Tips on finding Senior IT/System Admin/Release Engineer

I am a recent college grad and a founder in a RoR startup. Since this
is my first business, I have no previous experience hiring people
outside of my work here at spokeo.com.

I have found hiring RoR developers to be quite an easy task. As I was a
CS/EE major in college, I just hired all my friends =)

Yet, for our team, finding a talented system administrator is impossibly
hard. The production environment for RoR is evolving every day,
requiring the rare sys admin who has development skills. I haven’t
interviewed any sys admins yet who have the ability to understand such
issues as the Mongrel threading problem.

Can the list offer any advice on how to find a good sys admin. I think
we need either a sys admin with development skills or a sys admin with
prior experience in RoR deployment. I’m not sure if the latter even
exists. They are probably kept in a vault by their companies =)

In case anyone is interested, our exact posting is at
http://sfbay.craigslist.org/sby/sof/213228022.html

Thanks for any suggestions that you have for me. Feel free to email me
at [email protected] as well.

On Sep 27, 2006, at 8:35 PM, Ray C. wrote:

Yet, for our team, finding a talented system administrator is
impossibly
hard. The production environment for RoR is evolving every day,
requiring the rare sys admin who has development skills. I haven’t
interviewed any sys admins yet who have the ability to understand such
issues as the Mongrel threading problem.

The only absolutely requirements I’ve found for system administrators
is that, yes, they must be good developers (otherwise they’re
operators, not administrators), and this will sound really weird, but
they must be lazy.

I don’t mean that you want to hire a person who will sit around and
do anything. But do mean that if you see a “system administrator”
do the same thing twice in a row, show that person the door immediately.

You want to hire the person who realizes, in advance, that it’ll need
to be done twice, and automates it.

At first, it will seem inefficient…but it won’t seem that way for
long. :slight_smile:


– Tom M.

Tom M. wrote:

The only absolutely requirements I’ve found for system administrators
is that, yes, they must be good developers (otherwise they’re
operators, not administrators), and this will sound really weird, but
they must be lazy.

I don’t mean that you want to hire a person who will sit around and
do anything. But do mean that if you see a “system administrator”
do the same thing twice in a row, show that person the door immediately.

You want to hire the person who realizes, in advance, that it’ll need
to be done twice, and automates it.

At first, it will seem inefficient…but it won’t seem that way for
long. :slight_smile:

Show them the door immediately? Isn’t that really drastic? Nobody knows
everything and when time was/is of the essence I did repetitive tasks
rather than taking hours to days to research and educate myself about
some tool/program that would do it for me. If you have a sysadmin who
may need some further education on becoming more efficient or learning a
new program, seems that’d be more worthwhile.

But I agree with what you say – anybody that finds themself doing the
same thing again and again needs to find a way to automate it. That’s
the difference between craftsmen and laborers.

Joe

On Thu, Sep 28, 2006 at 08:57:58AM +0200, Joe R. MUDCRAP-CE wrote:
} Tom M. wrote:
} > The only absolutely requirements I’ve found for system
administrators
} > is that, yes, they must be good developers (otherwise they’re
} > operators, not administrators), and this will sound really weird,
but
} > they must be lazy.
} >
} > I don’t mean that you want to hire a person who will sit around and
} > do anything. But do mean that if you see a “system administrator”
} > do the same thing twice in a row, show that person the door
immediately.
} >
} > You want to hire the person who realizes, in advance, that it’ll
need
} > to be done twice, and automates it.
} >
} > At first, it will seem inefficient…but it won’t seem that way for
} > long. :slight_smile:
}
} Show them the door immediately? Isn’t that really drastic? Nobody
knows
} everything and when time was/is of the essence I did repetitive tasks
} rather than taking hours to days to research and educate myself about
} some tool/program that would do it for me. If you have a sysadmin who
} may need some further education on becoming more efficient or learning
a
} new program, seems that’d be more worthwhile.
}
} But I agree with what you say – anybody that finds themself doing the
} same thing again and again needs to find a way to automate it. That’s
} the difference between craftsmen and laborers.

I think Tom M. expressed it a little bit unclearly. It isn’t that
the
sysadmin should never do the same thing twice because it is inefficient.
The buzzword is “repeatable.” Everything the sysadmin does, from setting
up
a dev/test/prod box to creating a new developer account to configuring
firewall rules, should be a repeatable process. This is why Capistrano
is
so valuable, for example; you put all the necessary actions in a recipe
so
that the deployment process can be repeated as needed. A repeatable
process
is a dependable process, and reduces the opportunity for human error.

} Joe
–Greg

On Thu, Sep 28, 2006, Ray C. wrote:

Can the list offer any advice on how to find a good sys admin. I think
we need either a sys admin with development skills or a sys admin with
prior experience in RoR deployment. I’m not sure if the latter even
exists. They are probably kept in a vault by their companies =)

Others have provided good advice about the technical skills a good
sysadmin should have. They’re totally right (I’m a sysadmin/developer,
and what they described is what works best for me…)

I don’t understand your business at all or the state you’re in, but is
having a full-time, on-site sysadmin really necessary? By restricting
yourself to local candidates you’ve just shut out the majority of people
with the skillset you’re looking for.

Rails is still young. Finding someone with Rails experience who prefers
system administration is a challenge no matter what. It may be that
there simply are no people in your area who A) have the skills you
require and B) need a new job.

I’m not trying to tell you how to run your business of course, this is
just something to consider. Are you sure you’re going to have enough
work to keep someone busy ~40 hours a week? And are you sure they need
to be close enough to touch?

Good luck at any rate. Wish I was looking :slight_smile:

Ben

On Sep 28, 2006, at 4:14 AM, Gregory S. wrote:

} Show them the door immediately? Isn’t that really drastic? Nobody

recipe so
that the deployment process can be repeated as needed. A repeatable
process
is a dependable process, and reduces the opportunity for human error.

That’s a good clarification of an advantage of what I’ve said.

But, it is a bit more than that as well. I’ve seem some extremely
knowledgeable and sophisticated system administrators that revel in
20 open SSH sessions, all su’d to root, typing commands faster than
the wind. The problem isn’t even a question of “what if they make a
mistake” and some of them are so good that the repeatability is
nearly machine like (though never quite as good).

The problem is that once that process gets in place early, it just
never goes away. Need another system administrator? Who’s doing the
interviewing for sysadmin skills? You’ll end up with an army of
smart people typing root commands all day, and loving it.

But the business’ bottom line will not love it. :frowning:


– Tom M.

I should have provided some background about our company.
We have a 3 person technical team right now, 2 working in RoR and 1
working on backend in pure Ruby. All we have right now is basic server
setup. We would like to have some server + process monitoring, and
performance benchmarking, to say the very least.

Ben, I do believe we have a need for a full-time system administrator.
I imagine this person would spend 10/hrs a week on general maintainence
of 20+ desktops/servers that we own. Initially, he would spend some
time on the monitoring and benchmarking apps. Afterwards if the
business goes well, I imagine scaling would take a considerable amount
of time. Other potential projects include website traffic analysis,
database usage analysis, and deployment streamlining. This seems like a
full-time job to me, but I am also very new to this. Feel free to
disagree.

Zed, I am trying to go the cheap route and get everything rolled up into
1 hire. In the context of the CM and the junior admin, we already have
a developer doubling as CM. The mongrel threading issue is something I
overheard the developers talking about. I am not about to pick a fight
with the mongrel author!

I am starting to see Rails as a great platform for development, but one
that is hard to hire IT for. I’ll settle for someone who is lazy,
automates things, and doesn’t revel in 20 open SSH sessions.

And finally, yes, the bay area tech industry is picking up, so it’s hard
to hire again.

Ray

On Thu, 28 Sep 2006 05:35:04 +0200
Ray C. [email protected] wrote:

> Yet, for our team, finding a talented system administrator is impossibly > hard. The production environment for RoR is evolving every day, > requiring the rare sys admin who has development skills. I haven't > interviewed any sys admins yet who have the ability to understand such > issues as the Mongrel threading problem.

Eh, what “threading issue” is that? Maybe I shouldn’t be a sysadmin.
:slight_smile:

Can the list offer any advice on how to find a good sys admin. I think
we need either a sys admin with development skills or a sys admin with
prior experience in RoR deployment. I’m not sure if the latter even
exists. They are probably kept in a vault by their companies =)

Why don’t you advertise for a Configuration Manager and a junior system
administrator to assist them? The CM’s job would be specifically to
“automate every that isn’t nailed down”, the junior’s job is to do what
the CM says.

This person wouldn’t be a sysadmin or a developer, but instead someone
who’s had experience managing/automating the deployment, control,
versioning, and testing of applications. They’d also be given the power
to reject releases if they don’t pass quality requirements. They’re the
person who knows what svn revisions and changes are on each machine and
collect metrics on deployment efficiency, up time, automation quality,
etc.

People who are good as CMs are folks who have backgrounds in logistics
or operations research. Coders and sysadmins are notoriously bad at
these kinds of problems.

That might be more what you need.


Zed A. Shaw, MUDCRAP-CE Master Black Belt Sifu


http://mongrel.rubyforge.org/
http://www.lingr.com/room/3yXhqKbfPy8 – Come get help.

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