Between interviewing for my new role and interviewing possible replacements for myself at Stack Exchange, I’ve been thinking a lot about my career path and that of other SysAdmins I know.  I wanted to share some of the thoughts bouncing around in my skull.

One thing I’ve settled on for sure is that my investment in PowerShell has been a real boon to my career.  PowerShell alone hasn’t opened any doors, but PowerShell has offered me a way to interact with a number of Windows Server related products and features in a way never anticipated by UI’s that offer a particular workflow.  This has led to a number of great learning opportunities with these products and features.

I can’t guaranty that what worked for me will work for you, but if you want to effect change in your career, I have a few suggestions:

  • If you are a Windows admin, learn some *nix and/or some networking (if you focus on one of the other areas, learn some Windows server too).  You don’t need to become an expert, but you should be able to do basic operations and understand the standard terms.
  • Learn how to do unattended installs, for operating systems and applications.  The more servers that fall under your scope of control or the more responsibilities you have, the less time you have to spend baby sitting these processes.  Next, next, next is not a highlight for your resume.
  • Learn to program - not just a language, but the concepts around programming.  Learn about design patterns and application architecture. Learn about testing and debugging.  Systems administration is evolving and there are a lot of good ideas we can steal from the software development community.  It also gives you a leg up interacting with developers if you speak the lingo.
  • Don’t undervalue your experiences.  You may think that what you’ve done up until now is nothing special, but I’ll lay dollars to donuts that you’ve had some experiences that are different and provide you some unique insight into a particular problem domain.  Share that, either with co-workers, a user group, at a conference, or on your resume. 
  • Share publicly (what you legally can).  Whether it’s through blogging, podcasting, speaking, open source, or teaching, it can raise your public profile.  Companies and teams won’t know they want to work with you if they don’t know you exist.

We should be happy in our work, and having the freedom to readily switch to an employer or opportunity that suits you is a very liberating experience.  It’s one I wish for all my SysAdmin brethren.  There is a lot of awesome yet to be done.  Let’s get out and do it!