Choices are a common thing in the life cycle of a human being. They’re some kind of puzzle, often with many solutions and not always resulting in a predictable outcome. Sometimes, those “puzzles of life” are easy to solve but they can also be quite hard to solve.
An easy choice was the direction of my IT education. We were the first “generation” to actually have a choice. The education used to be a mix between development and networking/system administration but the main focus was on development. We were offered a choice for the third (and thus last) year of the education: software development or networking/system administration. With two years of software development being part of history, I figured I would have enough background to do fine in software development (and web development in particular) and decided to explore new horizons. Looking back at that decision, I still think it was the right one.
Time warp to the present which is a gap of 6 years and I can see the choice reappearing on the horizon. I’ve spent 5 years doing web development mixed with very brief moments of maintaining two Linux servers. While short in time, those moments have provided a welcome distraction from the development job. In fact, taking them away from me would really piss me off. So I feel I’m rapidly approaching a crossroad and I have no idea what direction to take. I would like to remain active as a web developer but I also feel an increasing desire to do system administration.
Web development is an exciting area when you can live on the proverbial edge: trying new and emerging trends/technologies. But the fun is completely gone when you’re not allowed to create new challenges or to be innovative. If the only goal is to get the job done (that means without any interest in the user experience, the quality of the product, the architecture of the backend, …), web development becomes just as boring as looking at an old sock. The real thrill comes from e.g. playing with new technologies and then incorporating them into your projects ending in a better user experience ultimately making users happier. We are not drones, we’re creative minds!
It’s probably that frustration that drives the system administrator in me. It’s like going from the front lines to the supply lines. You’re not taking commands all the time and you’re fine as long as the supply line doesn’t collapse. Managing servers, a domain, network infrastructure, user policies, security, … are things I really enjoy doing.
Eventually, it all comes down to who I am as an IT guy. I’m not an analyst, I’m a technical guy. I love to get a deep knowledge of the product I’m working with, I love diving in APIs to find hidden features or nifty things, I love pushing things to the limit just to see how far the tech can go, I love trying new stuff and I love looking for other ways to accomplish the same thing. But I can only reach my full potential when I’m given some room to be creative and innovative. And I do have a real-life example to back that up.
And after all that text, I still don’t know what to do…