Every year, on the last Friday in July, we celebrate the System Administrator Appreciation Day. There’s no doubt that without Sysadmins the world would be a dark place and none of our projects would work out as smoothly as they do. I sat down with Antje who has been working as a Sysadmin for over twenty years and she told me about her personal journey in this field. Thanks for putting up with our problems dear Sysadmins - we do appreciate you every day!
You work as a system administrator at SinnerSchrader in Frankfurt. How did this come about?
Actually, I have been doing this job in a general sense for quite a long time. I've been a Sysadmin since 1999 and at that time I met someone who was already my “user” and who later worked as a designer at SinnerSchrader in Frankfurt. At some point Frankfurt was looking for a Sysadmin because the studio had grown so much that they needed someone there. The employees who usually took care of smaller Sysadmin topics wanted to work mainly on their projects and then I got a cross-message via Facebook and after that everything went pretty fast. I just sent my resume over, then I was invited and later I had my contract in my pocket. So that was quite funny, it was like a referral. Like today's Bring Your Buddy program.*
Wow since 1999. That is a long time. What do you like most about your job?
I've been with SinnerSchrader for six years. What I actually like most about my job is that it never gets boring. It is always a challenge, even if certain things are repeated rhythmically and you can solve them easily. But what I really like are the things that you never had before and that are always different. It's always technically a challenge when updates come to a computer or technical things change. I have been a Sysadmin for 20 years and it has never been boring to be honest. It is not an assembly line job. Sure, many things are repeated quite often but many things are also renewed again and again. And besides, I just like to work with people. As a Sysadmin you have to deal, in some way, with all the people in the company. With many more often with others less. But the funny thing is that I have heard the name of almost every person who works for us. Somehow I have the feeling I know them all. That's nice, because similar to the office management, we are a hub. You always have an interaction with the people and you help them and that is something beautiful. They come to us with something negative, you always twist it and hopefully make something positive out of it.
Why help desk and not software development or something else?
I started in 1999 as Sysadmin as a career changer. At that time there wasn't even an apprenticeship available. I worked as a trainee in an advertising agency and wanted to study communication design, so I sat at a Mac. Back then I noticed that people always ask: "Antje something is wrong with my Photoshop and the printer doesn't print what I want...you know how it works". Somehow I noticed: the Mac and I saw each other and fell in love and we understand each other and are a good team. I got so caught up in this admin status. I have helper syndrome, too. People always said I could explain it so well so apparently it's my thing. At one point I became a mom and then that was the moment when I was asked if I wanted to work for SinnerSchrader and I thought "Cool, Sysadmin again" and that's when I realized that the agency landscape had changed completely. I started back then when the final artwork on drawing boards was drawn manually in analogue on paper and nowadays in digital agencies like ours it is completely different. It has changed so radically and I thought for a moment: "Do I have to be able to code now, does my job demand it? And of course there were more and more requirements and I could have said I would rather be a software developer but honestly this would not satisfy my helper syndrome. I understand better why a computer doesn't do an update than that I program a website for example. I think it's just different in terms of the subject matter and fits me better. You can always play with the cool technology and be the first to unpack things (laughs). I have already unpacked over 1000 new computers in my life. I was the one who took things out of the box for the first time.
With all these changes and challenges, what did you learn about yourself through your work?
What I have understood most over the years is that as a Sysadmin you have to have a helping hand. You have to be a type of person for it. You also have to be able to keep an overview and that's a lot in our company, because there are many parallel construction sites. Many things are connected and you also have to have the infrastructure and hardware of the different studios in mind. I can connect the threads together and can look at it from above, that's what I've learned. And my users are my clients. You have a certain service orientation and we are service providers and service technicians. That's the way it is with the user help desk, we're corporate services and don't have clients in the classic sense, and it was a little difficult for me at the beginning that we don't work on client projects, but then I realised that SinnerSchrader and our employees are our clients. You also have to be patient and sometimes you need a bullshit filter (laughs).
You probably get this question a lot: which ticket will remain in your memory forever?
It's actually something funny. This is an epic ticket. I think it was 2016 and I will always remember it. That's ticket 5394, a colleague who sat in the agency for nights on end, accompanying releases at night, and was always there, basically living in the agency in Frankfurt. And the coolest ticket: "Please make Netflix work, because if I'm waiting for Go Lives I don't want to sit around so please get me Netflix on my computer". Then he always waited until around 3 a.m. and wanted Netflix. And of course the team made it possible.
That’s truly epic. If you could give your job a title, what would it be?
We used to have a challenge in another agency, where you could give yourself a fun job title. So this one is a Frankfurt thing. Do you know Äppelwoi (Hessian cider)? I used to see myself as Apple support and that's why I was always the “Äppler”. Tastes very delicious. We also see ourselves as office angels, because we have a lot in common with the office managment and have a lot of overlaps. So we are office angels because we are the ones who keep the wheels running in the background and pour the oil in when it gets stuck. It's a general title and that's how I see myself and we just do everything in the background without the others having to worry about it.
Do you have a secret talent?
Something that not everybody knows about me is my hobby: I do live roleplaying. My secret talent is: I fight with an axe and a shield, I'm a shield sister. I play a Viking shieldmaiden in roleplaying. And there I have a round shield made of latex and an axe, but it looks lifelike and with it you fight against hordes of undead. So my secret talent: I can fight with an axe and a shield.
Is there anything you've always wanted to share? Now's the time!
For me as a Sysadmin one thing is most important. As banal as it sounds: "have you tried turning it off and on again?" Reboot does good is my message. Sounds stupid, but you will notice: if you stick to it at least once a week rebooting your computer will make life easier.
*The Bring Your Buddy Program is the official referral program at SinnerSchrader.