Posted: 30.07.2020 12:05

How to become System Administrator

You want to work in the IT industry but you are not actually into programming. We might just find something for you. Would you like to be a system administrator (sysadmin)? For start, you should know that this job is very specific. You will be an invisible genie who is making life a little easier for the rest of us. Your job will be to ensure that the networks, servers, and all other IT operations of the company run smoothly. The job is not mon-fri 09-17 and very often sysadmins work around-the-clock. It is crucial to be able to swiftly react to incidents – sometimes at four o’clock in the morning – in order to solve the problems that might cost the company a fortune or generate negative user experience.  

So, what does a sysadmin do? How does his/her average day look like? What set of skills is necessary for the position? 

Responsibilities of sysadmin

Sysadmin is facing different challenges on a daily basis and the main daily tasks and responsibilities are:  

#1 Administration of users’ accounts 

This is sysadmin’s primary task. In a nutshell: sysadmin ensures that complex IT systems are secured and safe for end users no matter if they are internal or external users. 

#2 System maintenance 

Sysadmins are dealing with all the problems that might jeopardize daily working activities or access to the IT systems. They regularly upgrade the systems according to business and end-users’ requests. 

#3 Paperwork

Yes, sysadmins do paperwork – they keep logs on the IT property and plan investments and upgrades. 

#4 System health checks and backups 

Sysadmin will react to problems and alerts. But that is not all they do when it comes to security and accessibility of the system. They monitor systems and anomalies (unauthorized access to a network for example) all the time. If some protocol is breached, disabling end users to access their data, sysadmin will fix the issue and enable the access. It is sysadmin’s constant task to perform system health checks, do backups and implement security protocol for disaster recovery. 

#5 Apps compatibility 

In order to ensure that all teams within the company use applications that are compatible with the IT infrastructure, sysadmin performs regular performance tests, upgrades hardware and performs all other activities to ensure continuity of daily business activities.

#6 Database administration 

Activities related to data management include migration, configuration, installation and security of the data. Beside database administration, sysadmins are solving problems  end users have. This includes backups and data loss recovery.

#7 Network administration 

In order to ensure integrity of the network, sysadmins take care that network interactions are in compliance with the organisational policies and protocols. Network security is yet another sysadmin’s task and it includes network monitoring and analytics, ID and access management, security issues related to hardware and software licencing. 

We asked Marko Džidić, Senior System Administrator and head of SPARK School’s workshop Operational Systems, how he became a sysadmin. You might find his answer interesting and inspiring: ”First, you start to format PCs, and then you discover that there are OSs other than Microsoft Windows. So you get familiar with Unix, Linux, MacOS and start to install them. Of course, you come across  the configuration problems, start to dig for the solutions. Then you start to count how many days your home server remained stable and up without crashing, and before you know it, system administration is in you. Welcome to the new world, next step is to set up a home IT lab for the playground where you will continue to learn about operating systems and networks.” Marko added that the main driver is curiosity – an urge to understand why something crashed and how to fix it. Every new problem is an opportunity to learn and become better sysadmin.  

How to become sysadmin?

In order to work as sysadmin, you have to have very specific skills and get familiar with an impressive set of technologies. Sysadmin’s job is not just server rebooting and equipment maintenance logs. They are responsible for software and hardware reliability, and the basics sysadmin should know are:   

  • Process automation and system management
  • Cloud infrastructure
  • Git and version control
  • Servers and networks maintenance 
  • Scripting and programming

As here in B&H there is no dedicated formal education for this vocation, you must be wondering where to even start in order to gain the necessary skill set.  

#1 Bachelor degree

If you were thinking that the university  degree is so last century for today’s IT professionals, you are wrong. A great portion of system administration professionals  hold university diplomas ( IT, computing or computer engineering). Formal education will give you solid grounds: you’ll get to know the basics of different programming languages, OSs, databases etc. You should also consider an intern position, as this will make you a more desirable candidate for future employers. 

#2 Courses

Make time to take online or offline courses. It doesn’t matter if you are a student, fresh from college or you are showing interest in this area without a formal education background. Here in our SPARK school you are able to attend the OS workshop twice a year. After you finish the basic workshop successfully, you’ll have a chance to polish your knowledge by attending advanced courses. Not to mention that constant learning and knowledge polishing is crucial in all sectors.

#3 Interpersonal skills 

Good sysadmin knows technologies but he or she also knows people. Interpersonal skills are as important as the technical.  When a problem occurs, they are at the front lines and very often under pressure from various stakeholders: end users, team lead, top-level management, vendors…They all demand some course of action and have their own priorities. In situations like this, people skills are often more important than technical. Empathy, communication and evaluating skills and problem solving are crucial.  

Now you know how to become sysadmin. You should also know that the last Friday of July is System Administrator Appreciation Day. So, thank your sysadmin for all the hard work and commitment he or she is showing year-around. Surprise them with a new ergonomic mouse-pad, new sticker for the laptop or bring them to coffee. 

And don’t forget to use a strong password for your accounts – it could potentially save a lot of time to your sysadmin.