Are your days as a SysAdmin numbered? Learn to program automated systems.

Automation is taking the industry by storm, and that means a large number of SysAdmins are going to be out of work. What should a SysAdmin do? Learning how to program their automated systems is a good start.

Apparently, it isn’t just the NSA that thinks sysadmins can be replaced with automation tooling. Peter Roosakos, co-founder of Foghorn Consulting also foresees a continuing decline in the need for manual oversight of many operations. “When we were doing ops in the old world, we had sysadmins who did system administration tasks hands on. With the new toolset out there, what you are doing is actually codifying your infrastructure. It’s developers who do that. So, the skillset is moving more toward development and away from system administration.”

With the new toolset out there, what you are doing is actually codifying your infrastructure. It’s developers who do that.

Peter Roosakos,  Foghorn Consulting

If you are a system administrator, it might be a good time to start expanding your skillset. Fortunately, you do still have a lot to offer. In particular, you bring a broad perspective to the development team that overspecialized programmers with tunnel vision may lack. Here are a few tips based on the steps taken by other sysadmins to position themselves in the sweet spot for a career in DevOps:

Automate recurring tasks

If you have to do a task more than once or twice, it’s time to learn to write a script for it. This is actually one of the skills that’s in high demand within DevOps since customizing automation tools takes exactly your kind of mindset. Streamlining your workload also gives you more time to beef up on your coding skills.

Debug on your end

If you paid attention over the years as a sysadmin, it’s likely that you’ve learned to spot common coding mistakes that make things break down in production. Learn to fix those errors as part of the feedback loop with the developers. Just be sure to communicate what you’re doing so you get the credit and you position yourself as a team player.

Learn to integrate

Getting applications to integrate and play well together is often part of your job anyway. Get a handle on creating workable interfaces and you’ll secure your position as a valued employee.

Focus on the really big picture

Finally, to really be a hero in the production environment, pay special attention to understanding scalability for the cloud. With the right skills, real world experience, ongoing education, and a little luck, you might make a smooth transition to the role of deployment engineer.

What are you doing to keep your skills current? Let us know.

This was last published in January 2014

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