Don Jones provided a keynote at TechMentor this morning and I tweeted a fragment of his career advice.

Jim Kimball astutely asks

Don and Jim continue

So Principals or Trends?

This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart.  Having watched the .NET developer community over the past 8 or 10 years evolve to embrace principals like SOLID, core XP practices, I see parallels with what is occurring in the sysadmin community with the DevOps movement.

When things like SOLID and concepts like pair-programming, unit testing, and continuous integration came into vogue, these concepts flew in the face of traditional practices.  Over time, these concepts have proven their worth and many are commonly accepted principals and practices.  Before that though, they were embraced by a daring few who recognized their value and evangelized their effectiveness.  It is through their efforts that those trends became commonly accepted principals.

We need to use our experience and industry awareness to gauge what trends are worth watching, since today's movements are tomorrows best practice.  Look at where the major players are investing.  What are the hot startups?  Where are conference tracks focused?  It isn't easy to divine where the world is headed, but if you want to future-proof your career and have the most options available to you, then you NEED to start paying attention and read the messages in the tea leaves.

What Should We (sysadmins) Pay Attention To Now?

I'm going to steal some inspiration from Don and give you my highlights of things to watch and learn....

  • DevOps - Studies are out and the results are in...  High performing IT shares some common patterns and these are associated with the DevOps movement.  
  • Development tools and methodologies..  Guess what sysadmins, you are developers.  Your scripts that run production environments are as important (if not more so) than the application code running on those boxes.  Get your heads around source control (and use it).  Learn about testing (unit, integration, and acceptance) - let's catch problems before they cause outages.
  • Cloud - Yeah, I hate the term too, but it is real and coming for your job.  If you can't offer internal customers the same capabilities (or better), why should your business fund you?  We exist to provide business value and if what you do doesn't contribute, MasterCard can buy a service that will.
  • Configuration management (bet you didn't see that one coming) -  If you are investing time in the above three concepts, CM tools are a natural fit to advance all three.
  • Cross-platform - homogeneous environments can leave you exposed.  Learn the best tools for the job.  You don't want to be lost when a critical service moves to run on a Linux based OS.

Ok, those are my top things to watch.  What are yours?

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