In a past life I was a system administrator, or "sysadmin". I enjoyed it, but even in those halcyon days of remoting into servers and driving to the office at 2 AM (hoping the server room wasn't on fire), I knew I had a limited shelf life. It wasn't until years later that I fully understood why:
Administrators are babysitters. The era of tech babysitters is over.
In the age of the customer, admins need to be just as dynamic as their developer brethren. That means a hard shift to software-defined infrastructure. It also means using the same tools and processes that accelerate business technology.
In other words, you need to become a developer.
The good news? You can do it. How do you start?
  • Become part of the CI pipeline
  • Use automation whenever possible
  • Become part and parcel of the testing process

As you mature, you must focus on:

  • Agile and Lean methodologies
  • Automating the CD pipeline
  • Locking down change and configuration management so they only occur through automated tools

The learning experience is not one way. While you will learn much of this from developers, you will also impress on them key sysadmin principles like standardization, dependability, and security. In fact, the final evolution of this exchange is application and operations developers joining forces in a powerful mind-meld of talent. (Hmm… maybe this is why we call it DevOps).

It's a long trip, but the hardest part is starting the journey. For an in-depth travel plan, check out Rob Stroud and my report How a Sysadmin Becomes a Developer.