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Diary of a Network Administrator: Mean People Suck

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As a network administrator, you're vital to the success of your organization. Consider all of the people within your company who rely on the technology you support. Your attitude, aptitude, and level of professionalism impact those same people. In this diary entry, Joseph Phillips lists characteristics of good (and bad) network administrators.
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Have you seen any good bumper stickers lately? I like the ones with quips like "My kid beat up your honor student" or "My Other Car is a Porsche." And on and on these sticky bits of wisdom go.

As you may have guessed, I travel quite a bit. I teach seminars, consult, and implement technology throughout the country—and I like to drive. Driving lets me think, listen to CDs, and catch up with books on tape. Lately, for some reason, I've been paying attention to bumper stickers. One I've been seeing says, "Mean People Suck."

Maybe these "Mean People Suck" stickers have been around for years. Maybe they have been affixed next to "Nine Inch Nail" logos, Jerry Garcia's dancing teddy bears, and others. But I've not noticed until lately.

So what does this rant have to do with being a network administrator? Unfortunately, quite a bit. Here's the painful truth: Many of us ("us" being network administrators) are jerks.

There. I said it: Too many network admins are jerks.

Now sure, I'm certain there is a huge percentage of us who love our jobs, love the people we support, and love making life better for everyone. But there's another wide percentage of techs who think corporations, organizations, and technology itself wouldn't tick unless they showed up to work their magic.

Know anybody like this? I bet you do. If you're one of the good ones, read on and then slip this article onto some jerk's desk. You can continue to lead by example, but some people need a kick in the pants. Allow me.

God and the Network Administrator

Being a network administrator does not make you God. Being a network admin does mean you likely know more about networks, technology, and NOSs than anyone else within your organization. But chances are, your organization was around long before Ctrl+Alt+Del meant much.

The role of a network admin is a role of support. You exist to make the work of the employees better, more accurate, more productive. Basically, you're hired to help the company make money. Now this may come as a shock, but your organization most likely does not exist to give you something to do.

Too many network administrators have a "god complex." Some admins I've met act like they've just delivered three babies in a helicopter, discovered a method for cold fusion, and explained Notre Dame's "West Coast Offense" to a group of nuns. Please.

Now I admit there's nothing wrong with being confident, taking pride in perfection, and letting management know your projects are all successful, on track, and on budget. An occasional toot on one's own horn is dandy.

My message: If you're unprofessional, you lose respect, impact company morale, and are the proverbial wet blanket on the fire of productivity. Let your accomplishments, your superior network management, and flawless technical execution speak for you. How? Here are a few hints:

Ditch the Cocky Attitude

You may be brilliant, and many of you are, but brilliance is best seen through your work, not your mouth. Shut up, drop the John Wayne swagger, and get some work done.

Develop an Attitude of Servitude

Far too many IT gurus isolate themselves from the rest of the organization. In many companies I visit, there is open contempt for the IT department. Worse yet, the admins have no clue. Why? These admins treat every request as if Mom just asked them to take out the garbage in the middle of Baywatch. Here's sarcasm: You are at work to do this new thing called uh, oh yeah, work.

Quit Being a Demeaning Buffoon

I've witnessed more than one admin dismiss an employee's request with disgust, intended humiliation, and spite. Most professionals are not technical people—they can't do your job, but are dependent on you to do theirs. You might be needed today, but what goes around comes around.

Learn about Your Business

Many network admins are incredibly astute with technology. They can make Microsoft, NetWare, Linux, and more purr like a kitten or roar like a lion, but they can barely explain what their company actually does. Learn about your company: its business requirements and functional requirements. This knowledge, coupled with your technical brainpower, can make your company even more profitable.

Realize You Are Not Indispensable

In today's rocky economy, even the most obstinate admins know their jobs could be in peril. What about admins moving on to other opportunities? Or admins who win the lottery? Or worse? How well documented, organized, and clean are your network infrastructure, topology, file servers, and the rest of the server room? Prepare yourself and your organization for the worst or best that could happen: organize, document, and share the information.

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