Never Underestimate the Role of the Sysadmin

The past few weeks have been a rather interesting adventure in my technology career. Not only has it been a eye-opening experience but it’s been a humbling one as well.

Ever since I started eleven years ago when I chose IT as a profession, I’ve been one of the following at any point in time:

  • Software Engineer (I still actively participate in this)
  • Tech Support Monkey
  • Cog-in-the-Machine Glorified Maintenance Guy
  • Consultant
  • Independent Contractor
  • Evangelist
  • Public Speaker (Still do this and want to do more)

These days, I’m getting the unadulterated taste of what it’s like to be a manager/system administrator/network architect. If I’m being honest, I wasn’t totally prepared to be put in a position like that but what’s life if not an opportunity to learn new things.

Learning is what I’ve been doing since starting this new job almost a month ago. I wasn’t totally unprepared for the networking side of things but it certainly was not my forte. So when we started having all sorts of issues with DNS, routing different kinds of traffic between two ISPs, modest but improper implementation of VLANs, investment in monitoring and NACs, my life became this seemingly endless cycle of banging my head against the wall, reading technical manuals until the wee hours of the morning, working on maybe four hours of sleep a day and loving every second of it.

One thing I picked up on though is that system administrators deal with way more acronyms than programmers ever do in their entire careers. In three weeks I may have learned more acronyms with regard to networking than I have in ten years of software engineering.

The really cool thing about all of this is that I can remember back in high school when I started taking the CCNA courses and I seriously was falling asleep during them. As it would turn out, that’s not an uncommon thing to happen as most every other sysadmin I’ve talked to about CCNA says the same damn thing. But I never thought in a million years that I’d use any of that and guess what? I am now. What a world of difference your life becomes when you completely understand the OSI/DoD Networking Models and what each piece of networking hardware does. I love building Nagios and pfSense boxes and configuring them. It makes my nerd giggles happy when I start configuring a switch/router/firewall. DNS? I’m up to my neck in BIND and it’s great. DR and Failover? Let’s do it!

Speaking of switches, can we just start making it a point to boycott further production of Dell PowerConnect switches and find the existing ones and toss them in a lake somewhere on Mars? I mean if we were ever afraid of an alien invasion of some sort, just show them that those monstrosities were made and they’ll turn right the fuck around. They’re proof that intelligent life was not found on this planet.

The really great thing about being a sysadmin, I think, is that there are more chances for you to be faced with do-or-die situations and that’s where I work best at. When things are so hard that you’re the only person to turn to and even you don’t have anything near close to an answer. Not only that but being able to orchestrate all of these technologies to work smoothly in tandem with each other is a bit exhilarating. AND I GET TO USE AS MUCH OPEN-SOURCE SOFTWARE AS MY LITTLE HEART DESIRES!!! :)))) Save for Windows Server. Oh and by the way Microsoft, your CALs can go rot in hell.

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