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Careers in System Administration Fran Fabrizio UAB Computer and Information Sciences Talk Outline A Day in the Life… What is a Sysadmin? What does a sysadmin do on a daily basis? Other kinds of sysadmins Does This Sound Interesting? Benefits of Being a Sysadmin Compatibility
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Careers in System Administration Fran Fabrizio UAB Computer and Information Sciences
Talk Outline • A Day in the Life… • What is a Sysadmin? • What does a sysadmin do on a daily basis? • Other kinds of sysadmins • Does This Sound Interesting? • Benefits of Being a Sysadmin • Compatibility • Traits of Successful Sysadmins • Preparing to Be a Sysadmin • Required Skills • Ideas for College
A Day in the Life… • What is a sysadmin? • What types of things do they do? • The different types of sysadmins
What is a Sysadmin? • Google’s answer to define:sysadmin • This is the person or people that takes care of a UNIX system This person has full access to all system resources. • Employee responsible for a company's computer network, also sometimes called a network administrator. A sysadmin's duties may include configuring the company's firewall, acquiring and installing hardware, setting up email addresses and keeping the printers working. • A job position of engineers involved in computer systems. They are the people responsible for running the system, or running some aspect of it.
What is a Sysadmin? • My informal definition… • “A person who is responsible for creating and maintaining an IT environment (or some aspect of it) to support users’ needs.” • How it relates to other areas of IT / CS? • Draw picture
How I Became a Sysadmin(An extremely concise history of my past 14 years) • Left TJ and went to Wash U. wanting to be a doctor • Organic Chemistry happened. I didn’t want to be a doctor any more. I was good with computers, so I tried computer science • I was a programmer for 6 years, first at a local St. Louis company, then at WebMD • I had to find a job in Birmingham. This one was mistakenly listed as a programmer job. I learned otherwise at the interview. They still hired me! • (More practical advice coming later…)
What I Do • Higher Education Sysadmin • Department of Computer and Information Sciences • University of Alabama at Birmingham • IT staff consists of myself and 3-4 student workers
Scope • 20 faculty and staff • 250 students • My organization is responsible for something like 400-500 systems • ~ $1.5 - 2 million in IT
A Brief Tour • Slide Show
The Mythical Typical Day • Each day is completely different from the last • Everchanging activities • reactive, “helpdesk response” • proactive, strategic project development • physical labor • Teaching • Working with vendors • doing the “soft” stuff - administrative, PR, recruitment, professional development (like this talk)
Job Responsibilities • The entire IT cycle • Research • Vendor negotiations • Procurement • Receiving • Installation • Configuration • Maintenance • Decommission
Job Responsibilities • End User Support • Answering helpdesk requests • Setting up laptops and desktops • Handling department guests • Academic Support • Setting up servers and software for academic activities • Research Support • Maintaining specialized research equipment and services • Infrastructure Support • Core production servers - email, web, etc… • Centralized storage and account management • Network infrastructure
Job Responsibilities • Other activities • Managing the student staff • Maintaining vendor relationships • Coordinating with other areas of campus IT • Public relations - giving tours, attending events, creating department advertising • Grant writing • User training
Job Responsibilities • Even more activities • Producing documentation • Teaching classes, seminars and workshops • Annual budget • Strategic planning • Training and development
Recent Tasks • Provide IT support to Alabama High School Programming Contest including development of program to automate submissions • Install security cameras • Upgrade cluster software • Troubleshoot error conditions on server hardware • Create system for automating subversion access and wikis for new accounts • Wrote a grant proposal for student technology fees
Recent Tasks • Develop system to automate lab machine installs based on location and role • Troubleshoot lost DHCP packets • Prepare workstations for summer research students • Migrate users to new email system • Install interactive monitors and remote lab PC control software and create training docs
Other Types of Sysadmins • Corporate • Network • Database • Security • Domain-Specific
Domain-Specific Admins • Bioinformatics • Computer Forensics • Computational Chemists • High Performance Computing • Most physical sciences have become extremely computation-oriented. They need people who understand IT -and- their world.
Does This Sound Interesting? • Debunking some Myths • Benefits of the job • Compatibility
Myths of Sysadmins • They’re in front of a computer all day. • They don’t interact with people much. • They never get to program. • It’s not a very creative job.
Why I Like My Job • Challenging • Hard problems • Never the same day twice • Great if you are easily bored • Always learning something new • IT reinvents itself every few years • Freedom • Autonomy, independence
Why I Like My Job • Academic Environment • Relaxed / casual, respectful, supportive • Feeling of Enabling People • Pay and Benefits • High salaries • Get to travel a lot • Public sector advantages
A Quick Look at the Industry(this slide is for the parents!) • The IT job outlook is phenomenally good right now • The outsourcing myth - debunked! • Explosion in need - 43% job growth • Job happiness - IT dominates these rankings • Competitive salaries - Top 5 of all degrees. Start > $50k.
Is Sysadmin Right for Me? • I like to always be doing something different. • I am spontaneous and adapt well to sudden changes and new situations. • I multitask well and don’t mind interruptions. • I don’t fear the unknown.
Is Sysadmin Right for Me? • I welcome challenging problems. • I enjoy installing and debugging computer hardware and software. • I get along with all sorts of personalities easily. • I work well under pressure. • I like puzzles.
Is Sysadmin Right for Me? • I’d rather know a little about a lot than a lot about a little • I don’t mind unpredictable work schedules and being on call • I like to take things apart and figure out how they work
Preparing to be a Sysadmin • Required Skills • Traits of Successful Sysadmins • Maximizing College
Required Skills • “Hard” skills • Must be an expert hardware and software tinkerer • Comfortable in multiple Oses • Install and configure server and client software • Know how networks work and how computers communicate • Script programming • Leveraging the Internet for information • One of the biggest mistakes I see young admins make!
Required Skills • Soft Skills • Be an excellent communicator • Written • Verbal • Communicating technical information clearly and concisely is extremely hard! • Adaptability • The landscape is constantly changing. Stay ahead of the curve by keeping track of current development, maintaining current training, and trying new things.
Required Skills • Soft Skills • Tolerance, Patience and Compassion • End users can be difficult and unreasonable • Put yourself in their shoes • Self-Motivating • Often, the only time you hear from users is when there’s something wrong. The best ones remember to praise you when things go right, but don’t rely on it for motivation • Creativity • Ability to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions to problems
Successful Sysadmins… • Generalize. • They become a Jack-of-all-Trades. They don’t get trapped in a specific technology or product. • Are expert problem solvers. • They understand how to attack the unknown in manageable, measured steps. • Are very good at time management. • They manage information and workflow effectively.
Successful Sysadmins… • Think ahead. • Put monitoring systems in place before the problem exists. Identify bottlenecks and weaknesses and address them. • Solve a problem once. • Build a permanent solution, not a one-time hack job. “Higher Order Administration” • Are often outgoing, social people
How To Prepare • Most college programs don’t do a good job of preparing people to be sysadmins • Which department? Computer Science? Computer Engineering? MIS? • My choice, and why
Maximizing College Opportunities • While at college, try to work at student labs and helpdesk jobs and get IT internships and co-ops. • Good classes to take: • Technical writing • Networking • computer architecture • operating system theory • scripting languages • web applications/services • distributed computing • computer security
The End • Thank you! • Questions? • Contact me at email@example.com