Friday, July 28th is System Administrator Appreciation Day! The 18th annual SysAdmin Day dedicates 24 hours to celebrating the long hours and generally thankless work of the folks that keep your computers up and running, your network and data secure and your modern, digital business humming along smoothly and successfully.
Don’t take a great SysAdmin for granted—say hello!
Most enterprise employees have no idea about all the work that goes into keeping everything working—but we all expect immediate attention as soon as something goes wrong. In other words, we tend to take SysAdmins—their expertise, their dedication, their urgent help—for granted. But great SysAdmins are anything but a given. It’s not a field you simply get a degree or certification in; it’s an always evolving, learn-as-you-go world. And it’s not a cushy 9-to-5 life—it’s often a 24/7 whirlwind of digital firefighting and uptime assurance.
Most SysAdmins have some pretty interesting stories to go with their abundant knowledge. Here at Code42, we’re celebrating the 18th annual SysAdmin Day by encouraging you to get to know your SysAdmin. Strike up a conversation to learn a little about the person that keeps your business digitally afloat.
Get to know a SysAdmin: Leon Perrin, Systems Engineer – Vets First Choice
Code42: Leon, tell us a little about a typical day for you.
Leon: I support about 500 end users here at Vets First Choice. On a typical day, I’m usually splitting my time between the tickets I have in progress and the urgent issues that inevitably come up throughout each day. When I’m not putting out these fires, I spend a lot of time researching, developing and implementing things that can make our organization better from a systems standpoint.
Code42: Those value-added projects are things most employees don’t know about. What kinds of project are your working on now?
Leon: I always have a few going. For example, right now, some of our servers are containerized and some of them aren’t. I’m looking at what benefits we could get from moving some of those older legacy applications and legacy servers into a containerized environment—what sort of improvements we can get on performance, overhead, elasticity, all sorts of different variables.
Code42: With all you have going on, where does Code42 fit?
Leon: Honestly, I think of it more as an incredibly valuable tool for our users. We let our users do self-restores, and at least one user has to use Code42 every single day. I know of a couple times when Code42 really saved the day—helping people get back up and running quickly after a hardware failure, or helping one of our top salespeople find a big presentation after he lost his laptop at the airport. It’s a pretty small price to pay for the security of having those backups available to you.
Code42: What tips would you have for other SysAdmins looking to stay sharp?
Leon: I read a lot of blogs on the latest in different parts of the enterprise IT world. I read Krebs on Security quite a bit. Even though my job isn’t specifically security related, I think that every IT professional should have a mind towards security.
Code42: What do you wish people understood better about your role?
Leon: Well, honestly, most things. It’s hard to describe—like, when people ask my wife what I do, she just tells them I work with computers. I feel like what I do is create and support systems to deliver value to our business and to our customers. And I try to do that in a way that’s secure and also fail‑safe so that, you know, if the catastrophic were to happen, it would be a very low impact on everybody involved.
Code42: Do you feel like your colleagues—the end users you support—appreciate what you do?
Leon: I mean, if things go wrong, they definitely know who I am and appreciate what I do. But I think they’re also aware of what we’re doing right. We’re not specifically a tech company, but every business is a tech company these days, in some ways. I think that the business as a whole is very cognizant of what we do—between the data team, the developers, and the systems team. I feel like they’re pretty good about, you know, recognizing us for the good work that we do and the value we bring.
Code42: Did you always want to be a SysAdmin? How did you end up in this role?
Leon: It’s definitely not a simple story, for sure. I never had computers growing up. I grew up pretty poor. The only computers we had were at school, and I just wasn’t ever that interested in them. I think I was probably 20 when I got an old 486 computer that was a hand‑me‑down of a hand‑me‑down from my grandfather. My brother came over to help me get it up and running, and he took it all apart and explained what every piece was, like, “This is the processor, these are the RAM chips, this is the hard drive, the video card.” And something about that conversation sparked something in my brain.
Shortly after that I bought my first computer. Geez, I think it was like a Celeron, like the first‑generation Celeron processor, like 128 megabytes of RAM, I think. I started getting pieces from this TigerDirect catalog and updating it, and I started making friends with people that knew a little bit more than me, and we started modifying it.
Code42: And you realized you loved fixing and improving computers and immediately went into professional IT?
Leon: Not exactly. I kind of thought about taking a CompTIA A+ class to get into the industry, but I just never really got around to it. Then I started working in the restaurant industry, and I actually worked in restaurants for 20 years or so.
Code42: How did you end up making the leap from restaurants to IT?
Leon: My wife went back and got her degree after our second child was born, and then she encouraged me to do the same. I thought about going in for business or a few other things, but she was the one that actually convinced me to go into IT. I don’t know if I would have done it if it wasn’t for her, you know, encouraging me. After getting my degree, I actually used the contacts I had from my years in the restaurant industry to start my career in IT. I was at a party with some restaurant friends, and somebody said they were looking for an IT intern. I sent them my resume, and that’s pretty much how it all started.
Code42: Your help is in high demand. Do you have any free time to enjoy hobbies?
Leon: I still bartend on the weekend, actually. I also like to read books or listen to music. I love to play with the kids and my dog. And sometimes, I just like to sit in my hammock and have a beer. I don’t know that I have enough time to make the kind of commitment to call anything a hobby. But I definitely enjoy life.
Code42: One last question: If I pull a stool up to your bar on the weekend, what are you making me? What’s the Leon Special?
Leon: Well, if I wanted to impress you, I make a great martini. But I’d rather give you what I like, which is just a bottle of beer and a glass of Irish whiskey.
Code42: I think we’d get along really well.