It may not be at the sexy end of the tech career spectrum, but Systems Administrators are the engine that keeps business IT running.
What this means is that there are plenty of jobs and opportunities for career growth. Here are some of the skills that early-to-mid-career Systems Administrators need to develop their IT career.
There aren’t many IT monocultures out there. Larger companies in particular tend to run mixed environments where Microsoft runs alongside multiple Unix-based systems from the more familiar Linux flavours through Solaris, Oracle, HP-UX and AIX. MSCE/MCSA are excellent certifications to have, but even if you’re applying for a Microsoft Systems Administrator job, there’s every chance you’ll work alongside dedicated Unix teams; the more familiar you are with Unix basics, the more useful (and employable) you’ll be.
Develop your people skills
There’s no stereotypical ‘hide in the basement’ tech role for SysAdmins. Your role in keeping the company’s vital IT services running makes everyone’s problem your problem. This calls for patience and professionalism in the face of everything from the most trying (and repetitive) end-user problems to more serious, complex infrastructural issues. Your ability to solve problems, multitask AND keep your head screwed on (and lip buttoned) will enhance your career development opportunities significantly.
It’s near impossible to expect any one group to have a 360 degree view of the situation. This is where Dev Ops comes in; an increasingly sought-after skill for Sys Admins, it’s more of a way of working than an actual role.
Get your Dev Ops chops
The days of ‘us’ and ‘them’ software/operations friction might not quite be over, but management increasingly expects collaboration. Cloud and large scale web operations, along with increasingly complex IT environments mean it’s near impossible to expect any one group to have a 360 degree view of the situation. This is where Dev Ops comes in; an increasingly sought-after skill for Sys Admins, it’s more of a way of working than an actual role. To learn more about Dev Ops and access multiple resources and viewpoints, try here.
Work on your code
Career-minded Systems Administrators should be very comfortable with writing scripts in at least one of the popular administrative languages, like Python, Perl, Ruby, Windows PowerShell. If you’re planning on building towards a Technical Lead or other senior IT management role, you’ll need to be able to code proficiently in one or more of these; your ability to understand and work with a high level language like C/++ won’t do your career any harm, either.
Put your head in the cloud
Networking, virtualisation and cloud are pretty much critical skillsets for Systems Administrators now – so much of what you manage is going there, if it hasn’t arrived already. Your ability to operate with confidence in a virtualised infrastructure – and to understand how different technologies interact for successful deployment and management – will help move you career along. And if you take our advice on scripting, you’ll comfortable with the APIs to automate installations.
Learn from your mistakes. Search online for what hiring managers are looking for and you’ll soon discover that the best Systems Administrators are the ones that are always learning, and can build on mistakes to make things better in the future. Your capacity for curiosity and problem solving is likely what attracted you to a career in Systems Administration in the first place – it’s also the key to career success.