Crossing the Burnout Fault Line with Bill Kindle (2/3)

Welcome to episode 181 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we share part 2 of an interview with Bill Kindle, discussing Bill’s experience in multiple technical communities, extracurricular writing activities, experience using PowerShell, and a conversation at a VMware User Group that brought him back from a career crisis.

Original Recording Date: 03-14-2022

Bill Kindle is a Cybersecurity Engineer and has been in IT over 20 years, doing a little bit of everything over that time period. If you missed it, catch part 1 of our interview with Bill in Episode 180.

Topics – Community Participation and Leaving a Job, Blogging / Writing, Deciding What to Write, Scaling with PowerShell, Career Crisis and Burnout, A Local Community and A Step Back

3:03 – Community Participation and Leaving a Job

  • This is around the time when Bill got into Spiceworks a lot, feeling he could help others while waiting for something to do. He already had a habit of helping people.
  • The spice level is somewhat gamified.
  • Nick explains point distributions and the distinction of the pure capsaicin level that Bill reached. See this Spiceworks article for the announcement (with Bill’s username being [Little Green Man].(https://community.spiceworks.com/people/billkindle).
  • Bill was learning a lot and felt he was giving back to the community, feeding off of it for about 3 years. He had so much to talk about.
  • It was sad leaving the last job with his own office.
  • Bill advises that we should make sure we read employment contracts. If you don’t like something, ask for an addendum, or don’t sign it and go elsewhere.
    • John suggests looking for net positives for each party as you read through these types of agreements.

7:27 – Blogging / Writing

  • Bill started dabbling in blogging at one point. He tried a blogger page.
    • Bill started following people on Twitter (many people who were doing PowerShell).
    • He came across a post by Adam the Automator about TechSnips (video recording and technical training).
    • Bill likes to teach people and started making videos (and doing voice overs) after a conversation with Adam.
      • Look for a Pakt Publishing series on Server 2019. Bill was contracted to do some voice over introductions for the courses. They thought Bill had a good voice.
    • Bill end up doing some TechSnip courses that took a ton of prep.
      • He ended up scripting what he was going to say for some of these courses (not something he likes to do).
      • When Bill teaches he doesn’t like to pre-plan too much, preferring to teach from his experience and not read an instruction manual to someone. Blog posts are the same way.
      • His style is conversational.
      • John says you can take vocal coaching if you really want to pursue content creation heavily / professionally.
      • Bill learned little things like video editing, what goes into content creation, etc.
      • Bill and Adam had some great conversations, which allowed Bill to learn from Adam’s experience.
  • Adam later started a blog, and Bill felt the blogging suited him better than video content creation (did not really have a quiet room).
    • For a while Bill would create 1-2 articles per month as one of the first few bloggers on this site (up until December 2021).
    • It started to get quite time consuming.
    • When writing, Bill likes to put in a specific set of points and then provide links to go deeper if people want.
  • Bill had other goals and needed to step back from writing, but he does maintain a Substack that allows him to write the things he wants to write (all kinds of topics).
    • Will Bill publish an article about how to make char cloth?
  • Bill learned through this that he enjoys writing and even at one point did a post for 4SysOps (in the style he truly enjoys) – https://4sysops.com/archives/pushing-and-popping-navigating-in-powershell-with-push-location-and-pop-location/
    • Bill came up with the analogy in the shower one day and found the article writing very easy.
    • Bill loves to tell stories when teaching people (much like Don Jones advises in his writing seminars).

17:28 – Deciding What to Write

  • At first, PowerShell was easy to target for articles (loved talking about it). Bill also loves Linux.
  • Just write something. It doesn’t have to be super in depth. It is a matter of getting content out there.
    • Don’t think your experience is not valuable to someone. You are sharing your experience and not that of others. Don’t worry about other people’s experience.
    • Bill had it in his mind that he didn’t have anything to share despite his work in the Spiceworks community. It was different when he got paid for an article. He had never been paid for writing articles and had not really written articles for fun either.
    • When working on the Adam the Automator blog, Bill started to realize he enjoyed it.
    • You have to keep the repetition up. Find something to write about and just do it, even if it isn’t published to the web.
    • Bill keeps an A5 size dot journal. You can make it what you want (draw a grid for a to-do list).
    • You get a good feeling when you are physically writing on paper. After typing all day long Bill does not want to stare at a screen. He will open up his journal and just write to get a thought out (could be anything – idea for a blog, something his kids did, etc.).
    • "If writing a book, write the book for you. Get your knowledge out there, and let it be. If it just helps one person, you’ve succeeded." – Bill Kindle (heard someone say this)
  • Bill has a mentee who keeps asking him how to gain experience in IT.
    • A good way is to start showing value. Start a GitHub account, and put some code up there, even if something you are learning. Then start writing about it.
    • Someone will eventually come across what you have shared and can use it or may share it with someone else.
    • Bill keeps telling himself that he is not writing for clicks. He writes because he likes to share information. Someone somewhere is going to get value from it.
    • With blogging, you talk about experiences. People need to hear the experiences of others.

23:41 – Scaling with PowerShell

  • Bill worked for the multi-national identity company. It got him more interested in doing security due to the nature of the company.
  • Bill had dabbled in security here and there, but it never became his primary focus or primary responsibility.
  • He became a backup systems administrator and could work from home most of the time.
  • Bill learned about the change control board process at this company.
    • John makes an interesting comment about change control processes that seem a bit illogical.
    • People may not always know why change control processes are the way they are. Maybe it should also be documented better.
  • Initially Bill was going to be a NOC (network operations center) manager (in name at least). As time went on he was more of a systems administrator with hands in a lot of areas who could step into being backup for many others (acting as a first escalation point).
    • This is another role Bill considers as an experience in drinking from the fire hose.
  • Weekends were for Windows updates, with Bill working that schedule for about 5 years.
    • Bill planned his schedule accordingly, but there was a lot of waiting involved.
    • Bill felt like he could script a lot of the work did a lot of PowerShell scripting with VS Code after having grasps of policies and procedures.
    • He created a monster script after creating a script for each task in a modular way and running each command manually.
      • Bill talks about Pester and how after learning from Adam Bertram’s book (The Pester Book) he used it to compliment his work (spot check automated reports, etc.).
      • Bill used Pester scripts to help with testing also. He figured out a way to create HTML reports that were e-mailed to him. He would go back and spot check to ensure the reports were not lying to him. In the cases when they were he made modifications to the script accordingly.
      • The script ran flawlessly for years.
      • In the last few iterations of the script Bill did some additional fine tuning (ingest KB articles from a text file, easily re-use with other customers, etc.).
    • Bill says this scripting project (largest amount of things he has automated) is discussed in the PowerShell conference book series to which he was a contributor.
    • This job paid for Bill to get his bachelor’s degree (which he is very proud of), and scripting so many things afforded him the time to pursue it. Bill was met with hesitancy over just an associate’s degree early in his career.
  • Bill eventually got bored with the job.

32:24 – Career Crisis and Burnout

  • Bill had some career crisis moments. He started to second guess IT in general and started to burn out. It is real, and it happened to him around the time he started doing his bachelor’s degree.
    • Bill didn’t feel like he could move up, feeling there was so much more he could do than Windows Updates. He wanted to try out for other roles within the company but was not really given a chance.
    • It started to wear on him, and he got pretty bummed out. The job became more stressful, and he felt like his work quality was not there.
    • He did not feel like he could do his best work or that his work mattered.
    • Bill went to the VMware User Group (VMUG) in Indianapolis at one point and loved it. Every time he could go it rejuvenated him, especially after meeting some people.
    • Bill met John and Kat Troyer at one point at the VMUG and went to one of their career sessions, talking to them 1-1 after it.
      • Bill shared his struggles with them. The most profound thing they said was "it’s not your fault that they are not utilizing your skills." That was an a-ha moment for Bill, feeling a huge relief and like a giant weight had been lifted.
        • He had to keep repeating this idea that it wasn’t his fault to really allow it to sink in.
      • They also suggested Bill pursue some other outlets. Not long after this Bill started making videos and writing as previously mentioned.
      • Bill found a renewed sense of purpose, like he was learning again, feeling like he did when he first got into IT.
        • Bill was eager to learn, eager to share, and he didn’t care if his day job was not utilizing his skills.
      • At this point a number of opportunities opened up.
      • Bill trimmed back his involvement on Spiceworks (not getting as much out of it as before) and found other communities in which to be involved. He started writing as well.
      • If that conversation had not have happened, Bill does not believe he would be in IT today. The stress level was high, and the environment was somewhat toxic.
      • Bill got his bachelors, got certifications, made a plan, gave it a couple years, and decided to go elsewhere.

38:52 – A Local Community and A Step Back

  • Bill’s next opportunity came from joining the local Fort Wayne VMUG.

    • Bill found purpose again with that group. One of the leaders lives close to Bill, and he enjoyed making new friends.
    • The leaders talked Bill into doing some presentations, and he really enjoyed it.
    • There is a misconception that VMUG talks about only VMware products. Bill shares some additional talk subjects (PowerShell, etc.).
    • His renewed purpose came from getting out there and trying to share more.
  • John says Bill pieced together his needs. Since all could not be met in the job, Bill added extra things to help meet his needs.

    • Bill also used Kanban to visualize his work.
      • He began to understand just how much work he was doing with the PowerShell scripts he made. He was doing 30 maintenance cycles per month.
    • Bill also mentions Time Management for Systems Administrators by Tom Limoncelli.
    • Nick mentions Why Smart Kids Worry and the need to show how far you have come.
      • Kanban can help you visualize your wins, even if you use post it notes.
    • Bill created his own schedule and made it bearable to stick with the job he was in, allowing more time to correct. Bill says when he first started there was a merger that hit.
    • Bill got back to concentrating on himself. He got really good at time management. He was writing. He started to volunteer to edit and contribute to PowerShell conference books, having his name on a couple of them.
    • Bill would have never thought back in 2017 at that VMUG that he would have his name on a book. They were the right people at the right time.
  • John mentions when we keep getting blocked from progression we tend to internalize it (thinking we may not be good enough).

  • Beware of hearing your position is really hard to backfill.

  • Episodes and other items mentioned in the outro:

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