How I Decided to Join TechSnips and Became a Contributor

 

 

After the birth of my first son, I was feeling like I was at a crossroads in my career. I have been working in IT on my own and for many others for a while now (I built my first computer somewhere around 1999-2000) and have been exposed to many different types of environments and tasks. Since his arrival into my life, I have had a growing sense of responsibility to move beyond just having mentors, to being the mentor and teaching; from being the apprentice to becoming the master.

The Journey

Back in May, I was following quite a few industry peers who were tech bloggers, presenters, and evangelists. One of those peers is Adam Bertram. I had seen a few tweets about an opportunity to get involved in a new venture that centered on the IT pro and career advancement. Having just finished reading the book “Be The Master” by Don Jones, I was inspired to take a leap and do more, I just wasn’t sure exactly how. I responded to one of Adam’s messages. Not long after, I had received a message from him. He explained that he was developing a new business in which IT pros could gain some valuable exposure to the IT community, teach others and further their careers. Everyone had something worth teaching.

I left that conversation having been inspired and was convinced that this was an opportunity worthy of investing time in. Therefore, I began to think of something that I knew that I could teach. Having some experience with Group Policy, and a passion for PowerShell, I did something…

I Just Hit Record…

It sounds easy, and for the most part that is true. For many people, including myself, not so much. IT pros tend to be a little shy, and afraid to put themselves out there. Aside from occasionally being very active on some forums, I had never recorded myself. I have taught some people one on one, but never a group of random strangers on the Internet.

This was an undiscovered country for me.

To Boldly Go…

After a period of reflection on what I could possibly contribute that was in my mind worthy of teaching. Side note, everything is worth teaching! Not everyone who is in IT is at the same point in his or her career as you. I remember having a hard time with some topics and not having someone there to teach me, but I digress.

I searched my geek stash for any supplies I could find to aid in making a recording. A spare monitor here, a junk microphone there. Some free screen-recording software. With zero initial budget, there were some struggles. Specifically audio battles. With the help of @MichaelBender, I obtained a much more high-quality microphone that eliminated most of the poor sound quality that was keeping my demo from passing acceptance to become a snip contributor. I am forever grateful for that random act of kindness.

With newfound confidence and better audio, I regrouped and submitted another demo, and it was accepted. The first hurdle passed, I learned a lot and was inspired to keep going. So I made a short snip on How to Create a Starter Group Policy Object with PowerShell on Windows Server 2016 which demonstrates how to quickly create an empty Starter GPO that can be configured with baseline settings, creating a template of sorts for future use. With some guidance from Adam, @_BryceMcDonald and the TechSnips editing team, the final snip was polished and published. It was a milestone for my career:

I was now a professionally published contributor.

Conclusion

The feeling of knowing that I have left something valuable for someone to learn from has not faded. It’s driven me to also submit writings about Pester to the TechSnips.io blog, and to publish two additional snips since then with more in the works as time allows. I take great pride in telling people about what TechSnips has done for me and why my fellow IT pros should consider joining. We all have something worthy of teaching the next generation of IT pro. We all need to “Be the Master.” Help someone else. Just hit record, and see where it takes you.

How I Arrived at TechSnips

I Get Paid to do This?

Two things I get paid to do, solve problems and learn new stuff.

I am fortunate to know very early that I wanted to work with computers. The only problem was I could not concentrate long enough to complete a formal school course.

I was kicked out of two community colleges for academic suspension. I tried to take the required courses like history, calculus, economics etc… but I got bored and never did the required homework or study.

It All Started in the Navy

I eventually ended up in the Navy. I signed up for an extra year to get the technical training I wanted. It was perfect. 8 hours a day 5 days a week for a year. Straight electronics. Resistors, capacitors and circuit boards, Oh My!

The best part? I was given a box of parts and spent 3 months putting it together to build a radio. If it worked, I passed, if not I failed. ( Hint: I passed)

Oh and the discipline, self-esteem and doing things I never thought I could do turned a manchild into a proud, self-confident man. The Navy instilled in me the self- discipline I was sorely lacking.

My Consultant Years

I became an IT consultant right out of the Navy. My lack of a formal degree was an obstacle at times but I never said no to a problem. I knew I could solve any problem thrown at me. After all, I just spent 6 years in the Navy doing just that.

My love of learning also kept up to speed on technology. Two hours every night either on a self-study course or learning a new technology that had just come out.

My first network security job even had me build my own Linux PC on the first day. Back then it was a very manual process with a lot of compiling. If you ever built a Linux PC using “Linux From Scratch” you will know what I mean. I learned a lot and I loved it.

A lot of what I learned did not immediately apply to my job. For example, I am not a programmer but I learned how to use Git just because I thought it was cool. It was the same for a lot of technology I learned. This lifelong learning kept me employed.

How did I arrive at TechSnips?

Well, after many years of IT consulting, it is getting a little uncomfortable being the oldest tech on the IT team. I have been asked in more than one interview why am I not an IT Manager or have some supervisory experience. Yes, age discrimination is a thing.

You know what IT managers do? Answer phones, create budgets, develop strategic plans that no one will use, use words like “Synergy”, “heterogeneous” and  “teamwork”. No, I need to be in front of a keyboard. I can make servers dance, sing and do your dishes.

So while my peers were getting management jobs, I was designing networks for data centers, installing hundreds of servers, laying out cabling, and learning to break into systems. I was good at it

I had been looking for something that I could do remotely and still generate income. I do have a family to support. I started (and failed) at several blogs. I realized that I did not have the business acumen to make it successful.

Feeding My ADHD

This is where TechSnips comes in. I actually came across Techsnips from a tweet posting about a snip for a problem that had. I watched the snip and it leads me to a solution that I needed.

I had been working from home for a while now and I was not looking to go back to the office again. I wondered if they were hiring and, even better, if they were hiring remote techs. I navigated to the contributor page and immediately knew I had to apply.

The more I read about the contributor role, the more excited I became. I was hesitant to submit a video audition (the presenter role), but Anthony Howell said it did not matter. Produce a snip and let me see what you got.

The format of producing a snip fed very well into my ADHD. Short, technical videos on a specific topic that I am interested in. If I get bored with a topic, choose another topic or suggest one. Each Snip was to be no more than 15 minutes. I thought this was perfect. I could do this.

So, I produced my first snip and it was accepted. a couple of days later, I got a call from Anthony Howell welcoming me to the team. The more I heard about what TechSnips is all about, the more excited I became and I knew I had made the right decision.

So, today, I am a producer of several snips and have many more in the works. Producing snips also has given me the confidence to improve my presenting skills.

I am not used to talking in front of people or teaching online. The team at TechSnips has provided valuable advice on how to present technical videos and engage an audience.

TechSnips is giving me the opportunity to not only do what I love but actually get paid to do it.

My TechSnips Saga

A little background

Do you ever sit back and look at the path you took in life and wonder how you ever managed to get to where you are? I sure do. Like every day. I’m currently involved heavily with TechSnips, but I sure wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t started getting into the twittersphere back in April, and I sure wouldn’t have been there if I hadn’t made it to the PowerShell Summit this year, and I sure wouldn’t have been there if a spot hadn’t opened up, and I sure wouldn’t have been there if I didn’t decide to start dictating my own career this year, and well, I’ll stop there.

2018 was not going to be an exciting year for me. I had a steady low stress job that paid me my worth, but worked me like an IT pro with half my experience. So I ended up being paid more than ever, but after a leadership change, I was also stuck answering more phone calls than ever, even compared to my short stint in a Geek Squad call center. I initially decided that the pay plus benefits were too good to walk away from, but like any independent spirit, I always asked myself: What would this look like if I were calling the shots?

From a reminiscent standpoint, I see that my career was treading water. In our industry, you might as well just call the lifeguard if you are content treading water. I, fortunately, was not. I requested to go to the PowerShell Summit, but that request was rejected. And so, in a move that was unprecedented in my career, I made the call to request PTO for that week and take myself. The problem? I missed registration by 3 days.

I dutifully put myself on the waiting list even after reading the statement about how the waiting list is rarely utilized. Kind of like the old ‘we’ll keep your resume on file in case something comes up’. A fun fact about me is that I live within driving distance of Bellevue and I decided to share this information with Don Jones in case something came up. He promised that if something came up last minute, that I would be the first to know. And, I’m sure you saw this coming, but a last minute opening did arise and within 15 minutes of receiving the notification via email, I was a registered attendee for the PowerShell Summit 2018, my first conference ever.

Due to the situation mentioned previously, I decided to put in my notice for my day job the week before the PowerShell Summit with the intention of going out on my own as a consultant. I had no clients, no plan, and no consulting experience, but I had a dream that I was prepared to burn through my savings trying to achieve.

Without venturing too far out of scope here, the PowerShell Summit was career changing for me, literally the best $2000 (admission + expenses) I’ve ever spent. If I hadn’t already put in my notice, I definitely would have the moment I got back, though by that point I didn’t have a job to come back to, not that I shed any tears over that.

While I was at the Summit, I realized just how much a topic like PowerShell thrives in it’s community. Heck, I sat in on Adam Bertram’s side session on how blogging increased his income two-fold because of how attracted a knowledge sharing expert is to some businesses. One of his pieces of advice was to be active in the community, so I decided to take that to heart, and thus The PoSh Wolf was born.

After I got back from the Summit, I made my first tweet ever. Within two weeks I had a blog up and running and I even managed to make my first pull request on a GIT repository, specifically a simple typo fix in the README for PlatyPS. It wasn’t anything major, but it was a start. I had finally put myself in the position that I could start giving back to the community and it felt good.

How I found TechSnips

It wasn’t long after that I responded to Adam’s tweet for content producers. TechSnips was looking for folks interested in sharing knowledge in snip format, an unproven how-to style. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this is revolutionary when compared to the rest of the technical training landscape. In a 3 minute snip, we can walk someone through how to create a LightSail VM in AWS and you don’t even need to know what AWS stands for! You’ll never want to sit through a full AWS course after one of those videos.

The nerve-racking part about applying to be a contributor is the audition process. You have to pick a topic and demonstrate your skills. For someone like me, this was tough! I felt like an imposter. Sure I had 8 years of IT experience, but when put on the spot, it didn’t feel like it. If you want a laugh, check out my audition video (https://youtu.be/NYkZpE_IDjs). Its obvious why it was never published. It was terrible! But, after practice and some good feedback from the peer reviewing stage in our pipeline, I’ve gone from being a shy imposter to a confident presenter. This has made me realize that the only difference between the well-known content producers and the rest of us is that they choose to share their experience. For the most part, they aren’t stuck up jerks, they are just IT pros that are happy to share their knowledge.

Why I’m still here

Beyond the concise format, one of the things I really like about TechSnips is that they’ve fostered a community of like-minded IT professionals that are passionate about sharing their knowledge. These folks stick around because TechSnips has an amazingly efficient publishing pipeline that removes most barriers between an experienced expert and a polished how-to video. And this process improves as fast as you can make recommendations. After working in financial IT, I can verify that this level of nimbleness in a platform is insane.

Now, before you asked about this ‘efficient publishing pipeline’, let me ask you this: Have you ever tried to produce a training for YouTube or somewhere else? It takes a TON of time. Preparation, recording, editing, and finally publishing. Well, TechSnips takes care of the editing and publishing for all of their snips. This means that I, as a contributor, just need to hit record and walk the viewer through a how-to and the editors go back and add the flashy title, the highlights, and remove my mistakes. So, after having a few snips under my belt, I can submit a snip in an hour or two, depending on the depth of content. Then it gets published after some review and the editing process. It is that simple and that is what I love about it. You can keep putting off learning Adobe Premiere and focus on snipping.

One thing I scoffed at when I initially joined up was TechSnips calling itself a ‘Career Development’ platform. They are obviously just using that as a marketing gimmick to attract interest, right? But do you think improving your confidence develops your career? Or maybe having a portfolio of snips would look good on your resume? It sure looks good one mine.

How Did I Arrive at TechSnips?

Photo by Danka & Peter on Unsplash

Where I Came From

It’s been about 4 years since I decided that I was no longer content to simply use the Internet as a source of information. I knew at that time that I wanted to give back to the online IT community that had helped my career along for so many years. It seemed that the easiest way to begin was to start a blog. Since I already had one created, one that had been all but abandoned, I thought this was a good place to start.

So, in May 2014 I started blogging. I started off by writing once a week about what I had learned during my MSCE studies, as it gave me a good, constant source of ideas. A few months later, I decided to launch a second blog that would focus primarily on Windows Server and PowerShell tips & tricks, guides, lab setups, and walk-throughs. This is where I ran into a bit of a wall.

I was struggling to find ideas that I thought would be interesting to others. The “Imposter Syndrome” was in full force. I just didn’t think I had anything worth sharing, certainly nothing that hadn’t already been done before. That is where I finally stalled out and all but quit writing.

Over the next few years, my writings continued but were quite sporadic as I was still struggling to come up with ideas. It wasn’t until I read an article by Don Jones titled Become the Master, or Go Away that I realized just how much this imposter syndrome was holding me back.

It didn’t immediately break me out of my shell, but it did help me renew my interest in writing. I even thought about creating videos to go along with the blog posts. I still had the same problem though, no idea about what to write about.

How I Got Here

I have always found it interesting how timing plays such an important role in life, and this is one of those times. I had just finished reading “Be the Master” by Don Jones, and found myself resolved to start doing something right away. A few days later I read a guest post written by Adam Bertram on the blog hosted by Mike F. Robbins. The article, TechSnips is Looking for Content and Recruiting Contributors was a good read, and I felt that it was something I should seriously look at.

By the time I got to this part of the article: “You will learn presentation skills through feedback from myself and your peers…” I had already decided that this was something I was going to do. No doubt about it. A chance to record how-to videos sounded like a great idea. Then I read the words “and you will get paid”. This was the icing on the cake!

So, I clicked on the sign-up link, provided the required information, and submitted an audition video. Waiting to see if I would be accepted as a contributor was the longest 14 hours ever. I finally received the e-mail I had hoped for! I was accepted as a contributor to TechSnips, and I was even provided with feedback on this video so that I could improve the next video I recorded.

My Experience So Far

I didn’t know it at the time, but one of the first things I would learn about TechSnips is that everything moves quickly. It can be quite a refreshing change of pace if you’re used to things moving at a slower cadence. I have found that pace to be very motivating and quite exciting, and I love the fact that changes to TechSnips are made quickly and frequently as the business evolves. Keeping up with the changes was a challenge at first, but I quickly adjusted.

One of those changes that were made during my first few weeks was the introduction of contributor blog posts. The thing I enjoyed most about that change was the fact that Adam went from ‘No, I don’t think we are going to do blog posts’ to ‘yes we are, and here’s how we are going to do it’ inside of a single sentence. So, as you can see, changes are made rapidly.

The second lesson I learned was that there is always feedback being provided, and at every stage of the production process. For me, this advice is invaluable, as I am quite new to producing videos. The great thing about the advice is that it doesn’t just come from Adam but from everyone. If you have a question, whether it be about submitting a video, or setting up a recording environment on a budget, a quick post to the Slack channel will usually elicit a rapid response with helpful and valuable advice.

Having access to this group of professionals has been a wonderful learning experience, as everyone brings their own skills and unique point of view to the team.

TechSnips also successfully addressed the issue I was having with generating ideas. There is always a constant supply of ideas, both from the other contributors, subscribers and sometimes from Adam himself. Once I took a look through those lists of ideas, I realized just how much I had to offer the community. Imposter syndrome….deleted! Well, not entirely, but it isn’t as ever-present as it used to be.

The production quality at TechSnips impressed me right from day one. Every time I submit a video or a blog post, I think to myself “Yeah, that looks pretty good.” Then the editors get a hold of it and give it this incredibly polished look. I will confess to being happily surprised at how good that first video looked after the editing was complete. Now, I find myself anxiously awaiting the final product every time I submit a new video. I just can’t wait to see how good they look.

I am having an absolutely fantastic time with TechSnips! I haven’t had this much fun or felt this excited to work on a new project in a very long time. The sense of teamwork, constant advice, support, and being able to see my content published alongside the that of so many other professionals has been quite rewarding. I cannot think of anywhere better to spread my wings and learn some new skills. I have found everything I need here; Training, guidance, teamwork, ideas, and enough work and excitement to keep me coming back for more.

I would highly recommend to anyone who is thinking about publishing content to give TechSnips a try. There is nothing to lose from the attempt, and so very much to gain.

David Lamb is a Systems Administrator managing Windows servers and clients since 1995, spending a large portion of his career in the aviation industry. His first certification was the MCSE on Windows NT 4.0, earned in 2001. David lives in Alberta, Canada, and is currently spending his free time learning PowerShell, blogging, and pursuing the MCSE certification on Windows Server.