Polyglot from the Microsoft Realm

Recently, I joined my friends Dave and Victor on creating a podcast called DevCoaches.  In our first episode, we talk about our adventures with The Software Guild, where the 3 of us are instructors.  Dave and Victor are currently focused on our .NET curriculum, whereas I spend time in both .NET and Java curriculum and currently teach a Java cohort.  These guys lovingly refer to me as “a traitor”, since I’m a Microsoft MVP yet not teaching on the Microsoft stack.  So… I wanted to talk about my interesting position and why I shouldn’t be seen as a traitor. In the computer programming system, the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups – the people who write the code and the people who teach those who write the code.  These are their stories.

Microsoft & Other Platforms

First of all, just because I’m not on the Windows platform doesn’t mean I stop caring about Microsoft and their technologies.  From my early days in computing, I believed in Microsoft and their cross-platform dreams.  At PyCon 2009, I presented on running IronPython (a Microsoft .NET implementation of Python) on Linux through the help of Mono.  Why?  More like… why not?!?  I’m in technology because I love to play with tech and see the capabilities.  Running Microsoft technologies in a non-Microsoft operating system intrigued me, so why couldn’t I play?

Fast forward to today, where Microsoft isn’t only able to run on other platforms, but they’re bringing in other platforms too.  From .NET Core to bringing bash into Windows, it’s astounding to see where Microsoft is venturing.  Further more, it’s great to see the community embracing it – even those of us who grew up in a Windows world understand that there is more out there and it could be possibly the right mix for us.

Microsoft was once seen as an evil empire, but is it still that way?  It looks a lot like they’ve changed their tune.  Hopefully that image is changed as well.

C# vs Java?

If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s never one programming language versus another.  It’s never “my semi-colons are better than yours”.  It’s all about knowing which tool is to be used in the appropriate situation.  Thankfully, I think Microsoft realizes that as well.  While I’m not specifically talking about C# anymore and took an opportunity to teach Java, I still recommend that my apprentices learn both.  If you can learn one, the other isn’t that much more difficult – though Java’s namespaces are still awful to the file system. So many folders… (I digress…)

As a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional, I am aware of the tools that Microsoft has and am able to give them the feedback they need to hear from those of us in the field, using their tools.  Armed with this knowledge, I actually do use a Microsoft technology in my class.  When it comes to web development and managing my apprentices’ sites, I have them organized well and use Visual Studio Code to look at their CSS, HTML, and JS.   Work has me using a Mac – which is a blog post of its own – and Visual Studio Code works fine on it.  I’ve also used Visual Studio Code in an Ubuntu virtual machine without issues.  (And yes, I have used other text editors as well.  But did I mention that I have a lot of chaos going on?  Sometimes, it helps to have one UI with a familiar layout to keep me grounded.)

Also, little do they realize that even though I’m teaching Java, I’m still looking at the C# curriculum and have to make changes to things.  So I need to keep my C# skills on point if I want to write relevant lessons.

The Power of a Polyglot

Let’s face it – I’m a polyglot.  I have a problem – if A&E had a Hoarders episode for those who hoard programming languages, I would be on that episode.  I’ve always enjoyed various programming paradigms and switching between languages – yes, even when my apprentices ask me about a perl script they’ve found and what it could look like in the languages we’ve shown so far.  I like that I’m not tied to one IDE, one platform, one programming language, one train of thought.  I like that I have the flexibility to change platforms and tools as needed.  And I’m thankful that Microsoft still keeps me as Most Valuable Professional – with involvement in the community being key – and is supportive of those of us living a polyglot life.  It’s definitely an interesting realm.

Programming languages… gotta learn them all! 🙂

Coding 101 on TWiT!

One of my college friends – the ever-so-awesome code warrior Lou Maresca – mentioned that he is a cohost (with Robert Ballecer, SJ- the Digital Jesuit also known as Padre) on a netshow called Coding 101 over on TWiT.  Now I have to admit it … up until this point, I really hadn’t heard much about TWiT, let alone shows.  Anyhow, Lou asked if I would appear on one of their wildcard episodes, and I figured why not!

So I did some research before the show to see what I was getting myself into.

What is Coding 101 all about?

From what I can tell….

Basically… this is my cup of tea!

So… what is TWiT and Coding 101 about?

Well, first of all, we did a live recording on September 21.  I hadn’t realized just what all that entailed on the TWiT side of things.  They have a studio that’s live recording all the time, complete with an IRC chat channel of a lively bunch of people.

The best description of what they do is on their site: What is TWiT.tv?

I’m not going to lie – the first time I logged into the live site, waiting to go live, I had a fan girl moment while talking with Lou.  I had done research on Coding 101 but not enough on TWiT to know that it’s Leo Laporte’s baby.  I had no idea that our live session was following his segment.  I nearly lost it – the “OMG! That’s Leo Laporte! That’s the guy from Screensavers on TechTV when I was much younger!  Wait… we’re following him?!?” moment. *facepalm*

So anyhow… we were recording live on September 21.  I was nervous, as this was the largest Internet recording – podcast or netshow – that I had done, and I hadn’t worked with such a big crew before.  At one point, one of the TWiT crew had said something to me about moving my microphone, and that was the oddest experience ever – having someone else’s voice in my head besides the voices of the show really messed with me. Did I really hear that?  Was there a guy’s voice talking to me to ask me to adjust my mic?!?

Overall, how was the recording live experience?

Introverted me was terrified going into this, but Padre and Lou are awesome hosts who keep things moving along conversationally, which put me at ease a ton!  The chat channel was great too – very much an interactive bunch.

From the feedback I’m seeing so far, I look forward to returning and probably speaking on PowerShell!

So… where is your wildcard episode?  How can we see it?

Check it out: Coding 10184 – Wildcard with Sarah Dutkiewicz

What do MVPs do?

Yesterday, I got the news that I’ve been renewed as a Microsoft MVP in Visual C#! Thanks to those who’ve thought I’ve contributed to the C# community and developer community in one way or another and are giving me another year of showing what it takes to be a Microsoft MVP!

I was asked by fellow Clevelander Steven Testa the following question:

.@sadukie any tips on becoming an MVP in the first place? Local dev communities are looking like the best way to start.less than a minute ago via Twitter for Windows Phone Favorite Retweet Reply

Getting Nominated

Our Microsoft Most Valuable Professional program has a page on becoming an MVP. As they say on the site:

Potential MVPs are nominated by other technical community members, current and former MVPs, and Microsoft personnel who have noted their leadership and their willingness and ability to help others make the most of their Microsoft technology.

While getting involved in the community is one thing, it also helps if you’re active enough in the community and recognized by those who are already MVPs or Microsofties who can recommend you. The more noticed you are, the more people can recommend you to the program, the more your name gets out there, and the more likely you may get evaluated.

MVP Activities

MVPs are some of the most active people in their communities – running user groups, organizing events, speaking at user groups, blogging, writing training programs, writing books, host podcasts, answering questions in forums…. doing what they can to spread the word on Microsoft technologies and products. Here are just a few examples of what my fellow MVPs are doing:

  • Zune MVP Marques Lyons runs these MVP Meet-and-Greet events called MSMVP. It’s a great way to meet the MVPs in their communities and for the MVPs to meet their fellow MVPs. Marques held one of these at the Microsoft Store in Bellevue, WA earlier this year at the time of our MVP Summit, and it was a great way to meet other MVPs and experience a Microsoft Store.
  • Visual Studio ALM MVP Steve Andrews is one of the MVPs behind GeekGive, community projects at community events – where MVPs take time to help with community projects, be it food pantry or Habitat for Humanity or other adventures.
  • Other events where MVPs are involved – be it in planning, running, staffing, or even speaking – include DevTeach, VS Live, MIX, CodeMash, devLink, StirTrek, MADExpo, Kalamazoo X, GiveCamp, and Day of .NET.

Learning More from the MVPs

Each MVP has a different story on how they became an MVP. Ask them how they go there, and they may give you better insight as to how to get there. You’ll find many of us love talking about how we got here and how we can help you get on the right path to becoming an MVP if you’re interested in going that route. You can find MVPs through the MVP Search Site. Your local Microsoft evangelists may also be able to help you if you’re looking to talk with an MVP, as many evangelists are close to their communities and know who to go to. You can find your local evangelists via this Microsoft site.

Want to hear more?

If you want to hear more from me and are in the Cleveland area, drop me an email at sarah at codinggeekette dot com. I enjoy meeting up with people over coffee and talking about how to get involved in the community more and how to put your passion for technology to work in the community!

PowerShell My Father’s Command Line Part 26 of 31: Start Spreading the News…

I’m watching this week’s episode of Glee again while writing this post, and the “I Love New York/New York, New York” mashup really inspired this title. I have to give a shoutout to my dad in the title, as while he isn’t technologically inclined, he taught me the value of networking and establishing relationships. He was a union leader for the city’s emergency response service for many years, and in those years, I watched as he networked with people in his line of work and those who impacted his line of work – councilpeople, mayors, senators, and the like. Watching him, I learned how to network and how to participate in communities.

Up until this point, Matt and I have been talking about scripts and code in PowerShell, but there’s more than just that. If the language didn’t have a community behind it, it would fall flat and not continue on like it has been. So let’s do a shoutout to some of those in the PowerShell community!

2011 Scripting Games

Hey, Scripting Guy!, the Scripting Games, and the Scripting Wife!

Ed Wilson is also known as the Scripting Guy over at Microsoft. He answers languages on various scripting technologies, with PowerShell being the focus nowadays. Whether he’s answering questions in the Hey, Scripting Guy! blog, posting on Twitter as @scriptingguys, speaking at various events throughout the world, or writing books, Ed is a great community resource when it comes to PowerShell! One of the events that he promotes on his blog are the Scripting Games, and the 2011 Scripting Games were no exception! This is a great contest for testing your scripting chops against other PowerShell scripters, competing in either a beginner or advanced level. What made it even neater to follow this year was that Scripting Wife joined the games. While I didn’t have time to participate this year due to other timing conflicts, I did enjoy reading the journeys of Scripting Wife as she learned working with PowerShell. Check out the Hey, Scripting Guy blog, as Ed covers some of the topics that you’ve probably wondered about.

PowerScripting Podcast

PowerScripting Podcast

Hosted by Hal Rottenberg and Jonathan Walz, the PowerScripting podcast is recorded live on UStream every Thursday night at 9:30pm Eastern Daylight Time (GMT -4). They feature various people in the PowerShell community – including talking with Jeffrey Snover (father of PowerShell), the directors of PowerShellCommunity.org, PowerShell MVPs, people on the PowerShell team, vendors of PowerShell products, and even those on product group teams whose products can benefit from PowerShell. While recording, they’ll take questions from the audience via the chat channel. I was able to catch the show on PowerShellCommunity.org, and it was neat to see how they record the podcast. After recording the show, the hosts play music while wrapping up the show – always great to rock out with these guys! Matt and I will be on PowerScripting tonight talking about our book and our love of PowerShell!
PowerShellCommunity.org

PowerShellCommunity.org

Run by the community for the community, PowerShellCommunity.org features news, forums, learning resources, steps for forming a PowerShell user group, and a poshcode.org-powered script repository. Special thanks to the sponsors of the site who provide financial support to enable the online community presence and support local PowerShell user groups – including Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2, Quest Software, SAPIEN Technologies, Inc., Compellent, Idera, and Pragma Systems.

PowerShell.com

PowerShell.com is another community for PowerShell scripts, tips & tricks, webcasts, blogs, and other resources. Once again, Idera and Compellent are sponsoring another community resource (in addition to PowerShellCommunity.org). Concentrated Technology and nSoftware also sponsor PowerShell.com. This site also features the Master-PowerShell eBook written by Dr. Tobias Weltner. Yet another great resource for PowerShell scripters!


Get-ToThePrompt -at PowerGUI.org

PowerGUI.org

Quest Software, Inc. runs PowerGUI.org, a free community for PowerGUI users. PowerGUI is a script editor and administrative console based on PowerShell. Their community site includes tutorials, PowerPacks, forums, wikis, demos, and other goodies related to PowerGUI. If you’re using PowerGUI, then this site is a must-have resource!

#powershell on irc.freenode.net

If you’re an IRC user, definitely check out the #powershell channel on irc.freenode.net. Don’t have an IRC client? mIRC, xChat, and others are out there. Of course, freenode is awesome and has a webchat available!

Others?

These are just a few of the PowerShell resources and communities out there. Got any you want to recommend that I haven’t mentioned here? Leave me a comment!

Overspecialize, Generalize, or Find that Happy Middle…

I’ve been dealing with this dilemma for the past couple years. While I’ve had a Microsoft MVP award for Visual C# these past couple years, I’ve wondered if I’ve gone too generalized to have it renewed this year. We’ll find out in July if that’s actually true. Even if that’s true, I’m still going to be on that mission – to find the happy middle between overspecializing and generalizing.

Add to it that I saw this tweet, and it really has me thinking:

The key to being a programmer today and in the future. Don’t over specialize, don’t stop learning, stay close to your customer.less than a minute ago via TweetDeck Favorite Retweet Reply

For me, I don’t want to go down the road of overspecializing. I’d feel like that guy who painted himself into the corner of the room, trapped. However, I don’t want to be too general, because while it’s helpful being a jack of all trades, it’s also hard to see where it’s best to place me, which projects are best to utilize my skillset. I’d like to be the master of some, not the master of none. In a way, I want to be kinda like my Microsoft MVP expertise of Visual C# – I want to be useful on many types of projects.

Visual C# is my current expertise area, but I also am dabbling with PowerShell. The beauty of it all, though, is that I am using Visual C# while playing with PowerShell – how do you think my custom cmdlets are written? If you’re in the Cleveland area on April 26th, I can show you some custom cmdlets at the Cleveland C#/VB.NET SIG. You can also see some of my custom cmdlets in appendix D in Automating Microsoft® Windows Server 2008 R2 Administration with Windows® PowerShell 2.0.

That’s not the only time I use Visual C# though. In my day job, I work on ASP.NET websites, web applications, out-of-browser Silverlight apps – all with Visual C# as their base. I’m working with ASP.NET MVC and ASP.NET WebForms, which I use with Visual C#. Here at home, I play with Windows Phone development, and that too… written in Visual C#. I also write web services – be it ASP.NET Web Services or WCF – in Visual C#. Writing Windows Forms and WPF applications… those are also done in Visual C#. It’s such a handy language, with a variety of applications.

Now granted there’s a lot of theory behind Visual C# and how it’s built. There are people who specialize in that, in how the compiler works, in how the language works under the covers. And then there are people like me – on the quest of finding the happy middle. While I would love to understand how its work under the covers, I really like seeing how it is applied in the field as well. Understanding how it works under the covers can give me a better background of why its strengths and weaknesses are the way they are, and it would help me play off of the strengths and weaknesses better in code. However, understanding how it is applied helps me to put Visual C# to work in my everyday business world and in my side projects.

I like tinkering with the many uses of the language to see how it can be used, and the same can be said with any other language I’ve worked with – the various VB derivatives (VB, VBA, VB.NET), python, and JavaScript being the more recent languages. I like the continuous exploration to see what I can find. I don’t want to stop learning, and I definitely don’t want to overspecialize. I hope I’ve found a happy middle, as it feels like I’m finally there.

Are you afraid of overspecializing? If you’re a developer who focuses mostly on web development, then take a step out of the norm and look into client app dev with WPF, make a game in XNA, or write a Windows Phone app! If you’re an IT pro who’s been siloed to focus on Exchange, you can start working with PowerShell for Exchange and then investigate other technologies that use PowerShell – such as SharePoint or Active Directory! Do something that you wouldn’t normally do, and make it a goal to learn at least one new technology a year, whether it applies to your job today or to possibly your career in the future!

Thoughts on the 2011 Microsoft MVP Summit…

This year, I had the privilege of attending the 2011 Microsoft MVP Summit.  This was my second summit as a Microsoft MVP, and once again, I learned quite a bit.

I really enjoy being a part of the Microsoft MVP program.  Yes, there are product teams out there who listen to their MVPs and make changes based on the feedback we give them.  So even if you aren’t an MVP, if you have feedback on a product, know that it could help to reach out to your local MVPs to help get your feedback to the teams.  Microsoft’s product groups have developers just like us on them – they appreciate the constructive feedback on how to make their programs better.  (I have yet to meet a great programmer who doesn’t like constructive feedback on how to improve their apps.  I don’t think great programmers like putting out crappy apps.)

My favorite session was a session not covered by a Non-Disclosure Agreement, so I’m happy that I can talk about it.  I got to see Mark Russinovich, the guy behind Sysinternals, talk about malware and tracking down using tools such as Process Monitor, Process Explorer, and Autoruns.  My inner IT geek had been counting down the days to the summit to see this talk, and it didn’t let me down at all.  The session went over much longer than was scheduled, and we had a mostly full room for the whole time.  Mark is amazing at what he does, and he’s also great at captivating the audience.  I’m glad they opened this session to many expertises, as this developer has even more respect for those like Mark who are trying to combat the malware writers.  I also am looking forward to his novel, Zero Day, that comes out on March 15th.

As for the rest of what I saw, there’s an NDA that prevents me from talking about it.  Only time will tell and we’ll see of the awesomeness that lies ahead.

I did learn quite a bit though while there – about my fellow MVPs, my friends, and myself.  On my flights home, I did a lot of thinking about the year ahead.  I thought about the talks that I’m hoping to give, the opportunities that I want to seek out or even create.  I’ve been inspired to create a few events and programs, which may take a couple years to flesh out.  I’ve got some lofty goals that I really want to achieve, so I need to find the right mentors to reach those goals.  I’m ready to get even further away from my introverted shell and to reach for the sky.

Thanks to all of the organizers who put on the 2011 Microsoft MVP Summit.  From the content to the in-person networking to the hotels to {insert all the other details that it takes to put this thing together}, there was a lot to do, but it seemed to go very well!  Thank you!

Sadukie’s MVP Challenge – Update 2

So here I am, day 3 of the 2011 Microsoft MVP Summit, and I’m still taking my challenge to heart.  I dropped my stuff off at a table this morning and grabbed my breakfast.  When I came back, there was another spot taken by stuff.  So the mystery began… who would I end up sitting with this morning?

Disclaimer: For those who don’t know about my friends teasing me, in retort for teasing Mike Eaton about something, he started the rumor that I’m a VBA expert for our region.  The rumor has exploded, but I am not a VBA expert.  While I have respect for the VBA experts and what they do, I rarely use VBA but I am comfortable with it.

Eventually, Gina Whipp, an Access MVP from my region who I hadn’t met before, sat down.  We got to talking about the community, and she mentioned that she couldn’t find anything on user groups in our area.  Ah… how fate would have it…. I told her about Cleveland Tech Events, the website I run back home to track over 50 technical user groups and other technical events that come our way.  Then, Jim Gordon, a Macintosh MVP, joined the table.  A few more Access MVPs joined us, and Chuck Husemann, an XBox MVP, also joined us.  Once Chuck left, more Access MVPs came in.  And yes, one of them – Scott Diamond – is an author on a VBA book.

It was interesting to talk with them about Access, Jet databases, and why Access is the better database tool (compared to… Excel?!?).  It was great to talk about tech I’m familiar with, even though I don’t use it everyday.

Today has started off with an interesting twist.  Looking forward to seeing where this will lead…

Sadukie’s MVP Challenge – Update

I am super excited by the people that I’ve met out here so far at the 2011 Microsoft MVP Summit.  As noted in a past post, I am challenging MVPs here to meet other MVPs outside of their normal topics.  For me, being a developer type MVP, the challenge would be to meet an IT MVP.  Now granted, for me, it isn’t so much of a challenge… and here’s why.

Even though I’m a developer, I also have done IT in my past, and I also have the advantage of being married to a super smart IT guy (who wants to become an MVP as well).  So when I met Martina Grom, an Office365 MVP, a couple “Windows Server IT Pro” MVP guys, and Adam Jacobs, a Lync MVP, I had a good idea as to what they’re talking about and what it’s like in their realm.  My husband has been excited about Office365 and Lync for awhile, so it helped that his excitement was there and that he explained those products to me properly.  (Yes, Office365 is more than just Office in the cloud.  There are other services as well.)

I am hoping I can meet some of the PowerShell guys while I’m out here – we’ll see if I can figure out how to make that happen.  For me, that would be cool to bridge the gap between software development and IT in that realm.

Outside of the PowerShell guys, I’d love to meet other MVPs from other expertises as well.  The networking out here is amazing, and it’s an invaluable experience out here.  I’ll talk more about my adventures when I get more time.

Sarah in Seattle – Day 1 of MVP Adventures

Greetings from Seattle!  I am not adjusting to the time zone, despite the 3 hours difference.  I was up bright and early at 5am, happy to be reunited with my luggage.  Ah yes, one of those adventurous trips where I’ve beaten my luggage to the destination.  At least it made it to the right hotel!  The Hyatt Regency Bellevue staff have been very accommodating and friendly, which also helps.

Last night, I started exploring the area with my friend James, and then we headed to the MSMVP event at the Microsoft Store in Bellevue Square. 

It was great to see some of my fellow MVPs that I only see a few times a year (but that I harass and tease on Twitter and Facebook much more often).  I ended up hanging out with some of the guys from Philly, New Jersey, and Virginia, in addition to hanging out with one of my closer friends from the Heartland district.  It was also great to finallu meet Marques Lyons, the organizer of the MSMVP events and a Zune MVP that I’ve kept in touch with on Twitter!

MVPs at Earls

I cried a lot yesterday, from laughing so hard!  I love these guys… the things they set me up to say, and the things we set each other up for.  It’s hysterical!

I’m looking forward to the rest of the MVP Summit, where I’ll get to see more of my friends and make new friends as well.  While I like the content (that I cannot talk about), I really enjoy the networking as well.  This is truly a meeting of the minds, and it blows my mind away to be surrounded by such awesomeness.

I still am in awe of the path I’ve been on career-wise, and I have no idea where it’ll lead me.  But I’m definitely looking forward to wherever it’ll take me.  This has been a lot of fun so far, and the official pre-events haven’t even started yet!

Sadukie’s MVP Challenge

As I pack for the Microsoft MVP Summit, I think of all the experiences I had last year.  There’s an experience in general that got me thinking, and I have a challenge for all of the MVPs who are going out to the Summit.

Last year, I was sitting in the hotel lobby with some of my developer friends, and this MVP walks up to us and starts talking with us.  When we went around saying what our expertise was, he was the odd man out being the IT guy in a developer crowd.  His specialty was EBS.  The guy was nice to talk with, but I could tell that some of the others around me didn’t have a clue as to what he was talking about nor were they interested in talking with MVPs other than developer types.

So my challenge this year is this – meet MVPs who are outside of your expertise and even outside of your bigger picture grouping.  So developers – meet the platform MVPs, the IT Pro MVPs, the other MVPs out there who may not be a developer type.  And those who aren’t developer types, know that we developers aren’t always as grumpy as the stereotype puts us and meet us as well.

Take this challenge, learn about something other than your own expertise, and have fun!

You never know when you’ll meet someone outside of your regular circle who could lead you to greater opportunities and more open doors.