Hitting a wall - feedback appreciated



  • Good morning all, I have been reading posts here for a while so I figured I would put my thoughts out to this great community.

    I am looking for feedback, as I currently feel like I am running into a wall or have reached the ceiling of my current position.

    I am trying to get a benchmark as to where I stand as a system administrator, or at least some validation of my current skills. What I mean by that, is the longer I work this position, the more I feel like just a power user and have lately been second guessing myself. I've been in the IT industry for around 15 years in one capacity or another, from call center helpdesk, desktop support to gradually moving into sysadmin roles. Here is a brief rundown of my current situation.

    In this current environment, I am a jack of all trades spread out among all area of IT. Basically, if it has a cord it my responsibility, and yes, I did disassemble our Keurig to fix the water pump.

    Being the only ‘admin’ at small company, with the limit types of technology I have at my disposal, feels very crippling. In the past year I have touched on a lot of things, however I have not been able to really focus on any one thing, at least to where I feel like I can say I am decently proficient. I guess you can say I know a little about a lot and I feel like the skills gaps are only getting wider.

    I take care of 14 physical servers, many of which are Hyper-V hosts running our business VMs (file server, domain controllers, a couple web servers, remote desktop servers, etc). One of my servers runs vmware ESXi hypervisor, with a few VMs on that host as well. I have only had the chance to briefly look at vSphere and Horizon View.

    The network is basically flat, with 1 switch in the rack with two VLANS. One for private network traffic (basically everything) and one for public internet or DMZ. I also have a Sonicwall with a few VPN tunnels, firewall rules and some NAT policies in place for the web and remote desktop services servers.

    I have spent the most amount of my time here working with Server 2012 R2 and Hyper-V, but I have not been able to take advantage of the advanced tools, power shell or SCVMM. I have also not been able to do any kind of clustering or HA due to lack of shared storage.

    My interests are in cloud virtualization and I have always been fascinated with Linux and Open Source solutions; however I haven’t really been able to pursue that path.

    I want to progress as an administrator but feel like I’m hitting a wall. I have considered going back to desktop support to fill some gaps, but I realize that would be defeating the purpose. I have also considered trying to find a Jr. Admin position where I might be able to fill those gaps, again, might not be the best avenue. I find myself uncertain as to where I am in my journey.

    Lately, I keep getting this bright idea like..”I KNOW! I’ll get MCSA certified!” or “LPIC-1” or whatever flavor. However, I don’t think that qualifies as a benchmark or true validation.

    If you have taken the time to read all of this incoherent rambling, I truly thank you.

    Has anyone been in this position and if so, what might be your recommendations as to which way one might go? I’d like to one day graduate from amateur status to playing in the big leagues.



  • @Mfd201 said:

    Being the only ‘admin’ at small company, with the limit types of technology I have at my disposal, feels very crippling. In the past year I have touched on a lot of things, however I have not been able to really focus on any one thing, at least to where I feel like I can say I am decently proficient.

    Crippling? That seems a harsh word. It's different. I'd find a job where I only focused on one thing and didn't know anything about anything outside of that one thing to be "crippling". Calling it "amateur status" is also a misnomer. Would you say the President of the USA is an amateur because he has to know a little about a lot of different topics?

    But that's what I like, and you clearly don't. So the question is how do you jump from one type of career to another. It's not easy because most of the skills you have (knowledge of SMBs, "jack of all trades", flexibility, business skills) won't apply in a specialist enterprise role. I've recently being recruiting into an SMB role and had many applicants from specialist enterprise roles who want to get into SMB, and I have been wary of their ability to settle into a new role when they've experienced such a different environment.

    So you may have to take one step back in order to take two steps forward (which is what you've alluded to anyway, so I think you're on the right track). I would have thought that getting certified would help you. It may not be "true validation", but it sends a signal to potential employers that you're serious about your career change and that you're a self-starter, which they will undoubtedly find attractive and will mark you out from the crowd. Without that, your varied resume might just look like you don't really know what you want.



  • The other option is to stick with an SMB role but simply move to a bigger small company. So instead of support 14 servers, move to a company that has 25, and multiple sites. You'll still probably feel like a jack of all trades amateur, but you will have better technology at your disposal and will be learning new skills.

    Or move to a small company that runs Linux and open source solutions, and develop your interest there. Not easy if you don't have experience in that field, but possible.


  • Service Provider

    @Carnival-Boy said:
    Would you say the President of the USA is an amateur...?

    YUP!


  • Banned

    @art_of_shred said:

    @Carnival-Boy said:
    Would you say the President of the USA is an amateur...?

    YUP!

    Very few would argue otherwise.


  • Service Provider

    I think that a core thing to consider here is taking a step back and defining your goals: professional as well as personal. You really need to know where you want to go before you can think about the path that you want to take to get there.


  • Service Provider

    You mention things that you feel you are not getting to learn where you are, but you do not tell us why you are unable to tackle them. For example, you mention not using PowerShell, but how many Windows machines do you have and what is holding you back from using PS to manage them?

    You mention not getting to use Linux, is there a corporate mandate blocking you? Why not start introducing Linux to the environment?



  • @scottalanmiller said:

    You mention things that you feel you are not getting to learn where you are, but you do not tell us why you are unable to tackle them. For example, you mention not using PowerShell, but how many Windows machines do you have and what is holding you back from using PS to manage them?

    You mention not getting to use Linux, is there a corporate mandate blocking you? Why not start introducing Linux to the environment?

    If I had to guess, short of spending his off hours doing so, he might not have time after managing all of the day to day user issues, etc.


  • Service Provider

    @Dashrender said:

    If I had to guess, short of spending his off hours doing so, he might not have time after managing all of the day to day user issues, etc.

    All the more reason to consider an up front investment in more productive tools. PowerShell and Linux are both great examples of where there is...

    1. No money to spend up front, they are free products.
    2. Both take some learning.
    3. Both generally pay off over time in lower cost and greater efficiency allowing for more time to do other things.


  • 14 Virtualized servers? So you have like 100+ VMs?


  • Service Provider

    @Dashrender said:

    14 Virtualized servers? So you have like 100+ VMs?

    Using "average" numbers for VM per host, we'd expect him to have 280 - 1,400 VMs. Purely averages and a big range. But you normally do at least twenty VMs before overrunning a single host and rarely do you go over one hundred. Once you are buying "lots of hosts" you tend to make sure that you are really using them. If you have only a single host it's easy to have over bought because you are still "filling it up." But when you have more than a dozen, presumably you are not buying new ones if the old ones are not being used yet.


  • Service Provider

    This post was lost when we forked (a great example of why every post should be a discrete thought and even tiny amounts of putting two things together in a single post creates problems)...

    Shared storage does not mean external shared storage. You create your own shared storage. You can always do HA if you have HyperV and internal disks. It is likely not needed, or else it would have been budgeted for and done, but HA does not rely and, in fact, would be normally crippled by, having external shared storage between hosts.


  • Service Provider

    I had also posted and it is now in another thread that at fourteen physical hosts you are a very good candidate for using SAN to lower cost.

    http://mangolassi.it/topic/6892/san-in-an-inverted-pyramid-architecture-for-fourteen-physical-servers/2



    1. Welcome - thanks for joining us!

    2. Sounds like you need a change, how long have you been there? Is the position still challenging you? Can you do anything to further or better yourself / your career there?

    3. Why don't you explore a bit more of IT by doing a cert? Or take on a side project to keep yourself busy? I get all antsy like that too, and it's usually when I've not eaten any good books or taken on a silly challenge lately. Mix things up a bit!



  • Wow! A lot of posts! Thanks all for reading and responding. I have already gotten so much out of the feedback and comments. I'll do my best to clear up some questions with this thread, and do a reply to those who have posted. I am going to add to Scott's post that he created on the other thread with the type/role of my servers.


  • Service Provider

    @Mfd201 said:

    Wow! A lot of posts! Thanks all for reading and responding.

    And not just here, this has been split into three threads already!


  • Service Provider

    It is a bit of an overwhelming community. So much busier than most communities online. People tend to not be used to the scale of the conversation. :)



  • I'll say! I posted this in the wee hours this morning and figured I would check back before I get out of here for the day.. O M G!

    But I like the activity! Just need to read through it all now haha


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