What does it mean to you to be a sysadmin?
Emanuel: Technologically speaking, being a system administrator means having the key to open all doors. However, with more power comes bigger responsibility, mainly because you need to administer the whole infrastructure of the company.
What are your daily tasks?
Aiger: A great day for me does not begin with a warm cup of coffee. I start by checking our monitoring system to state if there are any problems with our network devices or servers. After that, we have a look at our chat to see if some users need our help. And then we start working with the tickets that users have created. Should be emphasised that we are always prepared for every kind of IT problem and also try to improvise as much as possible, so the user has a smooth workday.
In general, we collaborate for internal projects that can help our IT infrastructure run smoothly and have a pleasant effect on our colleagues.
Being a sysadmin means covering a huge range of duties, tasks, responsibilities and skills related to the IT world. Nontechnical skills are equally important as the technical ones because you interact with people from different departments and areas regarding IT topics.
Emanuel: Our internal service includes mainly the monitoring of all systems to make sure that everything is running as it should. We try to anticipate problems before they happen, in a way that the end-user does not notice. Besides that, providing IT support to our users and ventures also constitutes a big part of my day. In addition, for the remaining time, I am exploring new ways to improve and automate the processes that we are running.
What exactly do you do at Project A? What does it mean to be sysadmin at Project A?
Aiger: One of my top priorities as Project A is the support that we provide not only to our internal user but to our ventures as well. We help our ventures remotely with the problems that might arise in their companies. But we also work onsite, in the case where more in-depth support or changes are needed.
We try to build confidence in our ventures and beyond.
Working as a sysadmin at Project A allows you to work in an organised tech-driven company. I also enjoy a great time hosting events and activities that make you feel comfortable inside our cool community.
Emanuel: I make sure that the users have everything they need when it comes to technology, including here all the devices in the onboarding. Sometimes I provide support for the set-up of our streaming events. However, I am always eager to improve and come up with new ideas that can innovate our infrastructure.
To be a sysadmin at Project A means that you have the opportunity to learn and grow healthily, without boundaries imposed by hierarchies and narrow-minded thinking. It allows you to learn how to fix things in such a subtle and natural way that people think you are doing magic!
Which technical skills do you need as a sysadmin?
Aiger: To be a professional sysadmin, you need to have a hands-on practice attitude and most of the time,a think-out-of-the-box mindset. You will always deal with problems in your infrastructure that sometimes need different types of solutions.
Emanuel: A problem-solving attitude comes first, but also necessary are the interest and passion in all things tech. I would say the sysadmin career is for the tech generalist who likes to tinker with technology and find ways to understand how everything works at its core.
Patrick, As Head of IT Infrastructure, what are your main tasks?
At first, keeping everything running. Ensuring that everyone in the company has technical equipment that works, that the network infrastructure in the office is working correctly and all internal and external services are available. Besides that, I’m using my knowledge, and super-admin powers to support colleagues with their tasks.
What is the challenge?
Keeping track of everything. 120 employees lead to thousands of devices and hundreds of services used. Every piece that gets added at one point has to be supported and maintained in the future. That leads to a lot of work in a company that has „Change Is Good“ written in its values and where someone comes up with a new idea every week.
Patrick, from your experience, what would you recommend to companies when they need to build IT infrastructure?
- Don’t be miserly when investing money in the infrastructure.
E.g. the core network and internet line are something that everyone in the company depends on. Just think about an office with 50 employees and that you are only willing to pay 50€ for the internet line. When your office is offline for one day, you burned more money than you will ever pay for this contract. However, a more expensive line will not solve that as it will only stop people from complaining about the slow internet so they can work more efficiently. So the next step would be to have a second line, to achieve redundancy, preferably over a different medium (DSL over a telephone line, DOCSIS over TV cable, Ethernet over fibre). You can apply this logic to almost every other part of the infrastructure, just think about how many people will depend on it.
- Add monitoring to everything that should be kept up and running
Your infrastructure will grow steadily, letting a person monitor it manually would be a waste of time and by default it lead to bad quality. Instead of that, choose a monitoring tool in which you can put every device and service that you will add to the infrastructure. This should be permanently available and it will notify you if something works in a different way than the defined one. That will notify you if something stops acting as it was defined. So your team can work quickly on problems and even be able to notice if something fails before it reaches your employees. It can be everything from something simple like a printer not being reachable, to complex cases that won’t be noticed immediately, but sum up to a major problem if nobody takes care of it.A good monitoring system should enable your sysadmin team to see all of this in one place.
- Every device can fail, so have a plan for the day it happens.
Think about it from the beginning, that is the best time to build redundant, high available infrastructure. And if you can’t have it, e.g. because you are in a young company with limited budget, be sure to know how to act if it fails.
What should you pay attention to if a venture wants to set up a sysadmin team?
Don’t start too late. Think about the system administration as an integral part of your company, that affects the productivity of employees. You can say that the sysadmin team will be the one who handles tasks that no other IT team can cover and will be the point of contact for the non-IT departments.
Finding the right people for the team is not only about technical skills that they already have. The smaller the team is, the more generalists your need — people who can find solutions to problems that they haven’t faced before. You also need at least one person in the team who has the overall picture in their head and have a long term plan for the development of the IT infrastructure.
Patrick, you have previously worked at Rocket Internet, what motivated you to go to Project A?
Rocket Internet was my first job. To move on was the opportunity for me to build and influence a company from the beginning. This was a great opportunity to work together with a group of people that already knew each other to create something brand new.
Aiger, you studied in Albania, Emanuel, you studied in Romania, what do you like about working & living in Berlin and what are you missing here?
Aiger: Berlin is really dynamic, also known as the Silicon Valley of Europe because of its tech-savvy side.It is the city of opportunities, and I feel comfortable living here. What I miss more from my home city is, of course, family and friends. I try to go home as much as possible but also building my life here in Germany is always one of my foremost goals.
Emanuel: What I like most about working and living in Berlin is the wide range of options that you can find in just one place. And obviously the opportunity to be employed at a forward thinking IT oriented company like Project A. I have already been living for about four years in Berlin. So I can say that it has become my home and I don’t really miss anything from my home country.
What do you like most about working at Project A?
Aiger: Project A has great values and also ensures that they are embraced by everyone. These values have built a reliable basis. You can really feel how they are integrated into your everyday work.
So this is why you will not only improve your working skills but your cultural ones as well.
Emanuel: There are many things to like at Project A, but I guess the ones that appeal to me the most, are the free-thinking attitude, the wonderful bunch of professional people that I have as colleagues (that know how to party!), and maybe most importantly, the fact that it is a place where I feel that my ideas are valued and I can reach my full potential.
- Aiger graduated in Information Technology from the Faculty of Natural Science part of the University of Tirana, System Administrator at Project A
- Patrick is the Head of IT Infrastructure at Project A
- Emanuel has a Master’s Degree in Applied IT. He works as Junior System Administrator
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