[rescue] Small servers (was Re: WTT: 1.5G of PC2700 for 1G of PC100)

Nadine Miller velociraptor at gmail.com
Tue May 13 20:51:13 CDT 2008

J. Alexander Jacocks wrote:
> Shannon Hendrix <shannon at widomaker.com> wrote:
>>  Well, I'm comp-sci and do a better job with admin than most of the admins I have met.  I frequently have to do my own admin work if I want anything to work right.
>>  A good computer science degree is a superset of what you need for being a good system administrator.  It's mostly a matter of do you want to be an admin, or would you rather stick to more traditional comp-sci jobs.
>>  It is more efficient in many cases to separate those jobs, but only if each side is competent and understands the needs of the other.
>>  Most sysadmins I've worked with who just had vocational training are terrible.  They might really know the material they were taught, but have a really hard time when you get away from that.  Worse, it is impossible to explain to them why some of their decisions are a disaster for the software and running it efficiently.
>>  Certainly an admin can self-teach themselves that knowledge, but the point is they do need to do so somehow, in order to be effective machine managers.  All of the good admins I've met went well above just vocational training, or they consulted the comp-sci guys as needed.
>>  The ones who don't absolutely suck to work with unless the work is easy.
> I couldn't possibly disagree more.  Sure, some folks with CS degrees
> are good admins, and some lacking degrees aren't.  But the degree,
> itself, is neither here nor there.  What is required to make a good
> admin is the right mindset.  I have found that people are either
> logically and systematically thinking, or they are not, and no amount
> of instruction can change from one to the other.  Another thing that
> is required to be a good admin is someone who is dedicated enough to
> spend the time that the job requires.  Not only the maintenance
> windows, on-call, etc., but also the time at home spent keeping up
> with the technology and the current best thought, in the field.  9-5
> SA's are useless, IMO.
> The only area in SA work that I have found, where CS is directly
> applicable is in shell scripting.  There is no question that proper
> variable naming, efficient coding practices, and good documentation
> are critical, there.
> I'd have to say that experience writing (technical writing),
> presenting (speech), and dealing with others (business) are just as
> important, if not more, than a CS background.  Because, an SA who
> can't express themselves, or convince management/customers of the need
> for the proper technical solution, are unlikely to be successful, in a
> business environment.  And I have met plenty of technically-competent
> SAs, who got nowhere, due to lack of personal skills.
> Were I to make a college recommendation for someone who intends to be
> an SA, I'd say that they might even want to take a business degree,
> with CS courses as electives.  They should spend spare time working on
> systems, for sure, but their classes should be in areas that won't be
> picked up, in the business world.  The best SA that I have ever worked
> with has a degree in psychology, by the way.
> By the way, I _do_ have a CS background, though not a degree, so I'm
> not just talking out of my ass, here.  I've been a mostly Solaris SA
> for 13 years, until I switched to consulting.

A late reply, but I have to weigh in with Alex here.  The two best SA's 
I know are a MS in Math turned MA in Psych (he's still working as an SA 
due to some family health problems which impede him starting his own 
practice), and a French Literature major.  The latter never was very 
good at the social aspects, but he had plenty of support from his 
co-workers to help him overcome that--they all knew his solutions would 
work--until he retired.  After SA, he did stand-up and cabinet-making. 
Many of the other people I'd place in my top 20 SA's are also not CS folks.

Having said that, the face of "SA" is changing.  My Math/Psych friend 
tells me they are 80-90% automated deployment, and just take systems out 
of the load-balanced environment rather than trouble-shoot.  It's either 
to bring new machines on-line than to fix broken stuff.

Software development is more intrinsic to the "new" SA and will be more 
so as it evolves, especially in large enterprises.


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