Jess Dodson on Microsoft MVP, Devops and Blogging


Introduce yourself! Who are you? Where do you work?

Jess Dodson, system administrator! I play mainly in the Windows space, focusing on Active Directory and (lately) operational security...because someone has to. Based in Queensland, Australia. I work for the Queensland State government - won’t give away too many details, as I prefer to keep my online professional life separate to my work life, as it just makes things easier.


Who or what got you into a career in tech?

Hilariously, I actually wrote a blog post about this, talking about how I got where I am in IT. Short version - my Dad got me interested in computers, and I did really well in IT during high school...just didn’t do so well in everything else (and despite what my parents thought, it wasn’t my boyfriend at the time, who I’ve ended up marrying! It was actually Diablo II that distracted me from school work!). Took 6 months off, then went to TAFE and studied and then started off as a helpdesk casual at a university. Then went up from there to be a sysadmin!


You like to fight the good fight of believing in DevOps - any updates on where the industry “is at” with that?

DevOps is an interesting one. From what I’ve seen, most organisations need to have a better understanding of DevOps actually *is*. For many, they appear to try and merge the two roles together and try and find someone who does both development work and operations, when they whole idea is just to get your developers and operations teams working together. If we can get to that point in most organisations, I think we’ll be doing well - because it means both will have a better understanding of what the other side does and what the pain points are.


What is a Microsoft MVP and how has it helped your tech career?

A Microsoft MVP is a “Most Valuable Professional”. I still cannot believe that I was even nominated, let alone awarded one of these. I was awarded mine due to my participation by speaking at conferences, my online presence in online forums and social media, and my blog posts.

In terms of helping my tech career - it hasn’t...yet. I’m still employed at the same place I was when I was first awarded my MVP. It has opened up some doors for me, in terms of being able to speak at other conferences, such as Ignite New Zealand in 2016. What I think it’s done for me is open up a whole new community that I didn’t have access to before - that’s probably the biggest benefit I’ve seen from being awarded my MVP!


Why do you blog? What impact do you think it has had on your career?

I blog because I’m a big fan of sharing information. I don’t think information helps anyone if it’s just kept in your head! I’ve done things that I think others might find useful - especially if I can point out tips and tricks and pitfalls that I had and help them from making the same mistakes!

In terms of my career, it’s probably made it a bit harder. I have been questioned by my employer regarding my blog posts in the past, so I have to be very careful what I do and don’t say. However, it has also led to me being able to speak at conferences and assist others that I never would have had the chance to do otherwise!


What has been your toughest lesson to learn in your career so far?

It isn’t possible to know everything. There will always be someone who knows more than you do. There will always be an expert who’s done more than you have. This took me a really long time to learn and it’s a bit of a bruise to the ego!


What would be your number one piece of advice for a successful tech career?

Never stop learning. Never stop trying new things, looking at new technology, playing with new tools. Our industry changes so quickly, we need to keep learning to keep up!


How do you find the Australian tech scene? Anything particularly awesome or awful about it?

The Australian tech scene is very small, in comparison to the tech scene in either the US or Europe. I imagine it’s very similar to the tech scene in New Zealand. Everyone knows everyone. This is both a good thing and a bad thing - you have to be very careful not to burn bridges, because 6 degrees of separation means that you don’t know who you’re going to be working with next.


What books/resources would you recommend?

For sysadmins - almost anything written by Tom Limoncelli. “The Practice of System and Network Administration” is an amazing book, but I highly recommend “Time Management for System Administrators”. It’s something we’re not fantastic at doing, and this book can be an amazing help, especially for those just starting out.

I’m also a big fan of Reddit - while it can be tough to get through some of the cruft, I’ve found the subreddit /r/sysadmin has some amazing contributors who can really help in a pinch.


Finally, make your shoutout! What would you like the readers to go have a look at?

If you’re a sysadmin, feel free to go look at my blog - hopefully you’ll find something useful there!

Also hit me up on Twitter - I love speaking to new people!