[Article first published as System Administrator Appreciation Day on Blogcritics.]
Every year on the last Friday in July, nerdkind recognizes System Administrators’ Appreciation Day. It may sound silly to those of you that have never done the job, but over the years – well to me anyway – I’ve found there’s some legitimate value to it. Even sites like ThinkGeek celebrate it with sales on techie goodness. Years ago I wrote a small angry post on “why your IT department hates you,” and its main focus was something I called Social Swiss Army Knife Theory. We can call it SSAKT for short. That was a long time ago… a time before my writing became the polished gems you know and love today (please, hold your applause and/or laughter). But trust me the sentiment still stands. Most of the time when we seem angry or bitter, there’s a good reason.
System administrators (and I’m going to lump most tech people in here) get the short end of the corporate stick. Period. And most arguments the rest of you have against that statement are invalid. Over time society has forcibly relegated the tech crowd from actual human beings to on demand help centers, as if we have some sort of Google engine that runs inside our heads 24/7. Eventually the techs’ names aren’t associated with much else other than solving computer problems, resetting network accounts, replacing parts, or even just executing the most mundane computer tasks for grown adults that a child could do without too much thought. In short – Swiss Army knives. A multi-tool to do what other folks simply can’t. And soon, even the formality of a “hello” isn’t even uttered before the onslaught of issues and requests begin. All urgent. All with deadlines. And all expected to be resolved like magic.
So why do admins have the right to be more bitter than all the other departments in the world’s corporate structure? Respect. That’s all it boils down to. Someone will always be there to bug us when something’s not working, or freak out about when something’s going to be fixed, or when that impossible project is going to be done on top of the other things that need to be done. But when everything’s working great, and problems don’t even show up on users’ radar because the tech team has it well under control before they even know about it, there’s no one there the hold up the “10’s” on the scorecards for them. And I don’t think that’s fair. There’s no other team that has to stay on site and work the occasional 24 hour shift just so business can run without issue. Or drop everything they’re doing on a relaxing Saturday afternoon just to log in or come in and make everything is OK. Or be on the phone for two hour calls on a vacation thousands of miles away. While you’re comfortable in your bed, your sysadmin could be on the clock.
Sysadmins and techs are responsible for every email you send and receive, every phone call you make, and every aspect of day-to-day business that involves a computer – which let’s face it, is everything. We go out of our way to try and teach people about digital responsibility, viruses and malware to look out for, and just how to stay safe in the digital age.
So today’s for the techs. Whether you’re just starting out putting together your playbook, been in the game for a while running the show in the enterprise, the tech that does wiring, PBX, Database, Domino, Exchange, AD, Web, or any of the other oh so many custom systems that are out there – I salute you. Having a career that started as an IT intern as a teenager and ending up in the ranks of project and tech management, I know what kind of nightmare scenarios you’ve been through, and what kinds of hell you’ve been in. I appreciate what you all do to keep our world spinnin’ round. Keep up the good work folks.
As for the rest of you – As much as it may seem like it I’m not writing this to admonish you or call you bad people. I just want you to be aware of how things work. These techs that probably make your job possible to even do, don’t solve problems with a magic wand. It takes research, training, practice, and a lot of trial and error to learn things and get things done. It’s the type of work where the consequence of mistakes is business coming to a grinding halt. And unfortunately there’s far less recognition than what’s deserved. And we’re not looking for a parade or parties or anything crazy like that. Just one day out of 365 where maybe you bring up something other than how your computer’s not running right, or just saying hello like we’re normal people.