Sysadmin: an eternal portal to an IT career

6 min


The profession of a system administrator is always accompanied by a stereotyped perception. A sysadmin is a kind of universal IT specialist in any company who fixes computers, raises the Internet, deals with office equipment, configures programs, etc. It got to the point that the Day of the Sysadmin appeared – the last Friday of July, that is, today.

Moreover, the holiday has an anniversary today – the first Sysadmin Day was celebrated in 2000 in Chicago by an American “universal IT specialist” named Ted Kekatos. It was a picnic in nature with the participation of employees of a small software company.

The holiday came to Russia in 2006, when an All-Russian meeting of system administrators took place near Kaluga, to which a similar event was further added in Novosibirsk.

The profession lives and develops, and today is an excellent occasion to look at its evolution, the current state and the prospects opened by the work of a system administrator in the world of “big IT”.

Sysadmin: yesterday and today

Today, there are many variations of the practical content of the work of a system administrator.

In a small company with up to 100 employees, one and the same person can perform the duties of a sysadmin, manager, he will also manage software licenses and be responsible for maintaining office equipment, configure Wi-Fi, answer user requests, and be responsible for servers. If suddenly the company has 1C, then, accordingly, this person will somehow understand in this direction. This is the job of a sysadmin in a relatively small business.

As for the larger companies – service providers, cloud providers, software developers, etc., there are certainly more in-depth scenarios for the evolution of the sysadmin profession.

For example, in such companies there will probably be a position of a dedicated Unix administrator, Windows admin, there will certainly be a “security officer”, as well as network engineers. Surely they all have an IT department head or IT manager who is responsible for managing infrastructure and IT projects in the department. Large companies will need a CIO who is versed in strategic planning, and here it will not be superfluous to get an MBA in addition to the already existing technical background. There is no single right decision, it all depends on the company.

Most young colleagues who are just starting their career as a sysadmin start with the first and second lines of technical support – they answer stupid user questions, gain experience and acquire stress resistance skills. They are taught by more experienced system administrators, develop algorithms for them for common scenarios of troubleshooting, settings, etc. A person learns little by little, and if he is successful and he likes everything, he gradually grows to the next level.

Here we turn to the question of whether it is possible to consider system administration as a kind of portal to a more serious IT career, or is it some kind of closed level where you can only develop horizontally?

The sky is the limit

First of all, I would like to note that for a system administrator in the modern world, taking into account all the key areas of IT development, there is a fundamental opportunity to develop and grow professionally in any chosen direction.

First, you are an IT support specialist, then a system administrator, and then a choice of specialization arises. You can go to programmer, Unix administrator, network engineer, and also become an IT systems architect or security specialist or even a project manager.

Of course, everything is not so simple – firstly, you need to gain experience, pass exams in various educational programs, receive certificates, regularly prove that you are able to show results and apply the knowledge and experience gained, constantly study. If a sysadmin chooses the path of development in the direction of a system architect, then here you can count on a salary no worse than that of IT managers.

By the way, you can go from the system administrator to IT management. If you like to manage, collaborate, direct, then you are booked into the field of project management.

Alternatively, you can remain a system administrator at a very good professional level, and develop in a highly specialized area, for example, in some cloud provider, focusing on tasks related to cloud infrastructure and virtualization.

Fortunately for sysadmins, today there is no such opportunity that would not be open to colleagues – everyone chooses for himself where to grow and develop further.

Is education overrated?

The good news: we can say that the threshold of entering IT through the position of a sysadmin does not require special, say, mathematical, education.

Among my acquaintances, there were many humanities who managed to build a successful career, starting with an IT support and further along the described route. The system administration here becomes excellent “IT universities”.

Of course, technical education will not be superfluous and, on the contrary, it will be very useful, but in this case it will be necessary to take some courses in the specialty and gain experience on real cases.

In general, if a person wanted to become a sysadmin, today it is not such a closed profession as, say, a fighter pilot. You can start moving towards your dreams literally on the couch at home by studying literature or courses from the smartphone screen. A lot of information in any direction is available in the form of free and paid courses and articles.

There is an opportunity to prepare for your first IT job at home and then quite calmly get a job in IT support.

Of course, those who studied related specialties at the university have a starting advantage, but, on the other hand, a person with a good mathematical education is unlikely to plan to go to support or system administrators, most likely he will choose another path – for example, Big Data. And this seriously reduces competition directly at the initial level of entry into the industry.

Skills: top 5 sysadmin “skills” -2020

Of course, a certain set of skills for successful work as a sysadmin in 2020 is still necessary. Here he is.

First of all, this is the desire to work and grow in this profession, enthusiasm, efficiency and readiness to constantly learn. This is the main thing.

If a person has heard somewhere that a sysadmin is cool, but having tried it, he realized that he does not like the profession, then it is better not to waste time in vain and change his specialty. The profession requires a “serious and long-term” attitude towards itself. Something is constantly changing in IT. Here you cannot learn something once and sit on this knowledge for 10 years and do nothing, not learn something new. “Study, study and study again.” /IN. I. Lenin /

The second important aspect of the skillset is good memory and analytical skills. You constantly need to keep a mass of knowledge in your head, add new volumes and subject areas to it, be able to creatively comprehend them and transform them into a sum of useful professional actions. And be able to fish out and apply knowledge and experience at the right time.

The third part is the minimum set of professional knowledge. For graduates of specialized technical universities, it will be enough: knowledge of the basics of databases, the principles of operating systems (not deeply, not at the level of an architect), an idea of ​​how software interacts with hardware, understanding of the principles of networks, as well as initial programming skills, basic knowledge of TCP / IP, Unix, Windows systems. If you know how to reinstall Window and assemble your computer yourself, you are almost ready to become a sysadmin.

One of the signs of the times today is automation, every system administrator comes to the conclusion that it is easier to register some processes at the script level, thus reducing his tedious manual labor.

The fourth point is knowledge of English, this is an absolutely mandatory skill. It is better to replenish your personal knowledge base from primary sources, the language of IT today is English.

Finally, the fifth aspect of the 2020 sysadmin skillset is multifunctionality. Now everything is intertwined, for example, and Windows and Unix, as a rule, are mixed in one infrastructure for different blocks of tasks.

Unix is ​​now used almost everywhere, both in corporate IT infrastructures and in the clouds, 1C and MS SQL already work on Unix, as well as cloud servers from Microsoft and Amazon cloud.

Depending on the specifics of work in a particular company, a sysadmin may need to be able to quickly figure out the most unexpected things, to quickly integrate some ready-made cloud application or its API into the company’s processes.

In a word, you need to comply with the stereotype #tyzhaytishnik and be able to work for results in any task.

DevOps is almost invisible

One of the most obvious scenarios and trends in the development of a sysadmin career today is DevOps; that’s at least the stereotype.

In fact, everything is not so simple: a DevOps specialist in modern IT is more like a programmer’s assistant who constantly refines and “fixes” the infrastructure, understands why the code worked on one version of the library, but didn’t work on the other. DevOps also automates various algorithms for deploying and testing a product on its own or cloud servers, helps to select and configure the architecture of IT components. And of course he can “program” something and read someone else’s code, but this is not his main function.

DevOps is essentially a slightly more specialized sysadmin. So he was named, but in fact it did not change the profession and tasks. Again, now this profession is in trend, but those who did not have time to go there have a chance to do it for about the next 5 years.

Today, an upward trend in the field of building an IT career from the sysadmin level is robotics and automation (RPA), AI and Big Data, DevOps, Cloud admin.

The profession of a system administrator is always at the junction of different subject areas, it is a kind of constructor of competencies and skills for self-assembly. It will not be superfluous to get a skill – stress resistance and minimal knowledge of psychology. Do not forget that you work not only with IT, but also with people who are very, very different. You will also have to explain more than once why your IT solution is better than others, and why you should use it.

I will add that the profession will remain in demand indefinitely. Because all the promises of large IT vendors, announcing the release of “completely self-sufficient platforms and systems that will not break down, will maintain and repair themselves,” have not yet been confirmed by practice. Oracle, Microsoft and other large companies are talking about this every now and then. But nothing of the kind happens, because information systems remain extremely diverse and heterogeneous in terms of platforms, languages, protocols, etc. No artificial intelligence has yet been able to fine-tune complex IT architectures to run smoothly without human intervention.

This means that system administrators will be needed for a very long time and with very high requirements for their professionalism.

IT-manager of Linxdatacenter Ilya Ilyichev


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