System Administrators aren't in danger of losing their jobs, so long as they maintain flexibility to adjust their skills as technology evolves.
We live in a world of rapid change. New IT technologies pop up constantly, sometimes rendering manual administration tasks obsolete. This can be nerve wracking as pundits predict that many of our jobs will eventually be replaced by a machine. But, in the spirit of celebrating Sysadmin Day, breathe a sigh of relief because there is great news about your future. Employment growth for sysadmins is projected to increase 8 percent by 2024.
Great – right? Well, there’s a catch here. IT technology, business conditions, and even how end-users interface with apps and services will continue to evolve. That means the roles and responsibilities of sysadmins will also need to evolve to keep pace. Here are 4 ways to avoid obsolescence.
Get Cozy with Cloud Computing
The major issue for sysadmins with the rise of cloud computing is a decrease in need for on-premises server skills. As more applications move to the cloud, server operations, updates and maintenance are turned over to external sources. However, the transition increases the need for operations and monitoring skills as the business need for economic efficiency and performance monitoring doesn’t go away. The cloud also offers several other benefits to businesses (like predictable monthly payments, a focus on managing users, and easier provisioning and migrations) that require IT administrative talents. The cloud isn’t replacing system administrators’ jobs, but it is introducing new business tools and resources that sysadmins need to be able to understand and apply their skills to.
Read: What's In Your Sysadmin Toolbox?
Update Your Certifications
There is a lot of data to suggest that certifications and experience are often more important that associates or bachelor’s degrees for a range of system administrator positions. As new technologies evolve, companies need administrators who understand them. And certifications can help validate those skills. System Administrators should be sure to understand access controls, network services, and the resource requirements of applications in addition to server and client configuration and maintenance. Also look for opportunities to expand your certs beyond Microsoft, Cisco etc. to include areas like virtualization, SaaS offerings or security.
Prepare Yourself for DevOps
In the DevOps culture, the division between developers and system administrators is disintegrating. The two roles are beginning to work together as one to provide new competitive services faster with higher quality. Think about upgrading your skills from shell scripts to a programming language, like Python or Perl. Get acquainted with configuration management tools, like Puppet and Chef. Things are changing in the tech world. Chris Gervais, vice president of engineering at Threat Stack, says “Now, your value is not just what I can do, but how I help others, and how can I help align with the organization’s goals and objectives.” By embracing new technologies like these, sysadmins will continue to thrive as they apply their skills to the updated tools.
Work on Your ‘Top of the Stack’ Skills
The economics of cloud deployments and SaaS pretty much guarantee that each coming year we will see fewer on-premises systems (and requisite admin skills). The focus of IT is shifting from keeping the hardware and network running to assuring the performance (and cost effectiveness) of software and services. With a delivery model like SaaS, companies can easily distribute several business applications like messaging software, payroll processing software, management software, CRM, collaboration, and more. Transitions like this open up opportunities for growth within sysadmin careers. It expands the need for new admin role with the skills to configure, provision and customize core business SaaS applications. Consider migrating from Microsoft Certified to Salesforce or Marketo. Admins for top of the stack SaaS offerings are in big demand these days.
Despite updates in cloud computing, virtualization, and other areas of technology, System Administrators aren’t being kicked out the door just yet. Revolutions in technology will not replace the need for sysadmins, but they will expose new challenges to evolve your skills. The roles and expectations of sysadmins are changing, so your knowledge and skills need to adjust too.