Don’t document or automate
This point is a little controversial. Some
people think they increase their value
by refusing to document anything. It
makes them unfireable. The truth is
employees who keep playbooks and
other documentation up to date are
highly valued by managers.
Likewise, some sysadmins fear if
they write too much automation, it
will put them out of a job. The truth is
if you automate a task out of existence,
there will always be more tasks waiting
to be automated. The person who does
this is a workforce-multiplier: one person enabling others to do the work of
many. That is highly valuable.
Therefore, if you want to devalue
yourself, do not document or automate.
Assure everyone you will document
something later: resist the temptation
to update wikis as you perform a task.
When asked to automate anything, just
look the person in the eye, sigh, and say,
“I’m too busy to save time by automating things.”
Focus on technology,
not business benefits.
That new server you want to buy is awesome, and if the business cannot understand that, yell louder.
Some people disagree. They think ev-
ery technology purchase should be jus-
tified in terms of how it will benefit the
business in ways that relate to money
or time—for example, a server that will
consolidate all sales information, mak-
ing it possible for salespeople to find
the information they need, when they
need it. How boring. It is much more
fun to explain it is 20T of SSD-accelerat-
ed storage, Intel 5655 CPUs, and triple-
redundant power supplies.
If you want to devalue yourself, describe projects in ways that obscure
their business value. Use the most detailed technical terms and let people
guess the business reason. Act as if the
business is there to serve technology,
not the other way around.
Only hire people that look like you.
Diversity is about valuing the fact that
people with different backgrounds
bring different skills to the table. Studies find the addition of a single person
with a different background improves a
Productivity? Sounds like the opposite of devaluing yourself. To truly devalue yourself, make sure everyone on
your team thinks the same way, has the
same skills and similar backgrounds,
and makes all the same mistakes.
As I wrote earlier, respect is a two-way
street. If you want to devalue yourself,
do not value differences.
Be the weird one.
Be “the weird one” in your company. It
does not matter that your co-workers
do not understand your obscure references to Dune, Animaniacs, and LOTR.
The spice must flow so we can make the
bologna to put in our slacks before we
head to Mount Doom. Pretend you do
not notice the confused looks you get.
Surely everyone has read Dune. Don’t explain your cultural references and don’t
stop making them just because nobody
Many may consider someone who
is diverse to be weird, but these are two
different concepts. Diversity is about
valuing differences. Being weird is
about being oblivious to other people’s
reactions. Diversity requires a commit-
ment to educating and being educated.
Being weird is the opposite.
Everyone should be free to fly a freak-flag. If you want to devalue yourself,
Refer to the server room as the Shire.
Don’t say “happy birthday,” say “happy
hatchling day.” Any time something has
a red button, ask if it is candy-like.
Be difficult to find.
You cannot be valuable if you don’t exist. If you are difficult to find or are not
available when people need you, you
aren’t providing value to anyone.
Work strange hours. Do not arrive
until noon—unless the corporate culture is to arrive at noon; then arrive
Either way, make sure your work
hours don’t overlap well with the people
who need you.
If we all make a concerted effort, then all
sysadmins, as a community, can make
sure the role of system administrator
stays devalued for a very long time.
Innovation and Inclusion
Telle Whitney, Elizabeth Ames
Are You Invisible?
Automation Should Be
Like Iron Man, Not Ultron
Thomas A. Limoncelli
Thomas A. Limoncelli is a site reliability engineer
at Stack Overflow, Inc. in NYC. His books include The
Complete April Fools’ Day RFC ( www.rfchumor.com), The
Practice of Cloud Administration ( the-cloud-book.com) and
Time Management for System Administrators (O’Reilly).
He blogs at EverythingSysadmin.com.
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