Our profession has a long way to go


Here is the 2013 Super Bowl Dodge Commercial, “God Made a Farmer.”


Here is the recent spoof, “God Made a Sysadmin.”

There are important differences.

Obviously the ‘farmer’ video is a commercial. It intends to stir up empathy and appreciation for hard work, solid work ethics, traditional American values, (and perhaps some spirit of ‘rally around the under-dog,’) and then the corporation hopes everyone will associate those positive characteristics with their product. (This is also known as, ‘Intro to Marketing.’)

The ‘sysadmin’ video is a spoof. It engenders a healthy dose of pride, enables those who work in the profession to smile at the references, and to have a bit of winsome fun.

There are also important similarities.

Both professions entail difficult work, (the type of difficulty is of course different,) and have clear work ethics. Without the farmers, or without the sysadmins, life as everyone knows it would end rather quickly.

But, here’s the rub:

The average person will understand all of the things which the farmers are said to do, but will understand almost none of those things which the sysadmins are said to do.

Sysadmins like to think, and I’ve said this myself, that they are part of a profession with a “long” history. In reality, computers and the profession are in their infancy. We have just 70-ish years of history if we measure from Alan Turing’s ideas, and we have just three different generations of people who have worked in our profession.

If we want to be treated as professionals, if we want to be individually granted a measure of respect based on our chosen profession the way farmers, doctors, and (some) lawyers are, then we must continue to work hard as we have done for 70-ish years.

We also need to work hard to raise awareness of our profession. We need to work together more, as a community of people, rather than an archipelago of individuals. We need to take better care of ourselves; We must not sacrifice our own physical and mental health at the alter of short-term advancement. We need to work to solve the larger problems — the ones which aren’t even system administration problems, but which are organizational, societal and philosophical problems — which put many of our fellows into untenable situations.

Our profession has a long way to go.