PowerShell Influencer of the Week – Brandon Olin
Hello Readers, welcome to a new series “PowerShell Influencer of the Week“, where I’ll Interview one PowerShell Influencer, Microsoft Awarded MVP or a PowerShell Community Contributor and publish it on Wednesdays every week! The format goes something like this… I’d be asking 10 questions total, wherein 7 Questions would be specific to PowerShell and related technologies, the next 3 questions would reflect individualism and personality of the influencer, something which we don’t usually see. I think it would be amazing to see the thought patterns and personalities of these wonderful set of people.
As we move on to publishing these interviews every week, I’m also very open to any suggestions or feedback, like if you can think of some better questions that you want me to ask, feel free to tweet me @SinghPrateik . I’d love to hear them 🙂 and adapt the format accordingly.
This week I find immense pleasure to welcome ‘Brandon Olin’ as our ‘PowerShell Influencer of the Week’!
Brandon Olin is a former US Marine from Portland and an IT veteran with about 20 years of experience in Cloud, Automation and DevOps practices. He has been recently awarded his first Microsoft MVP Award in ‘Cloud and Datacenter Management’ and is well-known for his creation called ‘PoshBot‘ a PowerShell based bot framework, which has pushed PowerShell Chat based IT operations (ChatOps) to a new level. Brandon has also authored a book on ChatOps using PoshBot framework and co-authored The PowerShell Conference Book . He is the maintainer of ‘psake‘ repository, with a never-ending list of his open source community contributions on Github and PowerShell Gallery. When Brandon is not working on his coding projects or speaking at a community event, you will find him reaching out to the PowerShell community through his website and on following social media platforms.
Twitter profile: @devblackops
Github profile: https://github.com/devblackops
Leanpub profile: https://leanpub.com/u/devblackops
LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brandonolin
PowerShell Gallery: https://www.powershellgallery.com/profiles/devblackops/
Slides from Speaking Engagements: https://speakerdeck.com/devblackops
Following are my questions along with Brandon’s reply. You may see some inline comments from me in GREEN. Enjoy reading!
Why did you start learning PowerShell?
Like I’m sure a lot of traditional Windows system administrators, In the late 2000’s I was doing a ton of Active Directory and VMware administration. I heard about this thing called PowerShell and decided to give it a try.
I wasn’t pleased with VBScript and loved how much more productive I became once I understood the fundamentals of PowerShell. Since then, I’ve been using PowerShell to automate everything I can.
Do you have any advice for people who don’t think they can speak at a conference?Understand that anyone can share something valuable by speaking. Imposter syndrome is a real thing and just knowing that you have expertise in something the audience doesn’t, can help. Try weaving that expertise into the talk. Most likely they will come out with something they didn’t know in the beginning. Doing talks at local user groups is a great way to start with public speaking.
Which is your favorite PowerShell Module and why you like it?
That’s a tough one. There are so many great modules out there by some excellent authors, it’s hard to narrow it down to just one. I’ll avoid picking one of my own modules and say, Pester. I consider it required knowledge for anyone working with PowerShell now.
Most traditional system administrators don’t come from a strong testing background, but the industry is changing fast. Automation is an essential requirement for IT staff now, and you can’t automate SAFELY without robust testing. DevOps and CI/CD processes rely heavily on it. I’d say if you don’t automate your tests, you can’t responsibly go faster and will put your business at risk.
–[Prateek]: If ‘Pester’ doesn’t rings a bell, that is fine, Here are few resources to bring you to speed.
– Beyond Pester 101 by Glenn Sarti [ PPT ] [ VIDEO ]
– The Pester Book by Adam Bertram
– Follow Microsoft MVP ‘Jakub Jares’ on twitter @nohwnd . He is creator/owner of Pester and often tweets the progress of open source community developments on Pester.
What PowerShell projects you are working on now?
I always have a few PowerShell projects going on at once. Some of these are already published that people use like PoshBot, psake, OVF, Stucco, and PowerShellBuild. I’ve just recently been playing with the GitHub Actions beta and have published some Actions to run psake and PSScriptAnalyzer. I really like the model GitHub is going with for Actions and love how open-ended it is.
I also sometimes create little personal projects to test out new ideas and methods. These may never see the light of day, but it helps me when I don’t feel like working on anything productive. Right now, I’m learning about the Entity Component System design pattern and seeing how it could be used in PowerShell. ECS is mostly used in game development that uses composition over inheritance. I’m using it to create a PowerShell class-based port of Zork. I’d like to publish this to the PowerShell Gallery when it’s a little more baked.
[Prateek]: Even I never worked on C and C++ after high school, but for me, that was the foundation of object-oriented programming concepts like classes, inheritance, polymorphism, encapsulation and data abstraction, which come handy till date.
Mention a feature in PowerShell, that you don’t like.
The way errors are displayed in PowerShell is intimidating. I’ve seen countless times someone relatively new to PowerShell get that big block of red text and become paralyzed. They often won’t read the full error message and ask for help immediately. Even just changing the color of the error text to something less stark may help. Ultimately, I think that user experience should be improved, but I’m not sure what the best approach would be.
How do you keep yourself updated to the latest technology trends and updates?
I follow a lot of people smarter than me on Twitter. I use it to stay on top of updates, new tools or ideas. I find it’s a valuable resource if you follow the right people. I avoid the toxic parts of Twitter as much as possible.
Can you tell us a little about yourself? like some interesting fact about you, your Hobbies, education etc.
I’m originally from Portland, Oregon and still live there today. I joined the Marine Corps right after high school and served for four years. My parents didn’t have money for college, and I wasn’t particularly keen on going anyway. In the Marines, I was doing work similar to most system administrators while stationed in North Carolina except much of it was in the field during exercises, on deployment on a Navy ship, or in a foreign country. It’s was fun to run Windows NT 4.0 PDCs/BDCs, and Exchange 5.5 on Panasonic Toughbooks connected to a radio or satellite 🙂 . After the Marines, I moved back to Portland and continued to work in IT as a civilian.
I have a 111-year-old craftsman-style house that I have been slowly remodeling over the last 14 years. I also like to brew beer and have a fairly involved setup that after having two very active boys, I don’t use as much as I would like.
[Prateek]: I ask about hobbies because it reflects a common pattern among the high performers, that people who are involved in some sort of creative hobby especially using their hands are a better performer at their day jobs (Backed by Science). It not only gives a sense of Mastery but a real cognitive shift from how they perceive the world, widening their perspective. This is why you see new project ideas and creative problem-solving abilities at work.
What would you be doing if you weren’t the person we know today? Maybe a different career path?
Some type of carpentry or home improvement work. I love to build and fix things.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?If I am stuck on a problem, I try not to bang my head on it for too long. I feel that just stresses you out more. I tend to walk away and work on something else, often totally unrelated. Many times, the solution or an idea to try will pop into your head when you least expect it.
Thank you so much, Brandon, for doing the interview! Though Microsoft has officially recognized you as an MVP recently, but long before that you were already an MVP of the PowerShell community. Keep up the good work!
~ Author of “PowerShell Guide to Python”