words of wisdom from a systems engineer

400th post: Looking back at where this blog started

Last night’s post about my charity drive for the Movember Foundation was the 400th post on my blog! I started posting on way back in the spring of 2007 shortly after I was hired by Rackspace in December of 2006.

My main purpose for the blog at the beginning was to create a place where I could write quick articles about problems I found and how to fix them. Most of the people around me were using their own handy systems to store notes (Stickies on the Mac, Tomboy notes on Linux, or just simple text files), but they weren’t able to share them easily. I wanted a way to write up a solution and instantly share it with someone. I also wanted that person to be able to pass along the fix to someone else if they wanted.

Needless to say, it took off from there.

It’s important to note that I couldn’t have done this by myself. I’ve learned some efficient strategies for managing large systems and troubleshooting complex issues from my peers, my managers, and colleagues outside of Rackspace. There have been many triumphs and there have been quite a few failures.

The failures have taught me the most. I’ve made some pretty large mistakes and here are a few:

  • inserted data into a MySQL slave in an active replication pair
  • run a fsck on an online ext3 partition
  • marked a failed drive online in a hardware RAID array
  • mangled Plesk installations in ways that you can’t comprehend
  • typed ‘reboot’ into a terminal and pressed enter, only to realize I was in the wrong terminal
  • ran UPDATE statements without a WHERE clause in MySQL (well, I only did this one twice)

Even after all that, people occasionally tell me that I’m very good at what I do. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I’m glad some people think so! Many of those folks end up asking me this question:

How do I learn how to be a successful Linux systems administrator?

My answer is this: Be humble. Always be thirsty for knowledge. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Love what you do and the people you serve.