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The SysAdmin Life, As Told by SysAdmins Themselves

With SysAdmin Day just around the corner, a Spiceworks thread offers insight into the lives of IT workers.

“You think you know, but you have no idea.”

This tagline, which was used in the intro to MTV’s hit docu-series Diary, was a mechanism that the profiled celebrities used to tease the fact that fans and observers might have thought they knew what life as a celebrity was like, but the reality was often much more complicated, different or interesting.

While working as a system administrator (commonly shortened to sysadmin) isn’t exactly Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, there’s more to it than meets the eye. In honor of the upcoming SysAdmin Day, on July 31, CDW asked sysadmins on Spiceworks to describe in a word or an image what life as a sysadmin is like as part of its SysAdmin Day sweepstakes.

Some of the responses were inspiring, some were hilariously sarcastic and others were painfully true. Here are six responses that stood out from the thread:

1. SysAdmins Are Magic

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Someone in the office swears up and down that their computer is completely on the fritz. They walk over to “the IT guy” and beg and plead for his assistance. Once the IT worker makes his way over to the desk, he finds that the so-called crisis has mysteriously fixed itself, which means the walk (or, sometimes, the sprint if the user is incredibly panicked) over was a complete waste of time.

This hilarious but true phenomenon is why Spiceworks user jason2329 considers his work to be magic.

“We have magical powers when we enter your area and the problem solves itself. We ask you to show us what is going on and when you do everything is working like it should. Our sure presence just magically fixes the issues that you are having,” jason2329 writes.

If Houdini was still alive, he’d probably make an excellent sysadmin.

2. The SysAdmin Roller Coaster Is Real

Life, as they say, is full of ups and downs. And work in IT is really no different.

That’s why Spiceworks user Natepiano described his life as a sysadmin as a roller-coaster ride.

“One day the emails are down, the next day someone got a virus, and the next day I have no fires to put out and am able to work on my long-term projects. You really never know what's going to be coming into the queue in the next 15 minutes, let alone the next day,” he writes.

Perhaps future career-aptitude tests for IT should ask whether candidates have a love of thrilling roller-coaster rides?

3. Sherlock Holmes Ain’t Got Nothin’ on IT

Which profession outside of IT do you think is the most similar to sysadmin, in terms of troubleshooting, managing and installing technology? How about the work of a detective?

Spiceworks user RCWade likened his sysadmin life to that of the most famous detective of them all: Sherlock Holmes.

“Whether it’s used serious or sarcastic.... I feel I should wear a double-billed hat and bring an old-school grandfather pipe to work every day.... Now, if I could just find out what Watson did with my coffee cup....,” he writes.

While it might sound farfetched, you can certainly argue that there are plenty of mysteries to untangle in the server closet.

4. Real SysAdmins Move in Silence

In a lot of ways, sysadmins are like plumbers: If they’re doing their jobs right, and everything is running smoothly, they’re practically invisible. But when things go wrong, sysadmins are buzzing around the office and moving with fervor and urgency.

Spiceworks user Timmay1369 takes this philosophy to heart, saying, “I find this one to be very true: ‘If you do your job properly, nobody knows you did anything at all.’ Such is the life of a sysadmin....”

He followed it up with this Futurama-inspired meme.

Bender gets IT.

5. SysAdmins Are Heroes

It’s no secret that superheroes play well with the IT crowd. If you doubt it, just check out this Spiceworks thread about the original Avengers movie.

But Spiceworks user Dennis Harrison went a little old school with his heroic reference when he described his sysadmin life as being similar to that of ’80s TV’s favorite secret agent, MacGyver.

“I work at an SMB, and I'm expected [to] produce Enterprise-class solutions with existing hardware/software and little to no budget,” he writes.

Sounds like it would qualify as a “mission: impossible” indeed.

6. SysAdmins Aren’t Librarians

Some people assume that working in IT is boring, but for Spiceworks user DLaBaun, working as a sysadmin is best described as engaging.

“While it might be tiring and exhausting, there is rarely a dull moment and I'm always learning something new,” he writes.

If you aren’t learning something new often, are you learning at all?

Jul 17 2015