I quit the sysadmin gig

I just can’t handle it.  My idea of system administration was the 1990s version:  You were allowed 30 minutes downtime for maintenance per week.  General tech support ended at 4 PM – after hours calls were actual emergencies and were a decidedly rare occurrence.  They were, in fact, fun and exciting when they happened.  You knew the machines you administered and were physically able to touch them and log into them by name and address.  They all had labels on the front telling their DNS name, IP address, and ethernet address(es).

Times have changed.  System administration now means running hundreds or thousands of servers by number alone.  The servers are often located in India.  Work doesn’t stop just because you go home.  Take my last job (at a small commercial bank):

You showed up at 7 AM and did all the batch work and sysadmin follow-up.  Then you did special projects the rest of the day.  Throughout, you took tech support calls that had to be dealt with immediately.  All calls had to be resolved in ten minutes or less.  There was no “on hold” or call queue.  You literally had to fix the issue immediately.

When you went home, it didn’t end.  You still had to handle tech support in the same way under the same guidelines.  All night.  Usually with the same amount of calls.  Every night, you had to monitor the batch jobs which means settings alarms to wake you up several times a night, if the constant tech support calls haven’t already kept you awake.

Server maintenance like reboots and kernel patches were allowed to happen exactly 30 minutes each month and there could be no service outage.  That means each month all four team members had to spend a weekend at the office.  I don’t mean coming into work on Saturday and Sunday, I mean showing up at 7 AM on Friday and working until 4 PM Monday afternoon.  Straight.  No sleeping, only cold pizza for meals.  All the prep work had to be done to ensure that the failover systems were in place and the connections hot-transferred to the alternate sites before the 2 AM to 2:30 AM maintenance window on Saturday night on the primary servers.  And then all the cleanup work had to be done to have everything back up and operational on the primaries by 4 PM Sunday.  Sunday evening into Monday was spent doing all the post-maintenance follow up and documentation.  All the while, still handling tech support calls.

No time off either.  Period.  No sick days.  If you’re sick, you work from home.  You must remain within 10 minutes of the office at all times.  That means living in a hotel or renting an apartment close to the office.  Overtime?  No.  Annual salary and it doesn’t change based on duties.  No merit increases, just COLA.  I worked around 86-90 hours per week normally.  I quit because my blood pressure never dropped below 160/120 the whole time I worked there.

So if this is what system administration means in the 21st century, then I fucking quit.  I’ll go be a damn landscaper or something.

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