10 real-world truths about succeeding in IT operations (free PDF)

Whether you’re handling server administration, desktop support, or network engineering, the field of IT operations can be enormously rewarding. But you may encounter some downsides as well. Seasoned IT pro Scott Matteson offers his insights to help you prepare for the challenging aspects of the job.

From the ebook:

IT operations can best be described as the process of keeping technology and the users who rely on it healthy and happy. This can include server administration, desktop support, network engineering, or some other element that involves what’s termed “keeping the lights on.”

This type of work often requires little formal education and can be a perfect career for people who enjoy self-training, getting hands-on experience with real-world problems, solving issues, helping others, and engaging in perfectionism. (There’s no such thing as a perfect systems environment out there, but we can try get as close as possible.)

However, there are some stipulations to make the best of the career and keep your priorities—and sanity—intact. They may not all be pleasant, nor easy to stick to, but these are concrete truths anyone working in the field will have to accept and come to terms with to survive the experience.

You can’t please everyone all the time
This one may be obvious, but it’s also the most important fact to keep in mind.

I have never seen an organization that had IT operations folks sitting around playing solitaire. (Well, okay, they may play solitaire but usually for stress relief or to unwind during lunch.) Simply put, any given IT workload is usually going to run about 125%-150% over capacity, on an average basis. There are system or user problems to fix, devices to patch, software and servers to upgrade, documentation to write, accounts to administer, parts/supplies to obtain. The list is endless.

Same with the requests. At any given moment there may be five, seven, or even more things you “should” be doing (depending on who’s asking), but the uncomfortable reality is that you’re not going to keep everyone—or everything—consistently happy. You’re not going to be everyone’s friend. My advice: Focus on pleasing your boss first, then arrange the other requests accordingly.

You must be able to prioritize
Prioritization means working on the higher value items as consistently and frequently as possible, at least where your schedule permits.

Without proper prioritization you may well spend your days trotting about plucking low hanging fruit based on whoever requested your assistance most recently. It’s hard to build a successful career merely resetting passwords, unlocking accounts, rebooting computers, searching for missing email, and any of the other relatively low-value tasks in IT operations. Granted, these things have to be done; but they can be delegated or postponed in some instances.

You must also include some big picture items in your daily workload, whether it’s researching that software upgrade project, getting quotes on server hardware, reaching out to project stakeholders to discuss an upcoming initiative, or any of the other sub-tasks associated with large scale project or improvement strategies that last longer than an hour.

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