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Re: Beginning Perl for system admins

by rinceWind (Monsignor)
on Sep 20, 2002 at 18:24 UTC ( #199562=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to Beginning Perl for system admins

It is my opinion that you can't be a great SA and a great coder.
Why not? Is there some great piece of IT folklore out there that the skills for one preclude the other? In my opinion, this is like the other great myth of the corporate world - that you can't be good at IT and a good manager. I have encountered several exceptions to this, and I recommend looking for and supporting any boss who is skilled in both areas. You need a manager like this to help you fight any battles over infrastructure.

Coming back to sysadmins. I have been a Unix and VMS sysadmin, I have also been a developer, support person, business analyst and tester. Perhaps it is because I have been a sysadmin that I can appreciate the role, and I tend to make my sysadmin colleagues' lives easier for them (I am currently assigned as a developer and application support person).

Having experience as a sysadmin gives you insight into a number of programming and design issues, for example:

  • Security
  • System performance
  • Portability
In my opinion, someone who has not been on the sharp end of these issues as a sysadmin will fail to grasp the consequences of what they are programming, and will write code that fails one or more of these criteria.

My $0.02


Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Good sysad/programmers are rare
by blssu (Pilgrim) on Sep 20, 2002 at 19:58 UTC

    ... because both jobs are damn hard!

    I think the "programmers can't be sysads" folklore comes from two beliefs: (1) sysads and programmers were adversaries back in the days when programmers fed stacks of cards to the Machine God behind the glass window, and (2) programmers are theorists with no concern for the real world, while sysads Get Jobs Done.

    In truth, the same basic skills apply to both jobs. Sysads need to handle pressure a bit better. Programmers need to handle abstraction a bit better. Sysads tend to use lousy tools too, so secondary skills like record keeping are more important for sysads.

    The biggest problem both jobs have is the folklore that people can learn them by taking some ad hoc training. Many people without formal training have become good sysads and programmers. The big lie is that people don't need structured, progressive, disciplined training. They do. If someone doesn't have the self discipline to do that independently, he or she really needs the support of a university. (or monastery ;)

      Thank you blssu for enlightening me as to where the dichotomy between sysadmins and programmers comes from. Also thank you for boosting my confidence convincing me that people with my skills are in short supply.

      Although I have a computer science degree, and other training as a programmer, I have always had a "let's peep under the hood" approach to what I am doing. I believe there is a huge overlap, including "Technical Support Consultant" and "Systems Programmer" - both roles I have done (technical support is what I am doing at present).

      I see the solution, not in terms of external discipline (University or PM), but in terms of changing the attitude of colleagues in work environments. I believe it is really a question of leadership.

      Being a self confessed jack of all trades, I see no reason why people with a particular job description should always stick together, forcing work into vertical silos. The much better structure is smaller - cross discipline - teams, where everyone is working towards the same goals. These are: solving the client's problems, delivering software solutions and making money for your employer's business.

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