It's SysAdmin Appreciation Day tomorrow (hint: this is a subtle reminder for you to think of a last-minute surprise for your favorite SysAdmin 😉), and we wanted to give you a primer on what SysAdmins do – from a real SysAdmin!
Meet Louis, a Linux SysAdmin and member of the Checkmk community. He shares what he likes about his job and how it was for him to suddenly shift to remote work as he started working with a new client.
Can you tell us about your work?
Sure, I work as a Linux system administrator. And that’s in the broadest sense of the word. So indeed it involves your “standard” sysadmin tasks, like monitoring existing systems and solving issues, preferably before they happen, but also the implementation of new functionality. For instance, I just finished setting up an NFS Linux cluster for a customer. Something I’ve never done before, but now it’s working and that is great. And now they have me looking into replacing their old monitoring tool with CheckMK, so I’m working on that now. As the company I work for actually is a SAP company, every now and then I do a little sidestep there.
What do you like the most about your job?
The variety of things I get to do. Like mentioned before, I just finished this NFS cluster, which was something completely new for me. Before that, I did an upgrade of something called Liferay; a portal solution based on Apache Tomcat. Again, something I hadn’t even heard about before. And that is the other fun part, it’s really challenging, so it keeps your mind sharp and avoids becoming routine. That’s why I always say this when something like this crosses my path: “I’ve never done this before, so I don’t think it will be a problem.”
What’s the weirdest request/ weirdest thing you have to deal with as a SysAdmin?
End-users. They always seem to find the most interesting ways of making things not work. And that’s not out of ill will or so, but most of the time due to the fact that in a system design it’s very often overlooked on how things will be used in the end. But that keeps you sharp. And besides, without end-users, there would be no use for sysadmins in the first place.
How was your work affected by the sudden shift to the home office?
When the work from home advice came, I’d just started out at a new client. So I was still getting into getting to know the systems, working through documentation, getting all the proper accounts etc. So after 6 days I was “left on my own”. Of course, there’s Teams, Zoom etc. but especially in the first month on a new job it’s much more convenient to be able to just ask questions directly. So that was a real “dive in the deep” for me. But I guess I must have done something right, as I’m still working for this client now. And in the end you get used to it, though I believe the coffee machine really misses us. As much as we miss the conversations there. (The coffee’s not that good).
Do you think companies will continue supporting remote work? Why do you think so / why don’t you think so?
I can only hope. For me, over the past few years I always worked from home one or two days a week. For me that’s a nice balance. And in general, I think people are more productive when working from home, since these talks at the coffee machine take up a great amount of time. But when restrictions where I live were partially lifted some companies immediately forced all their staff back in the office. I guess it depends on the manager you have. Some are unfortunately able to let go a bit of control. Whereas in IT it’s very easy to judge someone by the results they produce, instead of the hours they are in the office. Also, there’s another added bonus to working from home. It reduces the amount of traveling around. And that in its turn is good for the environment and the number of traffic jams.
What is something you would love for people outside the IT team to stop/start doing?
Stop blaming everything on IT when things go wrong. It’s a bit the same as with a car. That one time it doesn’t start, people tend to start angry at it while forgetting it served them well, without any issues for the past few years. Yes, sometimes things go wrong with the IT systems. Those things happen; it’s not like we’re like the BOFH* who does it on purpose. We really do our best, and we don’t know everything, so a little understanding every now and then is most welcome.
* The Bastard Operator From Hell (BOFH) is a fictional rogue computer operator created by Simon Travaglia, who takes out his anger on users (who are “lusers” to him) and others who pester him with their computer problems, uses his expertise against his enemies and manipulates his employer.