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SysAdmins Revealed! Who are we?

by Philip Sellers

Behind the dark curtain, tucked far away in the back of the building – they’re lurking. People see them, they say hi to them, they know their name (mostly from the emails they receive), but they really don’t know what these people do.  Bloodshot eyes from long nights of coding – for work and for fun.  They’re the infamous SysAdmins.  Generally a little quirky & offbeat, they — I mean we — march to a different drum.

Solarwinds, the network management software company, released results of a survey in November showing that SysAdmins, although tasked with increasing workloads are consistently satisfied with their job and confident in the company they work for.

As far as job dislikes, SysAdmins were disappointed with increasing workloads and too little budget (or too few new toys and learning opportunities). The findings make a lot of sense to me, as a SysAdmin.  Much of what makes our species tick is discovering and figure out challenges we experience in our job.  At our core, we problem solvers.  We want to learn new things.  We thrive on new technology.

But, the study also showed that SysAdmins generally feel that outsiders lack appreciation for the work and complexities we deal with on a daily basis.  We feel misunderstood.  I know many times, people see SysAdmins as naysayers or as pessimists because we approach things from the worst case scenario (because we’re tasked with disaster planning) and from a very logical “how does this work” methodology.  We’re the detail people.

More interestingly, the study echoes our geek personalities – through our choice in technology, tv shows and movies, video games and how we relax (like programming for fun — guilty).

SysAdmins Revealed!click the graphic to enlarge

The full press release of Solarwind’s findings below:

SolarWinds Survey Reveals Optimism and Confidence Among Systems Administrators in the U.S. Despite Increasing Workloads and Complexity

Expansive study also measures personal preferences of IT workers such as favorite video game (Call of Duty), mobile platform (Android) and TV show (Star Trek)

AUSTIN, TX – November 5, 2012 – SolarWinds (NYSE: SWI), a leading provider of powerful and affordable IT management software, today released the results of a survey revealing that despite being saddled with increasing hours, responsibility and system complexity, systems administrators express surprisingly strong job satisfaction and high confidence for 2013.

These results are part of a wide-ranging survey of more than 400 U.S.-based systems administrators, which was conducted last month in an effort to measure the evolving nature of this critical IT role. The survey results capture systems administrators’ attitudes and preferences on both a personal and professional level, from their enjoyment and frustrations of their jobs to their favorite after-work hobbies and pop culture heroes.

A sample of some of the key findings includes:

  • Rising job demands:  Most systems administrators are feeling some level of increased pressure in their jobs, as reported by 85 percent of respondents. Contributing factors include more responsibility and demand on their time (reported by 90 percent of respondents), doing more with less (88 percent) and increased system complexity (88 percent).  A wide majority are spending more time at work (88 percent), with nearly half (44 percent) indicating they spend a significant amount of their free time completing work tasks.
  • Steady career satisfaction: But the increasing demands don’t appear to be dampening the enthusiasm for their jobs. Seventy-one percent express some level of satisfaction with their careers, and only three percent do not enjoy their work. Moreover, they envisionadditional career path opportunities (75 percent) and are getting consistent training to gain new skills (58 percent).
  • High company confidence: Sysadmins – as they are affectionately called – are fiercely loyal to their employers. While they see IT budgets staying flat, most feel 2013 will be a growth year to some degree for their companies (76 percent). Trust runs high in their IT department leadership (82 percent), and their senior/executive leadership (82 percent).  As a result, sysadmins rarely switch jobs, with 50 percent reporting either 10-plus years with the same company (32 percent) or having never switched jobs at all in their careers (18 percent).
  • Lacking broader appreciation: Outside of the IT department, sysadmins feel a bit misunderstood.  A majority of sysadmins agree on some level that most of their company’s employees don’t understand what they do and the value they bring (71 percent). Fifty-six percent say they feel appreciated or highly appreciated, while 34 percent feel only somewhat appreciated and nine percent not at all appreciated.
  • Job likes and dislikes: Sysadmins just want to be part of the solution. They get the most enjoyment out of solving problems (75 percent), helping users (62 percent) and thinking on their feet (52 percent). Notably fewer overall respondents expressed job frustrations, but two of the top three issues cited were money related, including too little pay (22 percent), increasing workloads and responsibilities (16 percent) and not enough budget (13 percent).

The complete survey results can be found on SlideShare, and an infographic on the data can be found on SolarWinds’ Whiteboard blog. SolarWinds will be releasing additional survey data in the coming weeks on systems administrators in the UK and Australia.

“It’s encouraging to see the job satisfaction that systems administrators expressed in our survey, particularly in the face of mounting pressures to do more with less. That collective resiliency is critical for a group doing some of the most important and demanding work in their companies,” said Kevin Thompson, President and CEO, SolarWinds. “Though they are often misunderstood, we make it our business to truly get them. In my book,sysadmins are the unsung IT leaders of the present and the future.”

The survey also revealed several interesting tidbits about how systems administrators view themselves and what they enjoy in their free time, including:

  • Who they are:  Sysadmins see themselves as friendly (94 percent), fun-loving (92 percent) and funny (91 percent). They are also a bit frugal with their money (79 percent), which might explain the compact car (26 percent) being their top vehicle of choice.
  • What technology they use: A slim majority of sysadmins prefer Android phones (39 percent) over iPhones (32 percent) while 12 percent stick with the Blackberry. An overwhelming majority are PC users (84 percent) over Mac users (13 percent).
  • What they watch:  Star Trek (23 percent) rules the galaxy of all-time geek/sci-fi TV shows for sysadmins, followed by The Big Bang Theory (19 percent) and The X-Files (11 percent). But on the big screen, light sabers beat phasers as Star Wars (22 percent) ranked No. 1 in sci-fi movie franchises, with Star Trek (17 percent) and Lord of the Rings (17 percent) just behind .
  • What video games they play:  Their top all-time video game is Call of Duty (28 percent) played on an Xbox (23 percent), though nearly 20 percent don’t consider themselves gamers at all.
  • How they relax: Even away from work, 72 percent like to spend time surfing the web, and 29 percent even program for fun. Another 57 percent also love the great outdoors, and 32 percent like to participate in competitive sports. But the most popular free-time activity:  just unwinding at home (72 percent).

About SolarWinds

SolarWinds (NYSE: SWI) provides powerful and affordable IT management software to customers worldwide from Fortune 500 enterprises to small businesses. In all of our market areas, our approach is consistent. We focus exclusively on IT Pros and strive to eliminate the complexity that they have been forced to accept from traditional enterprise software vendors. SolarWinds delivers on this commitment with unexpected simplicity through products that are easy to find, buy, use and maintain while providing the power to address any IT management problem on any scale. Our solutions are rooted in our deep connection to our user base, which interacts in our online community, thwack, to solve problems, share technology and best practices, and directly participate in our product development process. Learn more today at http://www.solarwinds.com/.

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