October 6, 2008

10 advises for junior systems administrator

  1. Understand Linux… Although you might not be expected at a beginner level to understand and remember all the system calls and alloc() of the kernel, it is very important for your sake and the sake of whoever you happen to work with, that you understand how the kernel boots, how the kernel manages devices, files/blocks and most of all how the underlying structure of Linux takes place. Many SysAdmin start working with Linux, without getting the basics… and I don’t mean ‘cp, mv etc…’, I mean… get a book and read!
  2. Backup… there is nothing that would make you special when not backing up a configuration file prior edit… the only thing you might get is an endless headache
  3. Note everything… It is normal that you do not know everything and it is normal that you aren’t able to remember a set up or a command… Our memory system just works this way… repeat a task many times and you will master/remember it…. Whenever you find a how-to or tip or figure out after endless hours spent researching on how to fix a problem or do a setup, NOTE it down…. Thus build your own library
  4. When facing a problem, do not be prompt to jump on google and search for it! Yes! we know you do that :-)… read the problem! I know it is scary if you have never done some C before and it might all look like gybrerish but still, a close attention to the error and a little use of logic will lead you on how to solve the problem and even on how to look for its solution
  5. Read… Read… Read… It is impossible that during your beginning years, you will be confronted to every situation which would make you later on a guru, so read… read blogs… read info sites such as osnews… slashdot
  6. Experiment… Vmware, the Sysadmin friend… create VMs on a dedicated box, install, experiment, break, try, repeat… love it… learn this way
  7. Be open to be criticized, and even mocked! Sadly enough, Gurus once noobs have a profound hatred and impatience for noobs. Don’t take it personal… it comes with the job :-)
  8. Do not experiment on production systems… going back to point 6) VMware is your friend or whatever virtualization you prefer.. I know it is kind of a repeat, but it is an important point
  9. Do not set too high goals… be realistic and methodical in your approach to learn. If you do not understand a concept “A”, ask yourself why?, determine the reason or the lack.. if concept “B” is missing to understand concept “A”, then leave “A” on standby, and focus on “B”…. there is no race, so no need to jump.
  10. Do not be afraid to ASK! If you work in a team, ask your Senior Sys Admin for info… there is no shame in asking or looking stupid, but great shame in breaking a whole system, thus bringing your whole team/department on its knees

And before I forget, remember to be happy and smile :-)… Unix is a fantastic world ;-)