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Why System Administrators Matter

by Andrew Roush
system administrator

Modern education is a complex, ever-evolving system, one that relies on technology and computer networks for record-keeping, classroom instruction, communication, and just about everything that happens on campus or in district offices. Behind all of that are system administrators — and today’s their day. Here’s why.

A Day of Appreciation

It all started with a fruit basket. Sort of. In 2000, system administrator Ted Kekatos saw a magazine ad for HP’s then-latest printer, the HP LaserJet 4000. He’d just installed several of that model at his company. But the ad didn’t seem to match his experience.

Here’s how Kekatos described it in a 2011 interview:

The ad showed a sysadmin sitting in his cube. Outside of his cube was a line of users bringing fruit baskets and flowers. I tore out the ad and showed it to my coworkers. I thought ‘Hey this is great! A sysadmin is getting flowers, fruit and wine from his users!’ So that was how System Administrator Appreciation Day 1.0 got started.

Kekatos meant it as a gentle ribbing to his coworkers, but soon the company’s annual July barbecue became SysAdmin Day, now formally known as System Administrator Appreciation Day. The idea caught on. This year, SysAdmin Day is July 26.

Powering On

If you’re not one, you may not entirely grasp what a system administrator does. Indeed, the title is less than descriptive. If you are a system administrator, you may even have a hard time telling your coworkers exactly what you do—an ever-changing and overlapping set of responsibilities. For the purposes of clarity, let’s consult the experts.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Computer networks are critical parts of almost every organization. Network and computer systems administrators are responsible for the day-to-day operation of these networks. They organize, install, and support an organization’s computer systems, including local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), network segments, intranets, and other data communication systems.

Saying Thanks

In a sense, sysadmins make the trains of education run. They keep tech on track and functioning. That, in a nutshell, is why sysadmins matter. How should you celebrate? Here’s what Kekatos, who still runs the official System Administrator Day website, suggests:

This is the day that all fellow System Administrators across the globe, will be showered with expensive sports cars and large piles of cash in appreciation of their diligent work. But seriously, we are asking for a nice token gift and some public acknowledgement. It’s the least you could do.

Around the world, people are doing just that: writing songs celebrating the keyboard warriors, giving gifts, or sending cards (though, despite requests, SysAdmin Day is yet to be recognized as a Hallmark holiday). The day has even spawned its own mini-musical.

Of course, one of the best ways to support sysadmins is to support their work. Check out TCEA’s System Administrator and Technical Support Conference, October 24–25, for outstanding opportunities to grow technical skill sets, share knowledge, and build your technological capacity.

Resources for System Administrators

At TCEA, we wanted to offer our own token of appreciation. Check out some previous TechNotes posts, below, meant to offer fresh, practical resources for those who work in the tech trenches. But before you admins put these tips into practice, don’t forget to take a break. It’s your day, after all.

  • Looking for ways to treat your admin? Check out our 2017 SysAdmin Day post here.
  • For sysadmins, technology coordinators, and tech support workers interested in becoming a leader in the field, TCEA’s TEC-SIG special interest group might be for you.
  • You can also read about TEC-SIG events, resources, and engaged members here and here.

Photo: Taylor Vick

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