Happy SysAdmin Appreciation Day!

It’s the most celebratory of all Fridays – the one, the only: SysAdmin Appreciation Day!

At Automox, we love our SysAdmins so much that we held an internal competition to create memes for all the SysAdmins out there. Drumroll, please...

To honor those who meet the demands of the IT role that makes the world go round, we sat down with a few Automoxers who are living (or once lived) the SysAdmin life to ask some questions about their days on the job.

What is (or was) your favorite part of the job as a SysAdmin?

Mat L: My favorite thing is automating things to the point where we see noticeable improvement. I love making workflows and processes easier. Also, seeing the joy when I can help someone do their job more efficiently gives me a great deal of satisfaction.

David V: The constant opportunity to learn and perform "magic" on systems and computers!

Colby H: My favorite part of being a SysAdmin is being able to work on many complex systems and understand how the backbone of our modern world works – especially when it comes to cloud applications and how they talk to one another via API. When you get down to it, we use API calls every day without even realizing it. And API is responsible for making many of our modern systems work – it’s integral to our way of life.

Brandon C: Being able to build, image, rack, and wire server racks was enjoyable even though I didn't get to do it often!

David K: Solving problems, and making things work. Pretty much the same thing that drives me in my current role as a developer...building something that helps other people get their jobs done, and doing it well.

What’s the best ticket you ever received, or a memorable story from your SysAdmin days?

Colby H: My most memorable ticket was delivered when I was working in my previous role at a vacation rental company. The company had scheduled a virtual interview on the news with one of the renters and they needed a computer set up. So, I drove over to the rental, and the person I needed to set up a computer for was Randy Hogan, the lead singer of Cheap Trick! It was a cool experience! And my work directly affected the success of a prolific musician that day because, without my help, the interview wouldn't have happened.

Brandon C: My favorite story is from a customer calling in to our network operations center (NOC) to report that our phone system was down. I remember my boss asking, "Sir, how are you calling us right now?" The customer said, "I'm using my cell phone because your phones aren’t working." There was dead silence for a moment and then the customer said, "Oh, ok, I will go take care of this. I am sorry for the trouble," and hung up.

David K: I think the most memorable story I have is when I learned to respect the power of the symlink. I was doing some remote maintenance on a machine that was in a data center some ways away, so there was no easy physical access and no one on-site without significant expense because we were a small shop. All this was before the cloud infrastructure really existed at all. I had copied some files into my home directory through sudo that I wanted to inspect and check, so I did a quick `sudo chown -r myuser:mygroup *`, completely forgetting that I had a symlink to /etc in there as well. I got very lucky that the network was stable and I stayed connected and could look at another machine’s /etc structure to change the ownership of the files all back to what it was supposed to be!

What do you see as the biggest hurdle(s) to IT operations today?

Mat L: Remote work and locking down/putting enough guardrails around user access without blocking them from doing work. Remote device management and inventory specifically. There are enough tools to do most everything under the sun, but it's how you implement them that matters.

David V: Business buy-in on solutions. ITOps is often treated like a utility, but as a "utility" the business comes to a halt without it. So ITOps is challenged to find solutions for as little cost as possible, and are frequently pressed to "DIY" to save money.

Colby H: I'd say the biggest hurdle to ITOps is simply legacy environments that restrict where, when, and how your company works. In one of my previous roles, we worked within a legacy on-premise environment. Not only was it a pain to manage and update, since those updates needed to be compatible with an older OS and specific Java Runtime version, but the environment limited the company hiring pool to locals for the organization’s call center. These roles could have been filled by remote talent, as the local pool was limited.

Brandon C: Keeping up with tech scaling. Currently, I am hearing this pain point with customers a lot on the support side. The primary use case for most of our customers is to reduce the number of true hands-on processes that they have. Man hours are becoming hard to come by, and infrastructure becomes prohibitive to maintain with traditional methods. Sometimes throwing more people at a problem only delays this issue and it can get quite costly.

David K: A more distributed workforce, and remote/hybrid work as a much larger part of most operations. This brings with it the security concerns of people’s home networks.

...Five years from now?

David V: The challenge of achieving business buy-in is only overcome when vendors (like Automox) provide an MVP that meets the demands of smaller organizations who need the ability to engineer their own "DIY" solutions off of the tool.

Colby H: Every decade or so, we see more legacy environments hitting the limits of what they can handle. Or we get an announcement from Microsoft or Apple or other tech leaders that certain software is no longer supported. Or, for example, in the case of Flash, systems can be made completely inaccessible.

We expect to see more of this with most of the world moving to cloud environments. Cloud platforms are growing incompatible with legacy systems. Full migrations to cloud or hybrid systems are required for systems to talk to one another and stay relevant as things advance.

David K: More state-sponsored level hacking and incursions along the lines of SolarWinds, and those techniques trickling down to smaller operations...plus ransomware becoming more ubiquitous and not having as much control over the edge of the network.

Brandon C: Tech scaling, only it will be more of an issue than it is today because there is a possibility that the tools will become even more diverse and it will be even harder to maintain qualified professionals (higher turnover moving to greener pastures). Moving to a remote workforce/distributed workforce will help with this. I hope the big tech companies maintain this mindset because it has made it much easier to find highly qualified engineers.

What’s your favorite Automox feature and why?

Mat L: The "set it up and leave it." The product doesn't really require any babysitting or debugging like most other products out there. There is very little configuration to get going right out of the box. Unlike other solutions where you have to import updates manually, Automox has a nice feature that will go out and find new patches for you.

David V: The ability to build and run Worklets enables many opportunities for customers to leverage the platform. I love seeing how our SuperUser team makes end users' lives easier by automating nearly any task with Worklets. Check out our How We Worklet blog series to learn more.

Colby H: My favorite Automox feature has to be the automatic patching. It's such a relief to not have to go from computer to computer, taking days (depending on the size of your organization) to update every machine. Sometimes waiting for an update isn't a risk most companies can afford.

David K: Cross-platform management all-in-one tool and one UI.

Brandon C: No question, Flexible Device Targeting. Being able to build patch policies, required software deployments, and Worklets based on system attributes, including ones you can set inside of Automox (tags) is huge. It reduces the failure points, maintenance, and manual work admins use. It’s big!

If you could leave a message for all the other SysAdmins in the world today, what would it be?

Mat L: Automate all the things. Even if it takes several hours to automate one task, the time invested will save you loads in the long run. Any manual task can be automated with a little elbow grease.

David V: Imposter syndrome affects us all! Find and be the IT person that gives and shares knowledge so we can all improve.

Colby H: Don’t give up. Find your confidence. We’re so often the primary tech-oriented resource for our companies. We might feel alone in tackling a huge business asks that come out of left field. It happens to every SysAdmin, but there are others out there that have gone through what you went through. And Google can be your best resource if you’re looking for relevant information from others that have traveled your path.

Also, no one is a "master" of all software and tech. We typically stumble around and work with new technologies that emerge, even as we type. As technical enthusiasts, we embrace the unknown, work things out piece by piece, and find that we can understand more than we realize. Don't lose your confidence when you see AWS or think, ‘I've never worked with that before.’ Poke around, explore, learn, and make mistakes (hopefully, in a test environment)! We all learn something new every day, just take it one step at a time.

David K: Don’t try to be irreplaceable because of certain details that only you know. Work to be irreplaceable because nobody else takes care of networks AND people the way that you do.

Brandon C: Take a step back and breathe...don't sweat everything! Sure, there are going to be bad days. I remember one interaction I had with a vendor where there was a hardware issue in our iSeries that caused the production system to come down during an active trade day very close to Facebook’s IPO. Traders were losing it. On days like those, do the best you can because you can’t solve everything...and try to understand your user's frustration. Help get them through those tough times because most of the vitriol they are laying on you is out of their own frustration and has nothing to do with you.

Thank you, SysAdmins!

A big thank you to our SysAdmins at Automox and those of you putting in the hard work day in and day out. We speak for everyone when we say we couldn’t do it without you.


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