Advice for my 20-year-old Sysadmin Self

To celebrate World Sysadmin Day, our Head of IT, Gerard Healy, returns with a piece of advice for his younger self.

An awful lot has changed in the past 15 years. When I first started in IT, digital personal assistance was the stuff of Lost in Space. Not the 1960s kitsch classic — I’m not that old! No, I mean that utterly forgettable Matt LeBlanc movie. Tablets were something from Star Trek: The Next Generation and the bleeding edge in phone technology were either the Blackberry Pearl for those corporate suits or the Motorola Razr v3 for the young, hip and cool, (I like to think that I was the latter). Times have changed (I’m definitely no longer young, hip and cool). The iPhone and subsequently iPad revolutionised the consumer device market, servers virtualised before drifting up into the cloud and Siri has been frustrating accented people for years. Other than buying stock in Apple, what advice would I offer to younger me or someone starting out in IT today?

Don’t be Tom from Office Space

One of the saddest things that I’ve encountered again and again is that member of the team that is obsolete and doesn’t know it — think Tom from Office Space. That person that is highly skilled in a specific technology. They’ve successfully managed to make a living off of for the past 20 or so years, but that tech is now irrelevant, obsolete and resultantly so are they. There is nothing as cruel as being 50-something and lost in the shuffle. Regardless of what stage you are at in your career or what qualifications you may have under your belt, you always have to be investing time in developing yourself — not just education and training, but reading insights, articles and creditable information about your chosen field. Don’t be Tom.

Two Ears, One Mouth

A rather gregarious Latin American that I loved working with used to always joke “You’ve two ears and one mouth — you should listen twice as much as you speak”. There’s an awful lot of truth to this and I wish that I’d met him earlier in my career. In my early days, I would on-occasion set out to prove that I knew what I was talking about. I was frequently the subject matter expert in the room, so it was easy to achieve. This meant that I didn’t always spend enough time listening and you learn a heck of lot more listening than you do speaking.

Put Away the Jerry Can

To this day, there’s not a month that goes by that I don’t see a case or two of someone digging their heals in, adamant that they’re right, everyone else is wrong and in doing so prolonging a disagreement. Not just in work but in life too. Our perception is our truth, meaning that there frequently can be multiple truths to be told and life is rarely black and white. Without getting too heavy in organisational theory, teams, groups and companies are brought together to achieve a goal. Digging in your heals and standing your ground rarely does more than pour petrol on a fire and prolong a disagreement. It’s a headache for managers and very distracting. Sometimes you just need to put away the jerry can and find a way to put out that fire.

A Stitch in Time….

I’ve inherited more than one mess in my time. Thankfully, I was imparted with a rather useful mindset early in my career — proactive preventative maintenance. You don’t wait for your car to die before getting it serviced. Equally, you react quickly when the check engine light comes on. The same is true with nearly every facet of the day-to-day of IT. A stitch in time can save more than nine! It can save an awful lot of pain and disruption too.

Raise that floor!

A good IT department enables a business. A great IT department drives a business. The journey from good to great requires constant iterations and innovations to improve upon the as-is. Down the years, this simple idea has had many names, many facades but the best and most formed version of this that I’ve found comes from ITIL, particularly, the concept of Continuous Service Improvement. By constantly striving for that extra 1%, that extra inch, by raising the standards overall, true value can be brought to your organisation.

Be Passionate About Your Job….

No one has ever succeeded in their role without caring about it. Being passionate — being invested in the success of the role is an everlasting motivator. It draws a lot of attention, both positive and negative from those around you. In spite of any negativity, be a champion for your team, your organisation, your role. Invest your time and energy in improving upon the as-is. It will get you noticed, it will help you when you seek to progress and it will drive you and your organisation forward.

…But Remember That It’s Just That

Work ultimately is just that. Always be fully committed when you’re there but remember to switch off when you’re not (unless you’re on call!!). Do other things, spend time with your family, your friends, your loved ones and pets. Enjoy your hobbies and interests. Take that holiday. You’ll be better recharged for the days that follow and in doing so, you can be fully committed to your work.

At Codex, we are big proponents of promoting from within our organisation. As such, all team members can avail of professional development opportunities to accelerate their careers and expand their professional knowledge. Find out more about what makes us a great place to work here.