Celebrating SysAdmin Day With Advice for Our Past Selves

eWEEK RESOURCE PAGE: Members of the SolarWinds THWACK community came up with a list of advice items they would give their past selves to survive and thrive in a changing tech landscape. Here’s what they shared with eWEEK readers.


Today, July 26, is SysAdmin Day, the perfect time to celebrate systems administrators for the work they do and the integral role they play in managing complex tech environments—and keeping business running as usual at the organizations they support. Sysadmins today are probably wearing more hats than they ever imagined. With all the knowledge and experience they’ve gained, what might sysadmins have told their past selves?

Everyone is shaped by life’s countless awkward, funny, difficult, proud or painful moments and experiences. Although it’s impossible to travel through time (yet, anyway!), reflecting on the past is often the best way to avoid repeating mistakes, grow from our experience and help others.

Members of the SolarWinds THWACK community came up with a list of advice items they would give their past selves to survive and thrive in a changing tech landscape. Here’s what they shared with eWEEK readers for this Data Points article.

Data Point No. 1: Embrace the Learn-as-You-Go Model

  • “You don't know everything now and you won't know everything later. You will often learn what you need to know in the moment you need it, and you have to embrace that. Have faith in yourself—you know more than you realize!” —User: meyer837, Network Engineer/Administrator
  • “Relish in the simple joys of the synergy created between people and systems to solve problems and commit to being a lifelong learner.” —User: jkump, Systems Administrator

Data Point No 2: Find—and Communicate—ROI 

  • “Leverage business needs with IT needs. Find ways to make a business objective work with IT products. Budgeting is easier if you match IT needs with business needs. Always identify and communicate ROI of every project or new piece of tech.” —User: poekbradley, Network Engineer
  • “Moving with tech is a lot easier than trying to play catch up. But it might be out of your direct control to move with the tech—learn to prove your case every time.” —User: aardav!1
  • “Drive change. Don't get complacent. Never settle for what works. If it works, find ways to make it better, more efficient, and more redundant.” —User: poekbradley, Network Engineer

Data Point No 3: Skill Up

  • “There’s never a clear winner in the debate of degrees versus certifications. Take the time and get the certifications. In the years to come, even though your jobs will change and may not require them, certifications are like the magic keys you discover in a video game—having them will allow you greater flexibility to open doors.” —User: tomiannelli, Information Services Manager
  • “Spend time reading blogs, watching videos, and taking up courses. Even if it doesn’t help you in that moment, you may recall/remember what you learned years later when you least expect it and need it most. Don’t confine yourself to one topic or area. Talk to your colleagues from different teams like database administrators or a storage area network (SAN) systems administrators to understand different perspectives.” —User: mudassir, Systems Administrator II
  • “Take the opportunity to spend more time learning software development. Develop coding skills. Pursue the engineering and computer science double major versus the math minor with engineering.”  —User: jeremymayfield, IT Director

Data Point No. 4: Monitor, Monitor, Monitor

  • “Monitor everything, especially applications and databases. Users may blame the network for a slow app when the real culprit is a slow step in the web interface that needs input from a database query—which may be taking 30 seconds instead of three milliseconds. If you aren't monitoring every step in the web page build/transactions, you don't know what's happening. Having baselines and alerts that flag when they're violated or exceeded is the path to a fast application environment.” —User: rschroeder, Network Analyst

Data Point No. 5: 'New' Doesn’t Always Equal 'Better'

  • “Stay off bandwagons that are here today and vulnerable tomorrow. That can include the cloud, depending on how you plan to use it, rely on it, and how reliable/highly available it is for you. Cloud is not the answer for everything—in fact, it may not even be the right answer for anything. It's certainly more vulnerable to external compromise than an internal data center. Know the risks before you go down that road.” —User: rschroeder, Network Analyst

Data Point No. 6: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

  • “Remember all those tiny mistakes you made that you thought were enormous blunders? You were wrong. You recognized them, learned from them and moved forward in your career. You also never forgot that nobody truly does it on their own, they have help. Whether from a mentor, teammate, or someone close to you, they listened, and you did too!” —User: George Sutherland, AVP Information Technology

If you have a suggestion for an eWEEK Data Points article, email [email protected].