Tom Limoncelli posted a question today.
What is the modern rite of passage for sysadmins? I want to know.
That's a hard one, but it got me thinking about career-paths and skills development, and how it has changed since I did it. Back when I started, the Internet was just becoming a big source of information. If it wasn't on Usenet, the vendor's web-site might have a posted knowledge-base. You could learn a lot from those. I also learned a lot from other admins I was working with.
One of the big lamentations I hear on ServerFault is that kids these days expect a HOWTO for everything.
Well, they're right. I believe that's because of how friendly bloggers like myself have trained others into finding out how to do stuff. So I posit this progression of skill-set for a budding sysadmin deploying a NewThing.
- There is always a checklist if you google hard enough. If that one doesn't work, look for another one.
- And if that doesn't work, ask a patch of likely experts (or bother the expert in the office) to make one for you. It works sometimes.
- And if that doesn't work, give up in disgust.
- Google for checklists. Find one. Hit a snag. Look for another one. Hit another snag. Titrate between the two to get a good install/config.
- If that doesn't work, follow the step-1 progression to get a good config. You'll have better luck with the experts this time.
- Google for checklists. Find a couple. Analyze them for failure points and look for gotcha-docs. Build a refined procedure to get a good install/config.
- Google for checklists. Find a few. Generalize a good install/config procedure out of them and write your own checklist.
- If it works, blog about it.
- Google for checklists. Find a few, and some actual documentation. Make decisions about what settings you need to change and why, based on documentation evidence and other people's experience. Install it.
- If it works, write it up for the internal wiki.
- [Graduation] Plunder support-forums for problem-reports to see where installs have gone wrong. Revise your checklist accordingly.
- If it works, go to local Meetups to give talks about your deploy experience.
That seems about right. When you get to the point where your first thought about deploying a new thing is, "what can go wrong that I need to know about," you've arrived.