Monday, July 20, 2009

What's an Accidental Systems Administrator, and WHY Would You Do That?

This is my term for those of us who take care of a network in addition to our regular job duties. I have noticed that there are a whole bunch of us accidental systems administrators! We’ve got a job and a little side order of network. We do it, whether or not we feel qualified! Some of them are feeling great satisfaction, while others consider it a very unwelcome monkey on their backs. Some of them are doing it effectively, and others need to get some help.

I enjoy being an accidental systems administrator. I find it very interesting, surprisingly different from the other work I do, and a great way to build relationships with other workers. I am a patient person, and I get a kick out of helping solve problems. That’s not terribly unusual for Certified Public Accountants; after all, most of us earn a living by researching and then conveying valuable information; the others I know do puzzles, and most of us enjoy that feeling that we’re valuable to our clients or employer.

Maybe you were drafted to be the sys admin at your office – someone has to do it! Maybe you own your own business – maybe, for instance, you’re a veterinarian with a small office network and you’re the one person at your animal clinic who has some natural ability to do it. Maybe you you’re doing it yourself to save money. Maybe you’re working at a nonprofit where the mission is dear to your heart, but there isn’t a lot of money. Maybe you’re doing it just until we all pull through this recession. Maybe you have a home network with various students and home businesses and hobbyists you’re supporting (along with paying their bills and mowing their lawn). Maybe you set up a network for your parents’ home or business.

This is a great way to become a more valuable employee. How’d you like an image as the person who keeps up with technology and is dedicated to the business? Your knowledge of basic network administration can help you to do your regular job – since we’re becoming an information and service economy, and it seems like everyone is on a computer now.

What if you’re not a systems administrator at all, but part of your management job is to oversee an information technology function? It’s helpful to understand networks enough to follow some of their jargon and understand what the most important maintenance and security involves. Maybe you think your IT guys are saying “no” too much, and you’d like to better understand what’s possible.

I am hoping this will be a forum for you to comment, ask questions – and if I don’t know, as I often don’t – others will pitch in. I want to support and encourage each other, to foster an environment where there is no such thing as a stupid question, and we’re all trying to learn and grow, and it’s okay to be an amateur or beginner among wonks. (I am going to moderate comments, so don’t even bother to spew nasties if you’re one of those angry little people.)

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