Fortune favors the Now

In all of the potential mathematical improbabilities in all of known space and creation, the probability that atomic structures and organic materials would have coalesced in the exact processes necessary to create you is impossible to express.

To be alive in this time in history is indescribable. We are at the apex of one of humanity’s greatest points in history, where knowledge, effort, and means are all collectively lending their energy to the next generation. Pushing them, molding them, breaking chains, and giving them the one thing that they need most:

Hope.

Every person has a story

Every person has a story.

Every person has a story.

Every person has a story.

Every person has a story.

Every person has a story.

No matter how you emphasize the words, the meaning is the same.  It’s why we have to do the work, lean in, and dig deeper.  It’s why inquiry, discovery, and revision are pre-requisites for being a functional human being.

The impact isn’t just limited to people–it’s all-encompassing.  Individuals, groups, organizations, countries, cultures, civilizations–nothing is left out.

When you encounter someone new, try remembering it.  See how quickly things change.

Don’t Be That Guy

Nobody likes the “brilliant asshole”.  Don’t be either of those things.

Doesn’t matter how much good work you do if you’re an insufferable jackass.  You might be right or have good ideas but nobody’s going to want to work with you.

Doesn’t matter what you have to say or what you have to show for your efforts if people hate your guts.  You might do something fantastic; doesn’t mean a damn thing if no one gets behind it.

Don’t be that guy.

Common Sins of Systems Administration

I feel as though I’ve spent enough time doing Systems Administration that I figure it’s time to vent a bit and point out some common fallacies and reasons why these are anti-patterns for both successful SysAdmins as well as overall health of tech organizations.

“Just restart the service/host.”

If companies wanted this kind of response to a problem, they would just invoke an event-driven service to restart services or hosts when a failure is detected.  This just masks the problem.

Instead:

  • Ask “Why did this fail?”
    • If you’re not asking why, you’re behaving much like the oft-maligned “Windows Admin” or “Bastard Operator From Hell (BOFH)”–restarting services or servers and not digging in deeper.
  • Look at logs.
    • If you’re not looking at logs for a service or a host, you’re missing a huge part of the work that makes Systems Administrators one of the most important roles in a technology organization.
  • Look at service and/or host statistics.
    • Back up your assertions with data, otherwise you’re just conjecturing.

“It’s not important/it’s intermittent.”

Bullshit.  If it’s important enough to page someone, it’s important enough to debug and find a way to keep it from happening again.  If it’s intermittent, then there’s a cause.  Ignore the symptoms, find the source.

“I’m too busy with other stuff.”

Again, bullshit.  If you’re too busy, say so.  It’s your job to tell someone (your manager, your peers, your employees, whatever) that you’re over-subscribed.  Anything worth doing is worth doing right and devoting as close to your full attention to as possible, so speak up.

“I don’t know how to do this.”

Then you’ve just been gifted with a learning opportunity.  The best SysAdmins use learning opportunities rather than avoid them.

  • Read documentation.
  • Look at logs.
  • Debug the problem.  Try to duplicate it.  See how it differs given different conditions.
  • Understand the services and hosts that you’re responsible for.
  • Be thorough and verbose in your investigation.

“This is never going to be fixed, so why bother?”

Your entire job is predicated on the notion that you’re supposed to help provide context to decision-makers around impact of bugs, flaws, and failures.  If you’re not doing it or aren’t interested in doing it, then why are you even working?

  • File bugs/stories/incidents.
  • Provide data to back up your assertions/findings.
  • Dig in.  Look at logs and statistics for commonalities and outliers.
  • ADVOCATE.
    • If people aren’t listening, take it up to the next level.  Find the Product Owners or Product Managers.
    • Explain why it’s a problem and what they could do to resolve it.
    • Talk about the cost of the problem in terms of payroll hours wasted (this generally gets people’s attention).

These are definitely common sins, but this is by no means a complete list.  What do you think?  Have any you’d like to share?

Permission

A tree doesn’t ask for permission to grow.  It just does it.

The same can (and ideally should) be said of doing what needs to be done.  Doing the most good and minimizing harm; that’s the hallmark of work that needs no permission.

Doing what we need to do for ourselves requires no permission, no leave need be begged-for.  If we can’t reconize the deepest needs in our hearts, then maybe we’re not looking hard enough–or we’re in denial.

Stop asking for permission to do what you know to be right.  Just start doing it.  We’ll thank you for it later.

Why?

Lead with it.  It might seem inscrutible, impossible to comprehend the reasons why depending upon what subject is being queried.  But the impossibility of starting with it begs the question itself: why not start with “why”?

Take, for example, an engineer.  Brilliant, but utterly fearful and ineffective at communicating.  Why?

Perhaps that very same brilliant engineer might have been smothered or abused early in their life.  An educator or authority figure might have told them they’d never be able to communicate well.  A parent who could never be placated or pleased tore them down at every turn.  Maybe that’s why.

Maybe moves us closer.  Why gives us an opening to insert insight, perspective, and empathy into the discourse.

When we’re confronted by difficult choices, disagreement, or discontent, we have the agency to ask the magic question.  It’s up to us to dig deeper.

So, why not?

Unconventional

The word “unconventional”, when used in the pejorative, reveals more about the user of the word than the subject itself.

A lack of imagination can inflict a tremendous amount of damage.  When we lack imagination, we tend to let fear, uncertainty, and doubt drive our decisionmaking and our responses.  We allow ourselves the luxury of remaining still in our reasoning rather than moving toward a place of understanding and growth.

Rather than dismissing something out-of-hand simply because it lies outside the bounds of convention, turn a curious eye toward a single question: “Why is this unconventional?”

Insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome.  Maybe being more unconventional is what we really need.