I work in academia. I’m a sysadmin. However, I took a rather non-traditional route to sysadmin-hood. The very brief version of the story goes like this:
I started as a lowly database reporting geek. I found that I liked databases, and the database guys took me under their wing and made a DBA out of me. Then I went to work for Sybase and became a full-blown data snob. However, on various client sites I found that the people I inevitably needed to interact with to get my work done were the sysadmins.
As time went on I gained their trust and they started giving me more privileges on the machines where the database servers were running. It was a great help, and I was able to spread my sysadmin wings in an environment quite close to what would be called “production”.
After about a year of Perl scripting on the database end and for the sysadmin tasks I needed to perform, I decided that what I really wanted to do was build out these huge end-to-end systems. I wanted to do everything. I wanted to much with network gear, environmental monitors, power distribution, UNIX, databases, LDAP, Apache, and whatever else I could get my hands on. My next job was for a consulting firm that put me through tons of systems training, and I was on my way.
When I wasn’t at work, I was reading books about Linux and UNIX (I think I read all of the ones available at that time, actually), pounding the Linux forums, and setting up services on Linux boxes I had set up at home. I could rattle off ipchains rulesets in my sleep, recite Apache rewrite rules verbatim, quote error strings and tell you what they meant and how long you had before your disk just completely failed. I could set up quad-boot machines, run Linux on old SPARCs, and I had already written code to handle most of the basic admin tasks, as well as some basic monitoring.
In short, I was determined. I had given up any notion of a life, hacked day and night, read Phrack, 2600, the llama book, bat book and more, grokked perl, php, sed, awk, tr, ed, vi, ksh and bash, and had gotten myself ready to sit for the SCSA, SCNA, CCNA, and CheckPoint certifications after working in IT, mostly in database administration and development, for about 3 years.
My main goals now boil down to doing my best to fight specialization. I don’t want to stop coding Python, or doing database development, or maintaining LDAP servers, or building beowulf clusters, or maintaining VMWare servers. Aside from these goals, I also try to share as much of the knowledge I have with others who might be where I was 10 years ago by putting it here, or on my blog, or on my Linux admin site, or other sites, or on IRC, or the forums, or in magazine articles, or in slide presentations for LUGs. Oh - I once put some of my knowledge in a book, too!
What I want to know now, though, is this: How did you get here? Did you major in CS and choose systems work? Did you do something non-technical and became your company’s all ’round IT guy? Did you fight your way out of the phone support farm? Let me know! Share your story!