Article from ADMIN 61/2021
2021: The year of job and location change

Well, 2020 was certainly a wild ride wasn't it? I hope you, your family, and your circle of friends are all safe, employed, and healthy. Even if you are employed, I'm predicting that 2021 will be a year of change for a lot of you and for myself. One significant thing that 2020 taught is that we can work from anywhere. Remote work is possible and should be embraced as the next phase of system administration career mobility.

If you've worked as a system administrator for any length of time, you realize that a well-defined career ladder doesn't really exist. I hope that statement didn't come as a shocking surprise to you. Many of the sys admin jobs I've held over the past 20+ years don't even have a job description attached to them. I can't count the number of job descriptions I've written for myself and other sys admins, only to realize that it was a purely administrative effort. In other words, no one will ever read, refer to, or access the descriptions except to see that they exist. Such is the life of a sys admin. I don't mean to depress you or bemoan a good career choice. My purpose is to let you know that there is hope on the horizon.

Some of us have known for years that remote work is possible and that it's also a valuable asset for employers. Personally, I started working from home two days per week in 2001. My employer at the time insisted that we work remotely so that we could become more mobile and so that the company could possibly downsize their real estate footprint. It worked. Some companies still haven't caught on to the 20-year-old trend of remote work.

The biggest problem with remote work is discipline. Some people don't have the discipline to do it well. It takes getting used to. Really the only differences between remote work and going to an office are the commute and your proximity to other people. I find little value in either. I love working at home, from a hotel room, or from the comfort of a rented condo at the beach. I'm not sure there's any real advantage to going into an office on a regular basis. Let me put it plainly: If your employer doesn't see the value of remote work and you have the technology to allow it, then you should seek employment elsewhere. That's what I did. My previous employer didn't want anyone in IT to work remotely, even though we had the capability. I got busy and found an employer that operates in the 21st century.

I've heard all the arguments on both sides of the topic and none convince me that going into an office should be a requirement for those of us who (1) don't need to interact directly with other people (users or customers), (2) are just as efficient from a remote location, and (3) work hours outside of 8:00am to 5:00pm. I like to work remotely. I have fewer distractions at home, which I understand is not the case for everyone, but it works for me. I also don't always want to work regular office hours. My most efficient work times are early in the morning and then in the evenings. I still log more than the customary eight hours per day, so my employer should never feel slighted or overcharged. For me, remote work is the best benefit I could request, and it's the most valued of any perk I've received.

Frankly, I stayed at one job for 16 years because of a remote work option. When they brought us back into an office, I found a different job – one that was remote friendly. My next job was not remote friendly. I didn't stay long. I'm now at a very remote-friendly company, and I'm happy. I'm also relocating to the East Coast from the Midwest, which also makes me happy.

I suggest that you evaluate what you want from your career and your life. If physical mobility is what you're after, then find a position that allows it. If career mobility is your goal, you might have to reconsider your selection of a job in IT. For me, 2021 is going to be a year of transitions – transitions away from things, people, and places that I don't like to those I do.

Ken Hess, ADMIN Senior Editor

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