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Career Story: Academic Systems Administrator At A University

Academic Systems Administrator At A University

Job Title: Academic Systems Administrator

Type of Company: I work for a private university in the Boston suburbs.

Education: BA in English/Political Science, Emory University

Previous Experience: I spent twelve years at Emory in various Instructional Technology positions.

Job Tasks: I administer an open source e-learning system. Basically, this is the system that students use to submit assignments, contact professors, chat in forums, and do whatever else is needed for classes. Since they might log in at any time, we need to make sure that the system is running twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

My major responsibilities are threefold. First, I provide third-tier support for the tech desk folks. So if a customer calls the tech desk, and the folks there can't resolve the issue even with the help of their managers, I provide advanced help. This sometimes involves simply logging in a fixing something, or providing an answer I already know (the tech desk people, because they have to deal with a number of systems, are less likely to be familiar with some more obscure problems of the e-learning system than I am, since I spend my entire day dealing with it). Sometimes, I have to do research, so my skills at navigating trackers and support forums are often what end up being vital here.

Second, I handle front-end admin tasks; essentially, I'm the person who logs into the server to change settings, configure courses, look at accounts, etc. This is the day-to-day work.

Finally, I work with our developers and back-end admin (the folks who maintain the hardware and handle some of the tougher UNIX tasks) to coordinate development of new features and fixes of bugs.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is getting to work with some incredible people, and having the power to implement new and useful improvements.

The worst part, in this economic climate, is the need to often cut back on basic necessities in order to get the job done. We're operating with less than half the staff we used to have, and it does create a lot more stress.

Job Tips: 1, Don't overspecialize! I have an English and Political Science degree, and I only took one computer course in college. Communication is as essential a skill as anything, and it's something college can really help teach you, whereas computing is something you can learn on your own.

2. Having said that, learn computing skills on your own! There are lots of great sites that can help you. Even if you're not entering an IT field, computer literacy is essential.

3. Remember to treat everyone you work with with respect. You never know who can affect your career.

Additional Thoughts: I can't think of anything I'd change. I've been very lucky in my career.

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