Lead Image © Rajesh Rajendran Nair, 123RF.com

Lead Image © Rajesh Rajendran Nair, 123RF.com

Leveraging the Sys Admin Brain


Article from ADMIN 59/2020
System administrators are your front-line soldiers: the eyes, ears, and hands of the company.

System administrators are a creative lot, but that creativity is often overlooked. I personally love being creative and coming up with new solutions and new ways to do things. I'm especially happy when I can solve an expensive problem for free by using native tools and utilities, and I know other sys admins are just like me. It's funny how the brain of many organizations is in their feet rather than in their heads. I think this is the reason we go unnoticed and often unrewarded for the innovations we bring to the corporate table.

System administrators are too often thought of as necessary evils – overhead, introverted basement dwellers, and dungeon masters. The fact is, we're creative people who deserve a lot more than the occasional eye roll from someone in management. If you haven't experienced the scoffs and the sneers when you've suggested a solution, then you're very new to the job – or very lucky. In either case, prepare yourself.

I've been a member of the proletariat for so long, I've lost my enthusiasm for conquering the corporate beast. I've learned the hard way that many companies neither appreciate nor desire creativity and innovation. They just want you to respond as if you were a semi-sentient robot and do the job without question or consideration for alternative approaches. If one varies from that box, it's often suggested that you "move on." I feel this attitude wastes and suppresses a lot of talent and innovation.

For example, in a 16-year stint at a large IT services company, I was repeatedly told both "We can't purchase tools" and "We don't want home-grown solutions." That was the dilemma – you can't buy tools and you can't create your own. The only solution was to do everything manually, which admins also weren't supposed to do.

I think the assumption is that the lower you are in the corporate food chain the less you have to offer the ecosystem. It has been my experience that system administration is the one job that requires quick thinking, thinking outside the box, and coming up with a solution that works while saving money as well as labor. In many brainstorming sessions I have attended, sys admins have thrown out ideas to resolve nagging issues and recurring problems. Not all of them were overwhelming success stories, but many were.

My best advice for C-level executives and middle managers is that you need to listen to your sys admins. You need to glean the solutions that are a result of their experiences and their knowledge bases. You also need to realize something that the Army has known for generations – the stars and the stripes run the Army. In other words, the generals give the orders and the enlisted folks carry them out. In the same way, the C-level executives choose a direction for the company, and the sys admins execute the orders required to achieve the corporate goals.

If you think there's dissension in the ranks, you're right. Try asking what a sys admin thinks about a task or a goal. Ask a sys admin how to resolve a particular problem. Most morale issues relate to how much control and input someone believes they have in their jobs, in their teams, and in their companies. Your sys admins operate, execute, and carry out, but they also have a voice. Leverage those sys admin brains.

Ken Hess * ADMIN Senior Editor

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