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Friday, July 27 is Sysadmin Day, but here at PagerDuty we’re celebrating this week by discounting PagerDuty University for everyone. Register by July 30 and you can get 30% off registration for PagerDuty University!


I have a hard time explaining to my mom what I do and what I have done in my career in tech. My mom is not a technology Luddite—she uses her phone or tablet daily, uses tools to solve many of her day-to-day problems, and has fully embraced technology to make her life easier. But even when I had the opportunity to work on products and services that my mom was actively using, there was always a layer of abstraction that made it hard for her to understand my day-to-day.

What It’s Like to Work Behind the Scenes 

For the last 10+ years of my career, I have always been someone behind the scenes trying to make things better. I have been a HelpDesk Technician, Systems Administrator, a Database Administrator, a Backend Software Engineer, a Manager of Operations, a Director of Infrastructure, and many other jobs in between. These are all roles that are rarely glamorized (there are few movies that can accurately capture what a DBA does daily) and sometimes, unfortunately, are treated with mindsets like this:

The reality is that all of us rely heavily on Systems Administrators and everyone else who work behind the scenes. Our everyday lives and ability to get things done depend on them. It is easy to not notice these individuals, as they are rarely the ones that get credit when something runs smoothly. The only time they tend to get caught in the spotlight is when something goes wrong.

Why I Love Working Behind the Scenes 

So why does anyone want to take a job of this type? Surely no one could be this masochistic that they are willing to spend the majority of their waking hours on this kind of work, only to get blamed when things go wrong.

For me, I wake up every day because I believe that there is a beauty in things running smoothly. I derive genuine pleasure and joy when PagerDuty engineers deploy hundreds of times a month and nothing breaks. I love that we purposefully take down parts of our infrastructure every week, and our customers rarely notice. I get ecstatic when I get my Monday morning report on our availability and there are enough nines there to make me smile.

Making things run smoothly is really hard work, and sometimes the only payoff you get is a graph that goes in the expected direction or someone noticing that there hasn’t been a major incident in a couple of months. I firmly believe this kind of work can influence business metrics like reduced churn or revenue protection or increased development velocity, but that’s an entirely separate blog post.

I absolutely love sitting back every now and then, and just watching as customers use our service without even realizing how much effort went into that experience. That is the kind of beauty that comes from hard work, diligent planning, and constant focus on getting better.

When Things Do Break, We Get Better 

As computing and technology in general has become more automated and more sophisticated, all of us expect that technology will work 24/7. Maintenance windows are a thing of the past, the idea of doing yearly releases scares almost everyone, in-place upgrades are the norm, and I get upset that I have to wait 45 minutes to upgrade my operating system when it used to take days.

With these kinds of expectations, Systems Administrators and other behind-the-scenes individuals are only faced with higher business stakes and more pressure. These professionals work tirelessly every day to make sure the rest of us can live our lives without needing to think about technology.

But we all make mistakes. Sometimes really big ones. Want to know what happens every time a service you use has an incident?

The service gets better.

Systems Administrators are incredibly detailed and meticulous. When there is an incident, they respond as they always do and fix the problem as quickly as they can. While customer expectations are high, the expectations that Systems Administrators put on themselves are even higher. This is what drives these professionals to look at problems as opportunities to learn and get better.

So this week, we’d like to thank all Systems Administrators and everyone else that works behind the scenes. You are the ones that enable my mom and all of us to use technology with as little effort as possible. Thank you for keeping things running smoothly.


In honor of SysAdmins week, we’re discounting PagerDuty University for everyone! Register by July 30 and get 30% off PagerDuty University courses with the code SUMPDU30. These courses are designed to provide in-depth training on achieving optimal results with whatever may come your way—from incidents of any size to streamlining and improving the day-to-day—so you can set yourself and your team up for success. 

 

This post was originally published on July 25, 2017, and has been updated with new information.

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