The Perils of a Sysadmin

One bit of advice that career counselors like to give is “do what you love.” Suppose you love tinkering with computers? Obviously, then, you should go into the information technology field!

Now, some young idealists may imagine this to be an ideal career. Playing with computers all day? Taking them apart, putting them together, making them do tricks? What fun. Even, I myself, once believed this, but long experience has since turned me into a bitter old coot.

The reality is that you are less of a sorceror’s apprentice than you are a plumber.

Imagine: You are entrusted with a tangled web of pipes. Some are sturdy, and some are rusty. Some carry water, and some are dry. Some have been encased in sheetrock, and some are in plain view. And some of those in plain view, you continually hit your head upon, despite warning signs and caution tape.

Sometimes your services will be required in a remodel or new addition. This is the relatively fun part of the job. You may be tasked with installing a shiny new sink, a dishwasher, or a showerhead. At the end of the day, you pack up your tools, satisfied in the feeling of a job well done.

Unfortunately, this part of the job eventually gives way to the other part of the job.

Exploding Toilet

The reality is that many of these tangled pipes are filled with high-pressure sewage. It is not until a fitting breaks under the pressure, and sewage is spewing all over the carpet, that you are called in. Not only must you fix the leaks, you must somehow also do so without shutting off the water to the building. You must fix the leak before the carpet is ruined, and you will most likely be expected to clean the carpet afterward. And you will be expected to do all of this without warning in the middle of the night.

For such crises to happen once in a while is expected.

However, when they start to happen constantly, one inevitably questions one’s career choice.

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One thought on “The Perils of a Sysadmin”

  1. That’s the best synopsis of IT I have ever heard: “The reality is that you are less of a sorceror’s apprentice than you are a plumber.” I really don’t miss “doing what I love” when it comes to IT.

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