of the apps and games to people around you. What happens next?

All of the apps would fail because they require an internet connection. So I would bring up the camera and take a video. Of course then I’m taken to jail for witchcraft because I have stolen their soul in the magic box. Or at least that’s what they think of the video I took of them… It wouldn’t end well. :\

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

I can’t wait until companies fully embrace Windows 10 and Azure AD Join. As my companies subject matter expert on Windows 10 I talk to a lot of companies about Azure AD Join and it’s implications and benefits. But most companies aren’t ready yet. 8. Do you think the continuous evolution of automation will result in there being very few full time human workers? And if so, what do think people will do?

This is actually a topic that terrifies me. Yes I believe that there will be a large section of the population that won’t be employable. Not because they aren’t smart but because the machines can do their job better/cheaper. I think that we will have to move to a universal basic income. I watch the youtube video humans need not apply ( about once a quarter to remind myself that I need to keep improving so I am not unemployable.

9. There’s never enough time.

10. There’s way too much to learn. I want to know all of the things…

11. What’s something that you wish you could change in your field of work? (Good or bad)

I have encountered many people who don’t believe how windows as a service works or are stuck in their ways because that’s how they have always done things. We are IT Professionals. IT changes and it changes fast. It’s our responsibility to keep up.

12. If you could go back in time to sit down with your younger self at, say, 15 years old, what advise would give yourself?

Dear 15 year old me… Keep working towards your goals. Even if most people don’t understand IT or your passion for it that’s fine. Don’t get discouraged by not being good at school. You’re good at IT and 90% of the things that are happening now don’t matter. So don’t stress so much.

13. You just stepped out of a time machine in 2050 in a major city. What 3 technology gadgets do you see people using around you?

Self driving cars (THANK GOD)

Useful personal assistant AI’s on their phones.

Google glass on steroids and no one blinks an eye at it.

14. You’ve been given the power to bring 2 people back to life from any time in history, for one full day only. Who would they be, and why?

Steve Jobs. I’d love to hear his story and hear what other visions he had but didn’t accomplish before he passed.

Steve Irwin. The amount of passion that he put into his work was very inspiring.

15. What would you like to accomplish in the next 5 years, personal or professional?

I would be like to seen in the community as a thought leader, become a MSFT MVP and overcome my social anxiety to accomplish those two items. There are so many blog posts that I haven’t hit publish on or told others about because of the anxiety of my anxiety around them. But I plan on publishing them this quarter.

Where to find out more about Cris –

interviews, Personal

Interview – @DareDevelOPS

Your Name: Drew Burt / aka @DareDevelOPS

Official Job Title: Data Center Operations Engineer

Functional role: Server Windows/Linux and Storage Operations (SAN) Virtualization operations

Home town: Chattanooga, TN


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

ME: I engineer, operate and monitor the infrastructure layers that serve the enterprise information management needs.

Them: The F*ck?
ME: I Fix computers for a big company.
Them: Oh hey can you look at …
Me: Well F*ck SMH…. Sure.

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

PowerShell and automation.

3. What gives you the most satisfaction from your job today?

Seeing point-and-click admins figure out coding really isn’t that hard.

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

My Granny for my love of reading and personal Character.
My Last Supervisor in the Air Force Rod for trying to smooth My Aggressive Beast. I repeat the Mantra Flies, Honey not vinegar catch more you will.
Mr. Mike Corum for restoring my faith in God and making me realize i’m not as smart as I think I am and others are smarter than they think they are.

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

“Surely you must be Joking Mr. Feynman” – Richard Feynman
Mastering Windows NT – Mark Minasi
The Great Brain (series) – John D. Fitzgerald

6. You just stepped out of a time machine in 1100 AD in London or Rome. You have a smartphone in your hand and you demonstrate some of the apps and games to people around you. What happens next?

I get a massive bill for cross time data roaming? How they got e-mail through I’ll never know. Like a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s court, I become a wizard the regular Merlyn.

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

Quantum Computing. Barring that memory area networks and CPU Area networks all over over infiniband to complete the triumvirate.

8. Do you think the continuous evolution of automation will result in there being very few full time human workers? And if so, what do think people will do?

I think automation will enable humans to perform more valuable work. I think the nature of work will change, hopefully it will enable people to focus on more value driven pursuits. And work life balance as you work only when you’re notified.

9. There’s never enough___

Fried bologna egg and cheese sandwiches.

10. There’s way too much___

Ego and self interest among individuals and groups.

11. What’s something that you wish you could change in your field of work? (Good or bad)

Not made here syndrome. I’d remove the silos and communication barriers between functions. Basically, try to improve the organizational dysfunction between teams. I don’t think we have tech problems I think we have meatware problems.

12. If you could go back in time to sit down with your younger self at, say, 15 years old, what advice would give yourself?

  • Be healthier
  • Focus on your interests and learn who you really are.
  • Don’t be a shithead
  • Think less do more.

13. You just stepped out of a time machine in 2050 in a major city. What 3 technology gadgets do you see people using around you?

[a] Wearable that monitors your health and all other life metrics. It guides you in work life balance. It’s cloud connected you were sent home from the hospital with it as a baby.

Opticon optix latest generation of connected lenses, allows [the] user to have an immersive VR experience at any time. Games GPS maps uses your brain as a storage device.

iDrone overwatch personal protection AI drone also delivers all online shopping goods.

14. You’ve been given the power to bring 2 people back to life from any time in history, for one full day only. Who would they be, and why?

Richard Feynman: Theoretical Quantum Mechanics Get a better understanding of the next generation of science. He was a great teacher who was not caught up in his own fame. He suffered the loss of his wife whom he truly loved, and still made great contributions, while never remembering his first duty to her.

Thomas Jefferson: As one of the founders of the country I’d like get his take on what they were really trying to accomplish. Expose him to the Nation State he helped create and see if we are on or off track with the founders vision. Also any pointers he might give to correct perceived flaws.

15. What would you like to accomplish in the next 5 years, personal or professional?

Personally Happiness and self forgiveness
Professionally Automate all the things!

business, interviews, Technology

What I’ve Learned from Doing IT Interviews


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.

interviews, Personal, Technology

Interview – Rob Spitzer

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


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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