Josh Duffney from the United States is a Site Reliability Engineer at Stack Overflow. He is also an MVP, book author and a technical trainer. Josh mentions on his blog that Technology has given him a career, not a job. He loves what he does, but there’s a catch. It’s nearly impossible to avoid the clutches of an always-on, always-connected mentality. Falling prey to that mentality has led Josh to burnout. To combat it, he focuses on deep, meaningful work and practices digital minimalism in order to detach from distraction and live a life empowered by technology not consumed by it.
Josh started in IT with the mindset that he did not want to code or program. He told himself that he didn’t want to stare at a screen of text all day and hack away. Josh would have never known that his mindset of never coding was going to change his career and how he would be one of those individuals who would eventually write a book and assist others to become developers. How did this all start? A small request from his manager at the time requesting that Josh logs into a few machines each day to check disk space. He was to perform the disk space every morning first thing without fail, and this is when an amazing journey begun.
As you’ll find from the interview shortly, Josh has inspired thousands of beginners and experts in IT with his amazing journey with Powershell and becoming a professional developer.
become Ansible book Offer for AzureCrazy viewers
Just before we move onto the interview, Josh has kindly offered a discount on his book Become Ansible for AzureCrazy visitors. You can learn more about the book my clicking the image below. This is a limited offer so feel free to take a look while the offer is open.
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Josh Duffney Interview
Tell us about yourself?
My name is Josh Duffney, I live in the United States. I am a Site Reliability Engineer at Stack Overflow and have worked in IT for a little over a decade.
What is your greatest achievement whilst working in the world of Tech?
Great question, I think my biggest achievement has been helping others move forward in their careers. Rather unintentionally I started to share the progression of my career through blog posts and tweets. Doing so made an impact beyond my imagination. I’m so grateful that sharing my journey has helped others.
How did you get into IT?
Originally I wanted to be a video game designer, a shared dream by many teenagers I’m sure. However, looking at the 100k price tag of that degree quickly deterred me. I chose to attend a community college instead and since I couldn’t major in video game design, I chose computer networking.
What hooked me was I actually enjoyed learning. I quickly realized how vast a topic technology was and I loved the idea that I could know something with zero years of experience that someone with decades of experience didn’t.
What would you recommend for someone wanting to start a career in IT?
Join online communities and forms. Ask lots of questions and let go of the fear of being wrong.
How did you get into the world of Microsoft Azure?
I’ve been working with Microsoft products my entire career, but avoided learning Azure for years. I put it off as something only for “true Developers”.
After a friend of mine told me “You’re an engineer, be an engineer.” I decided to jump in. Azure is a vast array of services, so I needed something to focus me and decided I’d sit for the AZ-103 (now AZ-104) exam. Studying and passing that exam gave me more than a piece of paper, it gave me the confidence to continue my education of cloud technologies.
What are your areas of expertise? Are you still working with other Microsoft products apart from Microsoft Azure?
My primary area of expertise is infrastructure as code. It’s an area I’ve been working to define for the better part of my career. Within that area, I’ve picked up some skills such as PowerShell, Git, Ansible, Terraform, Azure, CI-CD tooling, and DevOps philosophies, practices, and patterns that all funnel into efficiently using infrastructure as code.
Could you please explain you’re journey when learning Powershell? How did you learn Powershell in such a short time?
It all started with an email. I had been tasked with emailing a disk space report every morning promptly at 8:00 am. I thought of the task as belittling and tedious. So, out of frustration, I shared the situation on an online community. Quickly after I got a reply suggesting I automate it with PowerShell.
Within a few hours, I had figured out how to send the email and schedule it to email every day at 8:00 am and I no longer had to worry about it. That’s when it clicked and I was hooked. I learned PowerShell quickly because I had real-world problems to solve. And each problem I solved made my daily life better. With that said I picked up PowerShell quickly but it has been at the core of my career ever since. For those who are curious, I wrote a blog post detailing my journey with PowerShell and how it doubled my income. The post can be located at the following link Doubling my salary a Powershell story
Why is it important to learn Powershell? What services rely on Powershell today?
Azure. All of Azure relies on PowerShell. Also, with PowerShell being cross-platform now it can also be used to automate tasks on Linux. I believe learning it today is important because without it, applications, teams, and companies won’t be able to scale to where it needs to be.
A lot of techies have said in the past that they will never code. I know that you were one of them. What changed your mind?
On the surface, it looked boring. But beyond that it was intimidating. I didn’t understand how some strange language on a screen could build something. What changed my mind was just getting started. After I wrote a few lines of code I realized I could in fact learn how to do this. It then became a creative outlet for me. A place where I could take ideas and make them a reality.
Where should one start if they want to learn Powershell? How long would it take for someone to learn Powershell?
Hands down the best book to start with is Learning PowerShell in a Month of Lunches (now 3rd edition). After you complete that book you’ll have the foundation you need to hit the ground running with PowerShell. I have a list of my favorite PowerShell books on my blog which you can find here.
I noticed that you have written a book. Could you please tell us about your book? Where can it be downloaded?
Certainly, my first book is become Ansible and can be found at becomeansible.com
I hope to write more in the future.
Could you please explain a little about Ansible? And the importance?
Ansible is a configuration management tool. It provides idempotent modules that can be combined to create the configuration that represents your infrastructure. The important thing is, it saves you from writing a lot of code. By leveraging the code others have written you can save a lot of time and focus on more challenging questions. Such as how to develop a process for introducing change into your environment vs how to make the change.
How have you used scripting to Automate tasks in Azure?
Instead of pointing out specific situations, I’ll say that scripting is the glue. Whenever there is a transition from one piece of a process to another that is done by hand, that’s where scripting comes into play. Be that triggering a DSC configuration after a VM is built or kicking off an Azure Runbook once a file is detected. Scripting is the glue that ties everything together.
What coding language would you recommend for someone who wants to start automating tasks in the Cloud?
If your background is in system administration, start with automating infrastructure. In my opinion that would include PowerShell, Bash, Python, Ansible, and Terraform. You don’t have to pick sides (Linux vs Windows), choose what is most applicable to you and what solves the most problems.
Could you please explain your view on DevOPs? Why is it important? And what’s required for someone to start a journey in the world of DevOps?
DevOps is a better way to build, run, and scale software. At its core, it’s about breaking down the silos and working together towards a common goal. It’s important because companies that don’t adept, they’ll be left behind. Companies that adopt DevOps move faster and the internet rewards speed above almost everything else.
What’s required and where should someone start? The eagerness to learn and the curiosity to find how to apply it is what I’d say is required. My DevOps journey really starts with a book, The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business. I think that’s a great place to start.
What certifications have you achieved, or the certifications you are working towards?
I currently hold the AWS CCP, AZ-103, and AZ-400 cloud certifications. At the start of my career, I did eventually pass the CCNA exam but have since let that expire. If I were to sit for another exam it would be the newly released Terraform exam by Hasicorp.
How do you keep up to date with the latest Microsoft Azure products?
I don’t really. I think it’s rather impossible to keep up to date with all Azure has to offer. Instead, I prefer to update myself as the need arises when working on projects.
With that said, when I need to learn something or have questions I normally go to Google and land at docs.microsoft.com. Beyond that I heavily depend on the network of peers I’ve built up over the years. My goal has always been if I don’t know the answer, I should know someone who does.
What’s your advice for someone who wants to become a public speaker but not confident, or not sure where to start?
Start by writing. By doing that you’ll get your thoughts out of your head and on the screen \ paper. Public speaking or even presenting on a zoom call is still nerve racking to me. I overcome that fear through preparation. I’d start by presenting at local user groups if you want to get in front of people. Aside from and maybe even before that I’d start by joining an online community. There you can ask questions and answer questions without being put on the spot.
Know that what you have to say is valuable. Your knowledge is worth sharing.
How did you become an MVP (Microsoft Most Valuable Professional)?
I believe it was by adding value. I did that by solving my own problems, sharing the solutions, and telling my story. In practical terms that meant blogging, speaking at user group, conferences, and workshops, creating Pluralsight courses and most recently writing my first self-published book. I got involved with all of that because of PowerShell. The community was so vibrant and inviting that it was hard not to join in on the fun. 🙂
What’s next in your Microsoft Azure journey?
What’s next? I want to take my writing more seriously. That will most likely take the form of more technical content focused on Azure and the IaC (Infrastructure as Code) tools I’m most interested in.
Do you have any final words of wisdom?
Become comfortable being unproductive. Learning isn’t productive. Accept it and give yourself the freedom to experiment and learn. This is the advice I would have given myself when I felt stuck and unsure of what to learn next to further my career. Letting go of the outcome of learning something new made it much more fun. 🙂
I spent the last year taking back the driver’s seat of my career. All the lessons I learned in that time are in a blog post titled Building a New Identity for those interested.
The most important question of all 😊
From a scale from 1 – 10 how crazy are you about Microsoft Azure? (10 being the highest) An 8, the industry is rebasing on the skills required to be successful, and Azure is at the center.
End of interview
Name: Josh Duffney
Perspectives in Tech Podcast Co Host: Perspectives in Tech
Book offer: Become Ansible (With discount provided for AzureCrazy viewers)