Spiceworks: The work/life balance network admins may never have

Tips, advice and insights into the tech industry — by techies for techies. Here’s a roundup of last month’s most interesting discussions

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Many IT pros turn to Spiceworks (registration required) for advice on education or certification to advance their careers. But Josh Underwood, a network/systems administrator who describes himself as “just a guy in the trenches,” shares some insights on what he knows now that he wishes he’d known back then. One of those insights is that work-life balance does not exist.

“There will be times in your career where a server goes down and you may miss little Timmy’s birthday. On the other side of the coin, there may be a time when little Sally breaks her arm and you miss a career-enhancing project,” he says. Know when to say yes — but learn to say no.

And if you want to earn more money more quickly, specialize. “The people at the top of the pay structure are those who can do things others cannot,” he says. “The more you specialize, the higher dollar figure you can command.”

Joshua Obelenus, who says he’s a jack of all trades but a master of none, responds with: “When you can do everything, people will expect everything every time, which leads back to a conflict in the whole work-life balance; it tips the scales farther from life and more towards work. But, that being said, I enjoy what I do, so I do not see it as work.”

This relates to another discussion thread by Spiceworks members about “sysadmin does not equal caretaker.” Warren Francis wonders if anybody else gets dumped with tasks that are completely unrelated to being a system administrator (he recently had to fix a chair).

An interesting debate ensued. Juan Hernandez, who has been an IT manager at the same company for 13 years, says working for a company means you’re part of a team and the worst thing you can say is “it’s not my job.”

On the other hand, Mark Gilbey, a long-time systems administrator, says it’s a waste of skills: “Show them the money they are wasting by paying you to clean up cabinets, change light bulbs or whatever else they have you doing instead of your job.”

On a lighter note, network/systems administrator TJ provides 10 tips on how to avoid free IT service aka “dinner-table tech support” when you’re invited to a dinner party and find yourself fixing the host’s computer.

If you can’t bring yourself to say no, TJ offers up a few funny (yet practical) tips on how to handle this rather awkward situation. “Be that Microsoft tech support guy,” he says. “Open Event viewer and show them the errors and say you can’t fix it but you know a guy (probably your friend or you) who can fix it for $200 (an amount to put them off).”

And for IT pros who are working with a budget of next-to-zilch, Spiceworks offers this video from CTRL+ALT+TECH on No Budget Blues, with “sanity-saving secrets and tips on how to keep the tech ticking on a dime.”

Wrapping things up, a comment about security best practices comes not from a network administrator, but a Tibetan monk. “Attachment can lead you to all sorts of trouble and we Buddhists believe that non-attachment alone can lead you to happiness,” says Jamyang Palden in an interview with The Associated Press. So how does this philosophy apply in the Information Age? “We have to learn to be suspicious of email attachments.”

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