Job Title: System Administrator
Type of Company: I work for a payment processing organization in northeastern Massachusetts.
Education: certification, Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer self-study
Previous Experience: I worked as a departmental assistant at a hospital when I was 22, dealing with computers and assisting others in this field. This led me to a career in systems and networking administration.
Job Tasks: My job involves supporting and maintaining computers, servers, phones, mobile devices, printers, internet access and networking equipment for my company. I set up systems for new hires, keep the company's email server running, prevent computer viruses from infecting our systems, configure Blackberry devices for users, and facilitate employee communication and collaboration via various internal websites for which I am responsible.
I look for ways to assist my company in the utilization of new technologies which can help employees perform their jobs more effectively. For instance, remote access (helping users connect to the company network from home or while traveling) is a popular way for employees to work when outside the organization and part of my job involves providing this access and ensuring employees are able to use it correctly. It is enormously helpful to the organization for people to be able to connect from home during off hours and weather emergencies (snowstorms, for instance) so they can perform the duties they need to help keep the company running, and using advanced technologies helps us to achieve that.
I also participate in long-term projects such as planning upgrades to our phone system, expanding our number of network servers, creating virtualized computer systems (whereby one large server runs several virtual computers that perform different functions) and keeping the company systems and networks as secure as possible.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is taken up with troubleshooting and resolving computer or network problems to help keep the organization working successfully. Helping people fix problems with their systems is a rewarding experience for me and gives me a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day.
The worst part of the job can be the amount of multi-tasking required to help as many users as possible and also attend to long-term planning for the computing needs of the organization. Juggling priorities can be tricky. When system problems occur it can be difficult and stressful to pinpoint the cause and develop a plan for quick resolution. However, working on small issues (a server with a failing hard drive for instance) allows us to forestall larger problems down the road.
1. Learn as much as possible both through classroom work and independent self-study. All the information you need is available on the internet, much of it for free.
2. Employers value experience when seeking candidates for IT positions, so it can be difficult to break into the field without the necessary background. It can be helpful to volunteer for a facility that needs computer assistance (schools, churches or libraries) or perform community service teaching seniors to use computers in order to gain some of the experience that might attract a potential employer.
3. Patience is definitely a virtue in this field, and it's important to remember that as you gain more knowledge of the industry your role is to help others who need to use computers to do their jobs. Technical knowledge is a must, but so are good social and communication skills.
Additional Thoughts: For those looking for a career in IT, make sure to gravitate towards a role that requires some sort of hands-on role; hardware installations, for instance. Many jobs are being outsourced to other companies or countries if the work can be done remotely, so having some level of face-to-face involvement with your employer and fellow employees is essential to building a long-term career in the industry.
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