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Friday is International System Administrator Appreciation Day

Not Artvoice's network closet. Not far off though.

Although this made-up holiday will have its 11th anniversary tomorrow, it’s still relatively unknown. The last Friday in July has been dubbed International System Administrator Appreciation day. (As you may guess, it’s creator was an under-appreciated system administrator.)

While technically a system administrator is somebody who, well – administers computer systems – for the purpose of the holiday it’s a little more generic. We’ll throw tech support, desktop support, network admins, and general IT guys all under the umbrella, because chances are your organization has some, and chances are most days of the year nobody notices them until something breaks. As a whole we expect pressing “send” on that e-mail results in it being delivered. We flip out when an error pops up, but wouldn’t imagine saying thanks for when it goes through. Chances are the more skilled and harder working your sysadmin is, the LESS you notice them. When something does go wrong however, they’re expected to know it all – immediately – and fix it with or without the proper resources to do so. (Don’t forget the “drop everything because my problem is the most important problem” attitude, we totally love that and really have nothing else to do!)

In over a decade of sysadmin, support, and IT roles in three different organizations, I’ve seen a lot. From orange juice in the keyboard to peanut butter in the CD-ROM drive, spending hours on a job that should have taken minutes thanks to “secret” porn stashes clogging the works (naming the folder “business documents” doesn’t fool anyone) – and perhaps my all time favorite which occurred right here in the AV office – having an iMac spontaneously explode in my face, billowing a puff of pungent blue electronic smoke into the air. (As the old geek adage goes: electronics run on magic smoke; if you let the smoke out, they no longer work!)

Mountains of dust and filth just under the hood are a common system administrator hazard.

I’ve fixed machines that would fit in better at the Computer History Museum than on an office desk. I’ve fashioned replacement printer parts out of paper clips. Used soldiering irons and a jeweler’s drill to do things you aren’t supposed to be able to do with circuit boards to bring them back to life. (Thanks, counterfeit Chinese capacitors.) Taught a certain upstate NY ex-mayor how to use his computer once he no longer had aides to send his e-mail for him. Stuck dead hard drives in freezers to recover manuscripts bytes at a time – that deadline with the publisher was looming, no time to waste on nonsense like backups! Battled spammers, put in 20 hour emergency marathon sessions responding to virus outbreaks – fueled only by pizza and energy drinks – and spent more Saturday nights in server rooms than I’d like to admit.

I’m not complaining; if anything the surprise challenges in the field are endless and the solutions are often creative, which in itself can be rewarding. But still, it is always nice to hear “thanks.”

So, take a moment tomorrow, and let your local computer geek know he or she is appreciated.

If you’d like to find out more, visit the International System Administrator’s Appreciation Day website.

For the sake of full disclosure: I am myself the system administrator here at Artvoice. (Actually, I’m more like the sysadmin, IT department, network admin, webmaster, desktop support, and computer programmer.) To my co-workers, I’m not here fishing for compliments – I do feel more appreciated in this environment than some I’ve been in! I’m doing my part to spread the word about this “holiday” for the sake of my peers, because many are much less fortunate, to which I can still relate!