Recast's ConfigMgr Community Influencer Highlights - Donna Ryan

Our ConfigMgr community is absolutely amazing. We have a high level of user group involvement, blogs and websites of plenty, free tools generated in community member's own personal time, and a world class event born and run by the community. Content being generated continues to grow, even as MS docs and MS Community improves and becomes better each day, which is a testament of the passion our community has to share knowledge, create unique solutions, and build relationships. In this Highlight series, I'll be covering stories from community influencers who have created tools or process that have greatly impacted the community.

In this first interview, I had the privilege of getting to know Donna Ryan [Twitter], and the ideas behind, and work put into the Community Tool WIM Witch.

Before I get into my interview questions, I just wanted to point how, she's into StarTrek, and if you follow her on Twitter (which you should), she's done some pretty cool 3D printing of different starships, which I'm just completely amazed by. Besides her passion for StarTrek which I picked up on, was her cross stitch, which I became aware of at the MMS Jazz event when she donated some of her work for the charity auction. They were pretty hot items on the auction.

Every time I see them, I still get a huge smile and chuckle a little "You have died of dysentery".. LOL!! Along with the 80004005, every CM Admin needs one of those in their office.  Just today I had someone reach out to me asking why their TS Failed with that error code, and I just shook my head. I've really enjoyed Donna's personality in our community as she encourages, and helps to lift spirits in every interaction.

The Interview:

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What did you do before WimWitch, was it personal, professional, or other motivations behind it?

WIM Witch was my first endeavor into tool creation. Up until I started working on her as a serious project, the largest script I had written was probably 50 lines of code. Everything in WIM Witch had to be learned as I went, which made the first five months of development achingly slow and frustrating.

Prior to starting on WIM Witch, I had a couple of “scripts” that I used when doing image servicing, but my process of image servicing was still mostly a manual process. I had always thought it would be nice to have a simple, graphical tool to remove indexes, appx apps, mount, and dismount images. The name WIM Witch had also been rattling around in the back of my head for years as a cute name for a tool such as this.

What is the feature in WimWitchyou're most proud of?

Hands down, ConfigMgr integration. To me it is a massive personal milestone to have written something that interacts with a platform like ConfigMgr. What is currently released is only the beginning. I am really looking forward to implementing ConfigMgr console integration as the next major feature set. The update to version 2.2.0 has paved the way for WIM Witch to handle requests from ConfigMgr, and I can’t wait to see what I have sketched out in my head actually in the ConfigMgr console.

What features do you want to enhance or modify?

All of them. The phrase “building the plane as I fly” accurately describes WIM Witch’s development. I have been focused on adding new features to expand her usefulness, and I haven’t had time to go back and update functions with lessons learned. If I had to pick one, languages and FOD’s stick out as the function needing the most revision as the importation process is clunky and the package selection process needs things like a remove button. Unfortunately, there are only so many hours in the day.

How did you get started down this path, what training, blogs, classes prepared you for undertaking this project?

I had no formal training on scripting or programming, just what I learned on the job. The blog that was the most helpful was Stephen Owen’s PowerShell GUI with WPF and XAML. After completing three of the five sections of his tutorial, I had enough knowledge to build a basic GUI and tie it to functions. WIM Witch was actively under development!

There are a couple members that were also instrumental in the development of WIM Witch, and they deserve recognition. I had a ton of help from David Segura of OSDBuilder on dealing with software updates. He spun off OSDUpdate and OSDSUS as independent modules so I wouldn’t have to download OSDBuilder as a whole. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Dave as I learned a ton about software updates, PowerShell, and WIM Witch wouldn’t be where she is today without. Nickolaj Anderson taught me the basics of WMI and ConfigMgr, and provided a servicing script he had written to serve as a template for WIM Witch’s ConfigMgr software update handling. Most of that function in WIM Witch was built from his script.

There were others that provided guidance, suggestions, and feedback as I worked through her development. WIM Witch is a community tool in the strictest sense as I relied on our community for help, and I am proud to share her with anyone who finds her useful.

What has been some of the coolest experiences for you since publishing WimWitch?

Having someone I greatly respect talk about and demo WIM Witch at a user group in Sweden. I was floored that my little project was being discussed around the world, and by someone whom I hold in the highest regard.

Having technical blog posts and videos created about WIM Witch was mind blowing. That people think that my tool is worth writing and blogging about still amazes me.

I love that I am regularly talking with users from around the world. In the last week alone, I have spoken with people from Australia, Belgium, and Germany.

The best thing has been reading complementary reviews and postings that people have made. My personal favorite is from Reddit. I stumbled across this post by googling WIM Witch:

The simple statement “This just helped my deployment a lot” sums up what I wanted to do with WIM Witch. Help deployments, a lot.

Any advice / words of wisdom to pass on to the community?

If I can do it, you can do it.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Don’t be afraid to give help when asked.

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I'd like to echo Donna's advice, don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. We have a very friendly community ready to assist and help you succeed.

This new Influencer highlight series, I've setup several interviews with folks in the community who have created items you've probably used.  Where did they get the idea? What drove them to creating, then sharing it with the community, and what did they learn along the way. I'm excited to share these stories, and I'm hoping you'll see, that while you might look up to many of these folks in the community, we all started at the same place, and had a desire to learn, grow and share that with others. Please read these and be encouraged to be active in the community, and give back. To that end, sites like SysManSquad have been setup for community members to get their feet wet blogging and being coached. Many community members with blogs have also opened up their site for others to post content as well. If you'd like to start contributing, feel free to connect with me on Twitter, and I'll help to get you connected. Keep checking back, look for our next Community Influencer Highlight post soon!

-Gary Blok