What skills do I need to be a successful system administrator?
As part of reinventing myself professionally, I want to be a system administrator with networking knowledge. I thought that was the typical thing to do, most likely something windows related with their boatloads of certifications not including experience needed to get into the work field.
I talked to someone that has been in the role of system administrator, however, and he actually pointed me in a different direction: He dissed Windows...
If I really wanted to learn something that's been around for decades with little changes, and in great demand then he said I should learn the foundation of UNIX, as everyone in the world needs a UNIX Admin. The market's saturated with sys admin in windows/help desk/supports etc. and if you wanted to work in another country, I'd have no issues with language, computer wise. And that I can work in any type of industry as UNIX is the main backbone for 90% of commercial organizations.
What do you think, Dave? What's the core skillset and training needed to be a successful system administrator in the next decade?
That's a big question! I have to say right off that I disagree with the other admin saying Windows is pointless and there are already tons of Windows-savvy administrators in the marketplace. Any administrator has to be able to keep the computers, systems and tech working properly in their organization, and if that means you need to know how to work with printer cartridges, you'll need that knowledge. A ton of businesses run on a Microsoft Windows platform so, using the same logic, you need to be Windows savvy.
Having said that, do you need to get every certification available from Microsoft? Probably not. There are a ton of them. The thing is, they do prove to a prospective employer that you have a certain level of training and knowledge on that specific subject, so perhaps one or two general certifications would be a smart idea.
In terms of Linux vs. Unix, in a lot of ways they're now interchangeable. I write a column for Linux Journal, for example, but create the examples on my Mac (which runs NetBSD, a Unix variant, not a Linux variant). For your sysadmin / IT training, I think you'd do best to really dig into a popular flavor of Linux, say Ubuntu or Red Hat, then you can learn the variants and differences w/ Solaris (probably not that important given Sun's acquisition by Oracle and the slow market share bleed the company's experienced for years), HP-UX, AIX, and the other commercial Unixes in the marketplace.
I would also learn shell scripting, Perl inside out, and perhaps some Ruby + Ruby on Rails. Knowledge of HTML, CSS etc means you can also administer a Web server, a definite boon, in which case PHP would be beneficial too, I'm sure.
Finally, in terms of how to practice, here's a great exercise: get a cheap PC laptop and install Linux + X Windows and force yourself to live just in that environment. Email, calendar schedules, games, watching movies, if you can't get it to work in your Linux world, you can't do it. It'll motivate you to solve problems. :-)
Hope that's helpful!
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