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Decoding the SysAdmin: Shedding Light on the Role of IT MVPs

Community Manager

The age-old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” has long been answered with occupations such as: firefighter, ballerina, doctor, or princess. Why, you may wonder, does systems administrator rarely make the cut? As a critical member of the organization they support, surely a more rewarding and interesting career than SysAdmin can’t possibly exist!

While we know how exciting, versatile, and important our jobs truly are, do the people closest to us understand? When you get a text message from your remote monitoring system during a soccer game or dance recital, what do you tell your kids? If you break from analyzing system logs to enjoy a family dinner, how do you explain that a log is more than a chopped up tree trunk? Even with all your tireless explaining, how many times have you heard a version of this phrase: “My mom does something with computers…I think”?

In honor of Systems Administrator Day this year, we want to know what your family thinks you do 24/7, rain or shine, day or night. Whether it’s “Stuff on a computer,” “Emails their friends,” “Fixes problems,” or “Uhh…technology?”, let us know by July 18, and we’ll give you 250 THWACK points—and, if necessary, moral support from your fellow techies who do understand that you have the coolest job in the world.

111 Comments

I am so lucky to have a supportive wife that understands my 70 hours of work in the office and 2 or more hours at home.   She understands my duties, both as a Sr. Leader and when i have to be the Sysadmin and tech support.   She sometimes wonders if anyone can turn on a computer if I do not tell them no the other button.   However all in all there is a large disconnect from what we think our family knows and what we describe to them.  

Case in point.  My job role has expended recently with our parent company taking a more active roll in our organization, merging us with another company and migrating our O365 to a new tenant.  They have taken web control, social media, and many other aspects that ate away precious hours in the day from my other duties.  Now I find myself much deeper in planning, organization, budgeting, implementation team direction, Back office lead and other things which has actually made me busier that I was before.  I am working on integrating ABB with SAP across the HEC migrated from my UCS.   We are adding more technology than we can manage to configure.  So explaining this to a loved one or other can be a bit of a tall task unless they are in the industry.

Luckily for me I have been blessed with a career of nearly 24 years now, so most people know "yeah he does IT stuff", but many also know, I am not the "MAC" guy, or "iPhone" expert, (Samsung all the way!).

I find it better most days when people ask me hows work, to simply say, good, challenging but good.  If they then ask for details, I will speak slowly, and try to keep their attention by throwing in a sports reference. 

MVP
MVP

The only word that i get to hear from my family is "uhh not again", sometimes they as well think that I cook up stories lol anyways.

I did work in 24x7 for years as a monitoring support engineer and well the on calls are spot on, I am sure most of you know what I mean by that ....

You decide to go out for a movie or a dinner with family and you see a text or a buzz on your mobile, I did manage it well though you gotta convince them or bribe them (I mean my family) ...

Its alright, its part of life and I am happy with what i do. I am not a support engineer anymore, but yes even to this day i work with customers in UK, US and other parts of the world and i have a revolving clock, my timelines aren't fixed, it does change ever 2 months based on which customer I am working and even to this day i get to hear my dad asking me why don't you have a general shift which starts at 9AM and ends by 5PM , well can't convince or explain why I cant -> "I give him a standard response, i shall get my project changed next week lol"

Its true that they still don't understand what i do and I let it go , they just think I work for a software company which builds software's.....

NO MATTER WHAT, MY FAMILY IS OK WITH ME BEING IN IT AND I AM HAPPY TO BE AN IT CONSULTANT

Level 8

When asked, I say, "I'm in computers".  Everyone answers, "oh that is good. Everything uses computers today".  For my self-taught kids, when get home, I just sit on the couch and ask them to do that thing they do so I can watch a movie and not their video game.  I am a work-day geek, on my free time I hate to touch anything related to a computer.

Level 8

I usually just say I work in IT, mainly Network Infrastructure.  Most people won't ask for details, and if you offer them, you get the glazed over eyes of boredom really quick.

The one thing that annoys me is they assume that we know everything about computers, including programming, database administration, web design, phone apps, etc..  The general public seems to lump them all together as "Computers", as in my friend works with "computers" too.

Even my wife has asked me "Why haven't you written a phone app and made a million dollars yet?", and I have to explain yet again, that I don't program or code... UGH!

Level 8

Pretty much sums it up...

Image result for what do network admins do meme

MVP
MVP

My son knows what I do because he worked along side of me for a couple of years while I was in Oklahoma City. He continues to work in the IT field. My daughter just knows that my son and I do something with computers. My friends at work think I'm an expert on all things Firewall and security. (and of course they think that I know all there is to know about SolarWinds) Unfortunately they are wrong on all of these areas - there is soooo much to learn.

MVP
MVP

My wife constantly tells people im a computer scientist, and i constantly correct her since that's not even close to what I do...

My close family has absorbed some of my ways just by being constantly around me; so I always get a charge when I see someone performing RCA on a problem and they only come get me when they get stuck. My larger family just thinks that I work in a weird underground building, in the dark, plugging things into the internet with the Matrix code consistently flowing through my screens (some of that IS accurate). However I DO think I have one of the coolest jobs in the world.

Level 8

After 17 years in IT, my wife thinks I still spend my days swapping out mice and keyboards and resetting passwords all day.  The only exception is when we are out somewhere and a system is down, then I hear "You know how to do this stuff, go help them".   I then normally respond "Honey, I don't think (Insert Company Name Here) would appreciate me jumping on their system."   I guess she thinks I already have their login credentials. 

Level 9

Most of my family still thinks I remove viruses and mal-ware from computers everyday.   Ugh!!!!

Level 7

When I say that I am a Network Engineer, people usually think it has to do with Social Networks, and I just sigh, and try to explain it, in the least technical way

Level 7

Some of my friends are Network Engineers, so they get it, and I can talk about job in detail.  For most others, when I say that I am a Network Engineer, they will nod, and say "That's interesting",  like they know what that means, but they don't.   Sometimes I will say I work in IT and just leave it at that.

Level 8

My wife has been listening to me so long blathering on about Citrix and VMware that she can now understand both technologies. My son is happy because he can easily access his school work from home .

Level 7

Over 20 years experience and my family just knows I work on computers.  When I try to go into more detail all they here is blah blah blah - Hey what kind of deals do you get?

Level 9

Get yourself a lab-coat and you will.

After 5yrs into my first network admin job out of college, my family thinks I spend my time calling Comcast and traveling to rack and stack new hardware. They are not wrong.

My wife finally is able to say my "title" at my company, "LAN Support Analyst".  And even though she was in the DevOps world (before it was called that), she doesn't really understand the network support aspect of things.  Actually, in my role, I am part Sysadmin, part PC tech, part telco, part chief cook and bottle wash and mostly gopher.  And as I tell people, I could easily leave the PC tech stuff (I can do it in my sleep and with hands and legs tied behind my back) but Networking is something I really enjoy!  I told my supervisor, I'm one of the only people I know who gets a small endorphin rush when I hear and feel the satisfying "CLICK" of a network or telco cable being plugged in!  Is that ubergeek or what! 😉

Level 9

My wife isn't the slightest bit interested in what I do for a living, any time I try to explain in layman's terms she just glazes over, so I just give up. I guess at least she knows that I work with servers and networks and security "stuff"!

Level 14

My parents think I do stuff with computers (probably play games all day) but can't really understand.  They are almost 80.  My sisters think I can fix PCs by magic (why would they need to tell me what the problem is) and get upset when I say I don't really do PC stuff.  My friends mostly work in IT and even they don't quite understand the 'dark art' of server and infrastructure support'.  My work colleagues come to me for help and advice (which I provide).  Management don't even realise I exist and the magic computer fairies keep everything running.  I work in IT so don't have a wife and when I'm with other people's wives we aren't talking about IT         (OK that last bit isn't true        ). 

Level 7

My wife knows I spend a lot of time pulling floor tiles as I often come home complaining about my shoulder (previous service related injury). She also knows I run a lot of network cable and work on servers, both Windows and Linux. If you were to ask her for details she would say "computer networking and servers?". My parents would say the same thing. They all believe that I have a knack for anything technology related... most of the time it just involves rebooting their computer, router, roku, etc..

Computer stuff on the whole. Something to with servers, comes up quite often.

Level 11

My family and friends outside of fellow admins think I fix computers because they always ask me if I can fix theirs. I think I can fix anything because I have no fear of breaking something that is already not working, especially if it isn't mine. I've torn everything apart to find out how it works. Sometimes I gain insight, somethings I made more trash.

At work, I only use computers. I really run scripts, update firewall rules and troubleshoot issues.

Level 14

I used to have to explain a lot more about how what I do has little to nothing to do with green energy...

Now I just give the token "IT" or "Computers" answers, and sometimes for internal folks I'll explain that I'm the guy that tells the guy (who fixes things) where it hurts.

My son says that I am a fixer. He's 4, its good enough. My wife can repeat things that I have said, but I don't think she knows how I spend my days.

Level 16

I just never have an answer for anyone when they ask what I do at work. I just say I work in IT and leave it at that. If you go into it any further you get the deer in the headlight stare. My wife's been in IT for a long time as well

and holds 2 masters degrees. We never talk about technology much, but she knows exactly what I do at work

Level 9

Solarwinds Tech 

MVP
MVP

For me it depends on which phone app gets my attention...it could be to go literally fight a fire.  Regarding my IT career, my family doesn't fully understand.  They know I deal with monitoring networks and servers and that is about all they "understand".

Level 10

Since I work as a Defense Contractor to the Missile Defense Agency, somehow my family thinks I actually have something to do with shooting down incoming missiles.

Level 7

After working in IT for more than 30 years, I simply say that I am a Network Engineer in that I keep sites talking amongst themselves and other sites.  Working on servers, virtual hosts, redundant links and networks is rewarding but not something you can explain to your wife that had to wait an extra hour for you to get home with dinner because the last task of the day was "almost there" for an hour.

Level 11

My wife says, "Well he used to be in the Air Force doing something I wasn't allowed to know about.  Now he plays with something about monitoring or codes.  Geek stuff."

Level 11

My family hates the fact that my work phone never stops ringing with emails and phone calls. They also hate it when we barely sit down for dinner and my phone immediately begins to ring with a call about an "emergency" but in reality its just PEBKAC issue.

I love PEBKAC!!!  Another one I started using recently is PICNIC - Problem In Chair, Not In Computer!!!  The ID10T error is another good one.

Level 11

One I have heard since I work at a Flight Training Facility is Problem Exists Between HeadSet and Mic.

Level 10

My family thinks I fix computers...for free, apparently.  When I tell them I am a systems administrator, they visibly lose consciousness and wake up only to ask me why their computer is so slow, and to ask me to take a look at it before dinner. 

And then there's the old "Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot...OVER!" as an interrogative and "Tango Uniform" for dead equipment.  Oh, so many plays on words with the phonetic alphabet.

Level 7

My family thinks I fix computers as well, for free of course, especially when I have to buy the parts to fix it. When I explain what I do, they look into space like I am an alien

Level 7

Its a good thing my wife is in I.T. She understands what i do and why the hours are long. For my non-i.t friends, i just say im in Technology.

Level 13

My kids always says "Daddy fixes computers"

My wife says "wastes time at work"

My employees says "He breaks Sh%# all the time - haven't we removed his access yet???"

Level 7

Working on some computer and fix problems...

Level 8

Stare at computers all day

Level 11

What I Do.png

Level 20

I didn't even see this until it went up in recent on the site.  I think we're all family IT experts since it's our job.  I'm going to be installing a new Motorola cable modem that's 32 x 8 for Mom and Dad today.  Then a new wireless router with AC and AD wireless for the family.

MVP
MVP

Yeah me too, I only just noticed this post. My family just says I work in IT.

Level 14

mine too,I always wanted to be the flying doctor, from the old Australian series. i suppose i am a bit, but without the sick people and without the plane. oh well.

Level 9

And when you do come home, you're still working on the dinner table with your laptop. Don't you lie to me.

Level 10

Well for me, my wife does not care, does not understand and does not want to!

My son works in IT himself and fully understands.

Grandkids, 'Grandad can you fix this please'.

Brother also in IT (DBA) and also gets it.

But I must say my mother was always the best   'Oh that all sounds very nice but when are you going to get a PROPER job like a builder or a plumber or an electrician'! 

You can't win 'em all 

davej​, I hear you.  My mother was the exact opposite, though.  I work part time in the financial services arena and the position is comission only.  When I started in the field back in '05, I was still working in IT but when that job went away, and I went full-time in the financial position, mom would say, "When are you going to get a 'real' job with 'real' money?"  Ironically (or not, still haven't figured out which) she was in straight comission sales for the last half of her life (she's 85) so interesting that sales wasn't a "real" job to her.  Anyway, here am I back in the industry again (IT, that is) doing a lot of networking (which I LOVE!) and now my mom says, "Oh, I'm so glad you got a 'real' job with 'real' money and 'real' benefits."  Hey, I guess it's whatever works.

I think this calls for another EARWORM ALERT!!!

Alanis Morissette - Ironic (OFFICIAL VIDEO) - YouTube

Level 9

Luckily my husband works in IT too so we can have meaningful conversations about work, but the rest of my family things I "work on computers". Which means I'm usually the go-to tech support for any phone/computer/internet related problem.

Level 7

Some of them know what I do better than others.  I think most believe I just surf the internet between meetings!

Level 9

It always boils down to just "Computer Stuff"