A Day in the Life of a SysAdmin

by Thomas Farrell, tfarrell@lynx.dac.neu.edu

The life of a sysadmin goes approximately as follows.

8am: Your pager goes off and wakes you up. The message says it's the office, and it's a crisis. You roll out of bed moaning.

8:15am: You are now sufficiently awake to phone the office. Your pager has gone off three times already. You get through to the office and the receptionist is frantic. She says nobody in the entire office can print and they have a major proposal that has to be faxed out before 9am and if it isn't the company could lose a million dollars in new business. You try to get her to explain what's wrong, but she's incoherent.

8:30am: You're dressed in yesterday's dirty clothes (they were all you could find in time) and running out the door, sipping a Jolt cola and hailing a cab to the office.

8:45am: You arrive at the office.

8:46am: You determine that the problem is that the printer is turned off, and you turn it back on. 10,000 pages spew out from the hundreds of multiple failed attempts by all of your coworkers to print.

8:47am: Your boss reams you out for "not having fixed that printer problem last time when you said it was all taken care of. You spend the next hour explaining that there's nothing you can do to stop people from turning off the printer if they really want to. You don't bother to mention that you happen to know that the person who did it is your boss's spouse.

9:45ish: You finally convince your boss to release you and make your way to your office, assaulted all along the way by people demanding that you must help them fix things right now that you know are going to take weeks and really aren't priority.

10am: You finally arrive at your office and shut and lock the door to keep out the users. You start to read the 40 or so email messages you find waiting every morning, which include about 5 new requests, 34 or so messages demanding to know why such and such hasn't gotten done yet, and one message from your boss denying your request to have an assistant and demanding that you justify how you spend your time yet again.

10:30am: You realize that you're never going to finish getting through your email if you keep getting interrupted by these damned telephone calls from the same people who sent you the email asking the same questions, so you put your phone on do-not-disturb and go back to your email.

11am: You've just finished responding to all of your email, including the umpteen millionth justification of your existance for your boss. Unfortunately, the secretary has figured out how to order the phone system to override your do-not-disturb on your phone, and is now routing all the angry phone calls from your coworkers to you.

11:30am: You finish talking to everyone on the phone and calming them down.

11:30am-4:30pm: You work your ass off on whatever projects have the most urgency to the company. Usually this involves a lot of work with software, crawling around on the floor several times, tearing a hole in your clothing, and banging your head (hard) on the bottom of a desk.

3pm: You have your lunch delivered to your office.

4:30pm: You finally get to touch your lunch, and realize that Burger King french fries do not taste good cold. You're on about your 15th coke since arriving in the office.

4:35pm: Your lunch is over. You're not finished eating, but your boss has just phoned you (he knows how to override the DND on the phone too) and demanded that you drop everything and go fix some assinine problem which you know is caused by the user and which you fix every week and which you have warned the user about but about which they just don't listen.

6:30pm: You finish the project your boss set you to and decide to try to sneak out of the office and go home. (Not that you have a social life or anything, but you haven't had 8 hours sleep in a month and a half.) In the elevator on the way out of the office you encounter a coworker, who grabs you by the ear and drags you back to the office to fix something that's bugging them.

6:30pm-8pm: Somehow, despite repeated attempts to leave, the moemnt you try to actually do so, someone else appears to force you to work.

8pm: You're about to depart when you're suddenly informed that there's some vitally urgent data processing that has to be done and that only you know how to do and which can't be performed until all of the data entry people have left for the night at 10pm.

8pm-10pm: You try to nap in your office but the phone keeps ringing so you finally give up and put in several more hours of working.

10pm: You try to do your data processing but can't because there are still people logged into the data acquisition system. You spend the next fifteen minutes running around begging them to log out, and they reply that "yeah, I'll be out in a minute..."

10:20pm: You get sick of waiting, walk over to the server console, issue commands to kick off all the users, and disable logins.

10:30pm-2:30am: You perform that data processing which nobody else could do because they won't let you teach them because they know what kind of hours you have to put in doing it.

Midnight: Your blood turns to coca-cola.

2:30am: You realize that the data processing isn't QUITE done but you're about to pass out so you re-enable logins so you won't get paged about THAT in the morning, scrounge a taxi voucher out of your desk (they've given you your own pad because you use them so often), call a taxi, and leave the building.

2:45am-3:15am: You freeze your ass off waiting for a taxi.

3:15am-3:30am: The taxi takes you home. The driver seems to have decided to take the scenic route for the hell of it.

3:31am: You collapse in a heap on your bed and fall asleep face down with your shoes on the pillows and your clothes still on because you're too tired to remove your clothes or even orient yourself properly on the bed.

8:00am: Your pager goes off.

Repeat ad nauseum until your boss doesn't like your response to one of his "justify your existance" demands and fires you or you die of caffine poisioning. Oh, and don't bother factoring in any weekends or holidays: You'll be expected to work those too.

Now do you have some slight understanding of why I don't like being a sysadmin? I really lived like this for about a year. I'm amazed I survived it.