Forecast for systems administrators: Cloudy

The traditional sysadmin role is changing, thanks to cloud computing and virtualization. Here's how to ensure you have a job in 5 years.

By Mary Brandel, Computerworld |  Virtualization, systems administrator

When Donald Roper found himself in the job market earlier this year, he quickly learned how high the bar had been raised in his profession.

A senior systems administrator with 28 years in IT, an MBA and seven certifications to his name -- including one in virtualization -- he discovered that wasn't always enough.

"A number of times, I'd go for an interview, and they'd ask, 'Do you have Citrix?'" recounts Roper. "I'd say, 'No -- I thought you were looking for a virtualization person.' And they'd say, 'Oh yes, you have to have that, too.' Nowadays, they want you to have everything."

In addition, Roper says, some employers also required a phone-based pre-screening stage, in which they'd ask technical questions such as, "What is VMware DRS?" and, "If you have five disks in RAID-5 array, how much disk space do you have?"

"Several years ago, you could have an MCSA certification and get a job as a systems administrator," Roper says. "In today's world, you have to be a master of everything you touch."

In today's world, you have to be a master of everything you touch. Donald Roper, IT director

Things eventually worked out for Roper -- he is now director of IT at an 800-person company in Greenville, S.C. -- but the situation that he faced is evidence of both short-term and deep-seated change coming to the role of systems administrator, industry watchers say.

Short-term, in a tight job market, many employers are holding off hiring until they find "the perfect candidate," says John Reed, executive director at Robert Half Technology, a Catch-22 sometimes known as the Purple Squirrel syndrome. Longer term, technology trends -- primarily virtualization and cloud computing -- are forcing changes to the traditional career of the systems administrator.

"The job is changing," says Reed. "It's a role that will continue to be in demand" -- there has been a modest increase in the number of sysadmin job openings in the last year, he notes -- "but to experience career growth, sysadmins will have to continue to grow as the role evolves."

Change is the only constant

Alice Hill, managing director at tech hiring firm Dice.com, agrees that sysadmins will continue to be in demand, particularly those who are willing and able to keep up with an evolving role.


Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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