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 twitter.com/concentrateddon 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 multiple-year recipient of Microsoft’s MVP Award, and is an Author Evangelist for video training company Pluralsight. He’s the President of PowerShell.org, and specializes in the Microsoft business technology platform. Follow Don on Twitter at @ConcentratedDon.

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