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The sysadmins I've worked are hardened guys used to dealing with wannabes who forget that they are not the only users and that other users requests are equally important. But sometimes the danger lurk in completely different area and this is your colleagues. I am not talking about backstabbing which also happens, I am taking about catastrophic errors. Often the second admin is the person who is running an application on this server and who does not know Unix all that well. If you allow such a person to administer your server you better be willing to train him/her.
Sometimes after doing something stupid on the box people try to hide that complicating recovery. That works both way: if you do such thing it's better to come forward.
Beware side effects connected with the customarization of root account including adding aliases. Think twice before changing the way root account configured if you are not the only person working on the box. Using Subversion or other CMS is also highly recommended.
Here is one interesting example:
The file /etc/deluser.conf was configured to remove the home directory (it was done by previous sys admin and it was my first day at work) and mail spool of the user to be removed. I just wanted to remove the user account and I end up deleting everything (note -r was activated via deluser.conf):
Dr. Nikolai Bezroukov
I've recently graduated and have got a job at a fast-growing dedicated/VPS hosting company as a junior sysadmin.
I'd like to know any tips or advice you more senior sysadmins have, e.g. what mistakes did you make when you were younger, certification, how to stay organised.
My best piece of advice is to remember ignorance is not a sin. You don't know everything, nobody does. Read the documentation, ask for help. It is far better to spend some time and possibly a few shreds of credibility with your peers to find learn before you screw up, than to leap in and really mess something up. Everybody screws up sometime. Just don't be the one who screws up because they didn't RTFM or ask around first.
link|flag answered Jun 19 '09 at 20:27
Yup, assume you know nothing. Read, and read some more, then ask targeted questions. Try to document systems from the point of view of a novice. This will help you understand how everything is set up and provide something useful for the next junior sysadmin - when you stop being the new boy. Over the course of the next 6 months you're likely to learn more than you did in college. – Geoff Jun 19 '09 at 20:32
I love this advice. It will also help you avoid driving your technically-competent customers up the wall. I have no problem with support staff who don't know the answer to something and are willing to admit it and bring in a senior tech. It's the ones who insist that they do know, when they clearly don't, who need to find new jobs. – Ben Dunlap Jun 19 '09 at 20:41
I agree with Laura here. Not knowing anything is where all of us started, and if we were honest where we all still are. If you approach with humility, you will be just fine. – Matt Jun 19 '09 at 20:42
And "assume you know nothing" is excellent advice also. In fact that's probably the only assumption you should ever make about any technical problem. The road to solving just about every really knotty problem I've ever encountered has begun with me asking myself, "what am I assuming here?" – Ben Dunlap Jun 19 '09 at 20:43
@Matt "if we were honest where we all still are" -- I'm not totally on-board with that. Sure, relative to "knowing everything about everything" we all know nothing. But some people really are experts in certain areas and they know it and that's fine. I think humility, in this context, is ultimately about recognizing what you know and what you don't. – Ben Dunlap Jun 19 '09 at 20:46
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