Decision Maker

Survey: PowerShell Skills Matter

Want a job in Windows IT? Get your scripting skills down.

I recently conducted a survey on Windows PowerShell skills in the workplace. My goal was to find out which specific PowerShell skills would be expected of different job titles within IT, and how much emphasis is placed on PowerShell in terms of formal job task assignment. I was delighted to have almost 600 responses. (Follow me on Twitter at if you want to take part in these things.)

One thing I found compelling: 40 percent of respondents said that PowerShell skills matter when they're looking to hire new headcount for mid- and top-tier IT professional positions, and 20 percent said they look at PowerShell skills for top-level positions. Another 20 percent said all of their IT pros needed to have PowerShell skills -- that's 80 percent of the participants who said that PowerShell matters to some, if not all, job positions in their organizations.

More disturbingly, 80 percent said that "scripter" is not a specific job title within their organization, and none of them is considering making that a formal job title. That doesn't actually square well with the stated desire to have PowerShell skills in the workplace. For example, if your organization sees value in using PowerShell -- or any tool, for that matter -- to automate job tasks, then you should consider making "automater" or "scripter" a formal position. Further, we have to recognize that not every employee will be suitable for that task, making it more likely that a formal "scripter" position would make sense in a cross-discipline position that focuses on automating things.

I found it even odder that 70 percent of organizations don't include PowerShell or automation to be a formal job task that's listed in employees' job descriptions or included on employees' formal performance reviews, although 20 percent of participants are considering doing so. Seriously? Only 10 percent of folks think they should ask for what they want?

The point is this: Most organizations -- 90 percent, according to the survey -- feel that there's value in spending time to automate repetitive tasks; 92 percent felt that automation can, if done properly, repay its investment quickly in saved time. All of the participants said they wished there was more focus on, and time made, for automation in their environments. So why isn't it on anyone's reviews? As a decision maker, it's your job to communicate your priorities to your team. You need to let them know what's important to you, and incent them to perform at a level you feel the business needs them to. That's what performance reviews and job descriptions are all about. So why is automation missing?

If you've invested in training someone in a particular technology, you should be making the use of that technology -- and the return on your training investment -- a formal part of that person's job. That means stating it in some kind of measurable sense: Per year, you will save at least x hours by automating tasks that were previously done manually.

Ever get frustrated when Congress passes some law, like debit-card reform, on the grounds that it'll save consumers all kinds of money, and then the promised savings never happen? That's because Congress never writes the desired end effect into the law. We do the same things when we invest in employees and don't make the return on that investment a part of our formal, written expectations of them via their job descriptions and performance reviews.

Decision makers, your employees want to do a good job. Most IT people are go-getters who want to solve problems. You just need to let them know what you want, and then budget the time for them to shine. If you think automation should be a part of your environment, make it a formal part of your environment. Make it clear that team members who acquire automation skills and act on those skills will be recognized. Automation should be something that your mid- and top-tier IT professionals should be expected to deliver.

About the Author

Don Jones is a 12-year industry veteran, author of more than 45 technology books and an in-demand speaker at industry events worldwide. His broad technological background, combined with his years of managerial-level business experience, make him a sought-after consultant by companies that want to better align their technology resources to their business direction. Jones is a contributor to TechNet Magazine and Redmond, and writes a blog at

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Reader Comments:

Sun, Mar 18, 2012 Eduardo Paris France

I have to admit I hated programming and everything related to scripting when I had to use some shell scripts (that someone else had coded) at work. One day I was checking some tech data sheet abouts Server 2008 and I came across a 5 line Powershell script that checked all installed applications in a given text list of several servers and rebooted those which did not have X application installed. I was just surprised to see how a tiny script would do that in such a simple way so I started learning Powershell and obviously still am. Powershell is not only a powerful and intuitive scripting tool, it also is very simple to learn when we hate, like I used to, scripting it seems that the more I know about it the more it surprises me... not to mention how helpful and valued it is at work!

Fri, Feb 24, 2012 RZ NY

What annoys me with hiring managers lately is that they're trying to turn Systems Admins into glorified "programmers" by writing their job requirements in such a way that the "ideal candidate" must have more years experience in a given scripting language than it's actually been around. STOP IT! We are systems admins, not developers or coders, so stop expecting us to be on par with developers who write code for a living. We spend our days magaging servers and systems, not sifting through endless lines of code.

Sat, Feb 18, 2012 Mark Dean

When we look to hire, it always stated on the job req that scripting in at least two languages is required. For me, it doesn't matter if it's perl, vbscript, Windows shell (batch files) or PowerShell. Any of those are great ways to automate repetitive tasks. We are hiring a VM Administrator and, at a minimum, the candidate must have expert level knowledge in any two of shell scripting, perl or PowerShell due to their heavy use in VMware. We also require CLI expertise for VM Administrators.

Thu, Feb 2, 2012 ZWojton Ohio

Over the past few years I have been utilizing PowerShell in its simplest form, to pull quick data. These simple scripts save me hours a month. Recently I began taking the initiative of promoting PowerShell in my workplace. To my surprise I received mixed results. Seems that people fear what they do not understand. If I have one snippet of advice it would be to “Not fear the Shell”.

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