Are you a life long techie? Think being a sys admin in a big company or data center is a fucking awesome job?
What’s involved? Allow me to walk you through last Wednesday with my 3 systems administrator friends to see how their different work environments define duties and responsibilities.
My friends at work all work “in the basement” as they like to call it. Beer Mondays, stupid LOLCAT posters on the wall with darts sticking in them, a cubicle dedicated to duct tape art and all that kind of stuff goes on down there. The door to get in requires a key fob so I can’t get in too often to prove it all. Yet!
I protected their names with stupid made up one’s, well, cause it’s funny.
Let’s see how Small Business Stan, Big Boss Betty and Newt the Newbie handle today.
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Small Business Stan has owned this alarm clock for five years and still hasn’t heard it go off. Stan is his company’s only defense against hardware and software problems. His phone beats his alarm, informing him there was a problem backing up the database last night. Stan heads out the door to get it running before users arrive at 8.
Newt the Newbie wakes early to beat his boss to work. It’s a good thing, because he arrives to find the web designer frantic because the server crashed. Newt goes into super sleuth mode to diagnose the problem before Big Boss Betty arrives.
The upside to having 25 years’ experience is being top dog. Since Big Boss Betty hired Newt, he can wake at 8 and stroll into the office around 9, knowing Newt can face any angry users or system glitches.
But this morning the CEO arrived early and discovered the company’s website (responsible for about 50 percent of revenue) was down for hours before the web designer arrived at 6. Betty defends his team and smooths things over with the bigger boss while Newt bangs his head on Data Entry Donna’s desk for the thirteenth time this morning.
Stan fixes the database and heads to his cubicle to tackle 78 waiting emails from users about what they want fixed, upgraded and installed. [click to tweet this] He gets stopped on the way by 15 of the same employees who sent emails, asking the same questions. It takes him awhile to finish answering the emails, because the other 63 emailers call him since he hasn’t responded to their emails.
Newt gets the web server up and heads to Betty’s office to explain the problem. But he doesn’t make it, since several employees stop him complaining that the printer in accounting isn’t working. Newt heads to accounting to find the printer unplugged for the fifth time in as many days. He tries again to explain how employees can plug the printer in without a service call, but he knows he’ll be back again tomorrow.
Stan finishes his barrage of emails and phone calls and heads to lunch. Then he remembers it’s Patch Day. He grabs a sandwich and heads back to install patches and updates to keep systems running smoothly.
Betty knows Newt needs a break, so he calls him into his office, locks the door and tells the secretary to hold calls. The secretary orders lunch while Newt and Betty go over the company’s needs. Betty needs ideas to present to executives this afternoon in the systems upgrade meeting. They discuss plans over lunch.
Stan finishes his Mystery Meat sandwich, patches and updates just as his boss walks in demanding to know how he’s spent the morning. He was supposed to set up 5 new employees with login IDs and passwords. They can’t get started until they’re in the system, and Stan has already “wasted” half the day. Stan heads to HR to get the new employees’ information.
After setting up the new guys, Stan gets a call from another user having problems. She keeps saying, “It doesn’t work!” but is unable to give a further description. Stan heads to her desk, hoping it’s an isolated issue.
Newt heads to another user having problems logging into the Internet. Betty is glad he doesn’t have to work the trenches anymore, but he’s not thrilled to head to the meeting to present what hardware and software upgrades the company needs.
Image via Flickr by Baltic Development Forum
Betty knows the executives in the meeting aren’t going to be thrilled about the costs, but it’s his job to explain how much more it would cost in lost productivity and revenue if the upgrades aren’t completed by the end of next year. At the rate the company is growing, the current systems just won’t be able to keep pace with new products and employees.
Stan finally figures out Secretary Sue is hitting the wrong keys to enter data into her report and explains again how the process works. He even prints her (another) cheat sheet of keystrokes, knowing he hasn’t explained these instructions for the last time.
Stan wants to get home for dinner on time at least once this week, because the wife is getting snippy about reheating leftovers at 10 p.m. and telling him how much he’s missing with the kids. He heads home for a few hours until data entry finishes up.
Betty leaves the meeting with a list of questions he has to answer for the executives by 8 in the morning. He knows they won’t do anything with the information for weeks, but they’ve given him 13 hours to get it together. Well, he hasn’t been sleeping well lately anyway, so one more night won’t matter.
Newt checks the system one last time before heading home. All systems are online and look good. As long as the web server stays up through the night, everything he can do is done. Luckily, the diner down the street is open until 9, so he doesn’t have to face another frozen dinner.
Stan kisses the kids goodnight, accepts his wife’s thanks for making the effort and heads back to the office to start the database update. His small business systems aren’t automated, so he has to wait until data entry finishes before starting backups.
Newbie Newt takes an antacid and heads to bed, making a note to check the web server in the morning. Big Boss Betty crunches numbers and looks for system solutions to meet company requirements and the tight budget set by executives. Stan finishes his backups and heads home to set the alarm he’ll never hear tomorrow morning. [click to tweet this] Everyone dreams of failsafe servers, ironclad Internet connections and users who know how to use their stuff.
Interested in becoming a systems administrator? You’ll need a mix of technical know-how, people skills, detective abilities and patience. But it’s an excellent career for people with these unique and valuable skills. Stan makes about $55,000 per year. Newt earns almost $60,000 and Betty brings home an average of $80,000 per year.
Here’s proof I’m not making this stuff up:
Image via Flickr by Nico Kaiser, Image via Flickr by liewcf, Image via Flickr by The Marmot and Image via Flickr by akeg