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Thread: Network Systems Administrator

  1. #1

    Default Network Systems Administrator

    For English class I need to write a short summary about being a network systems administrator for career week. IIRC, there are a few CPF members that hold this position.

    I was wondering if I could get some information from you guys about what your job is like, how you like it, what kind of an education you have, how the pay is, etc. I figure hearing what people who actually do this have to say, is better than doing some research on the interent.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    *Flashaholic* gadget_lover's Avatar
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    Default Re: Network Systems Administrator

    Hi Aaron,

    The job is a cool one, though the hours can be long and the pressure intense.

    A network systems admin connotes both system and network responsibilities. In general, you'll see mediocre skills in one area coupled with very good skills in the other. A great NT or Unix systems admin will know enough about networking to keep things working, and is often pressed into service as a network admin. A true network expert will have knowledge of the various protocols and how they are impacted by the network infrastructure.

    I've been a systems admin and a network engineer. I find that it takes a great deal of education to be hired as a network engineer, but very little to have it thrust upon you. Case in point: Let it be known that you can assist the existing network engineer in setting up or verifying the firewall and the firewall rules and you will eventually be considered his/her backup and maybe his replacement. Same goes for understanding any of the gateway routing protocols.

    The hours can be long because so much of the work has to be done when it does not impact your co-workers. This encourages late hours and midnight installation parties. The pressure can be high simply because if you screw up, everyone knows. Think about it. If your boss blows the budget, it may go un-noticed. If you blow away the file server with 5 years worth of data, everyone knows. It does not seem to matter that you have backups and can restore all the data.

    The pay ranges from stinking to great. The market is over saturated in the US by foreign workers brought in under 401B visas(short term, specific job visa), who then had families here have stayed as general immigrants.

    A great deal of system and network admin can be done remotely. Some admins have managed systems that they have never even seen. I've administered a dozen systems for the last 5 years from an office 50 miles away. There were several that I never saw after building/configuring them and shipping them to the data center.

    My education? Completed high school and then supplemented that with 30 years of on the job training, technical classes, college courses and reading. I have enough college credits to get a bachelor's but not in the right areas (not enough general ed). The field changes enough that I expect to continue training for the rest of my career.

    Daniel

  3. #3

    Default Re: Network Systems Administrator

    Daniel,

    Thank you very much! That was exactly what I was hoping for, and I specifically had you in mind when I posted. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]

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    *Flashaholic* PhotonWrangler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Network Systems Administrator

    Daniel hit the nail on the head. It involves a lot of night work and a lot of coffee, and the pressure can be considerable at times because it often directly affects a company's ability to conduct business. When something major goes down, you often have a room or an entire building full of people sitting on their hands and looking at you, waiting for you to DO something!

  5. #5
    *Flashaholic* gadget_lover's Avatar
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    Default Re: Network Systems Administrator

    Glad to be of help, Aaron.

    What I did not mention is that I've worked with several very good system admins who have been self taught. That's possible because the field is fairly straight forward and governed by standards. It's helped by the fact that most system admins need to know only one version of one operating system. You can learn enough to build and maintain systems in fairly short order.

    There's a second admin role that is closer to being an architect. That's the guy that needs to know enough about several different OSes and hardware platforms to recommend the best options when designing systems. This often falls to the most senior system admin or network admin. If the admin knows only Unix, Mainframes or Windows the recommendation may be incorrect.

    A really good admin also needs a certain mind set. The tendency is to jealously guard your systems. I tell folks that a good admin is twisted... in just the right way. You have to be.

    The people skills (or lack) is a whole other subject.


    Daniel

  6. #6
    *Flashaholic* IsaacHayes's Avatar
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    Default Re: Network Systems Administrator

    Hmm. Didn't know you all were NA's. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/wink2.gif[/img]
    I'll be looking for a job very soon. I'll be taking certifications in my free time meanwhile. I just decided to do this because programming is too tedious, and I'm good at lots of things, and this seemed to pay well heh. I could always change and go into graphics again which someone told me I should give up and do that because I was good, but all in good time! I gotta get a stable place to live to get back into that. I like to work on cars too. I'm a jack of all trades and it's hard to decide on any one thing!!

    Eh, I got off topic. I'd offer things to say but it's been said. And I don't have any real *paid* experience to share. I do know from a friend that sometimes you can go into a place with peers that have NO idea what they are doing even though you do, and this makes it hard to do your job. They will blame things on you and it makes it impossible to work. This one place (school district) was so screwed up and political. Everyone there got the job becasue they knew someone, and didn't even know what DHCP was, or anything and they got paid 40k a year! Their back up was on floppies!! They bought 12,000 dollars worth of new servers and weren't using them because they didn't know how to use them!! When asked where manuals were at their reply was "Manuals? We don't read those they are too thick" !! AHAHAHaa..

    That might not help, because basicaly any job can have politics and people who don't know what their doing!!
    But that is something you might run into, people who have been there for a while and aren't up to date as you are... [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/icon3.gif[/img]

  7. #7
    *Flashaholic* PhotonWrangler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Network Systems Administrator

    IsaacHayes, you'll run into "interesting" personalities wherever you work. One of my previous bosses had some nasty sociopathic tendencies and tended to do things that demoralized the staff for their own (perceived) personal gain. It was really sad. I've also worked with people who were severely bipolar to the extent that you could never have a normal workday around them. Very intelligent but difficult to predict. On the other hand, I've worked with many, many techies who have the neatest personalities and who are in it for the sheer love of their craft. Those people are a joy to work with and make it worth having to put up with the occasional prima donnas.

    Also like gadget_lover said, a large percentage of the brightest and highly motivated people I've known were self-taught.

    I'm a CCNA with a bunch of video and telecom training. Comes in handy in a lot of different areas. If you were looking for a first certification, I'd suggest going for the CCNA certificate.

  8. #8
    *Flashaholic* gadget_lover's Avatar
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    Default Re: Network Systems Administrator

    Yeah, I didn't really want to mention the (eh-hem) interesting personalities that tend to run in the profession.

    People who do not mix well with people tend to look for professions where they work with machines, and computers are some of teh best machines. It's no small wonder that a significant number of admins have under developed social skills. I've known some that were downright neanderthal.

    I've worked with admins that flaunted every rule, from dress codes to working hours, and they've been tolerated because they did their job too well to fire.

    The majority of the admins have simply been very smart and capable, personable and maybe a bit compulsive. Most have been very dedicated. A small percentage have been scoundrels, and a couple were criminal, drawn to the lure of complete access to the company and it's resources.

    Managers that are responsible for system admins are often confused since the average admin is motivated differently than an other workers. They also have a hard time evaluating them, since a really good admin is seldom noticed. That's the opposite of the rest of the work groups.

    Daniel

  9. #9
    Flashaholic* darkgear.com's Avatar
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    Default Re: Network Systems Administrator

    I may not be qualified to post here since I have recently quit the profession (for the third time!) If you want my answers email me at rmd@darkgear.com and we can arrange a time that I can call you and and talk about it.

    I began typing and there is just too much....

    I have CCNA, MCSE, CNA, CBA, (started but never finished LPI and ASE) also HP certified to repair over 100 models of printers. All of this, except the CCNA, is pretty much useless. I only have these because I was proving to my boss that these certs dont mean much. Even an idiot like me could pass em :P No offense to all of you that hold these in high esteem but character and tenacity of the person always outweighed the amount of framed paper.

    Best regards,
    Randy,

  10. #10

    Default Re: Network Systems Administrator

    Randy..

    That is exactly what I had to prove to my higher ups as well. Certs mean nothing. I have both my CCNA as well as my CCNP & to be honest with you I don't think that either of those certs mean as much as solid networking experience. Knowing how networks are "supposed" to work is one thing. But being able to diagnose the weird problems that come up is another. No book can prepare you like good old experience can.

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