build my skillset

I've spent most of my career working with computers. Although I've at times had responsibility for end-user support, my focus has really been on server administration, and specifically all of the things that are and run on the various iterations of Windows. Active Directory: check. Exchange: check. SQL: check. IIS: check. And on down the line.

A couple of years ago, one of my colleagues thought I'd be a great fit for his team, so I moved away from pure Windows work and picked up managing a SAN environment and assumed some ESXi administration tasks. It was all good and fine, and I felt like I was learning incrementally, but because of some of the responsibilities that I brought to the position, I wasn't spending all of my time focusing on growing that.

As 2015 was winding to a close I changed not only positions, but organizations. In doing this, I again shifted the focus of my responsibility. In this new role, I was back to being a Windows system administrator, but I also carried the torch of ESXi admin, SAN admin, and new to my wheelhouse: Linux admin. A new era in my learning was beginning when I realized that last one.

Over the last year, I have spent a fair amount of time learning more about Linux. I feel like I've become reasonably competent for typical purposes, but sometimes I come across something and I have to scratch my head for a while. The one thing that I've become certain of is this: the more I learn, the more I realize I don't know.

In some ways, Linux feels like the wild west. Saying that there are a lot of ways to do a particular task would often be an understatement. Some things that are super-easy in the PC world are fairly complex, and I'm sure it's for a good reason but gosh darn if I know why. I have undertaken a couple of micro-projects to help build my skills in Linux while also helping to build the strength of my group. First, I deployed a Linux-based monitoring system using MySQL and deployed agents across all of the servers I manage. Recently I also launched a patch and configuration management system for the Linux servers so that the team can regularly update those servers. It feels good to monitor and control these systems finally.

It hasn't been an easy journey, and it's far from over. I have several friends that I know as Linux guys although most of them are no longer working in that role, but I've been told that I came up in conversation among them when talking about their own professional development: If Rick (a WINDOWS admin) can teach himself Linux, there's no reason I can't learn Windows. Or something like that.

So what's next for me? I'll keep working on these skills, sure, but that can't be it. Recently I was offered a chance to take part in some Amazon Web Services training, so that's probably the next step.

Concurrently, I've started to try and learn about javascript. This one will be a larger challenge than the others, as those are just variations of what I already know and do. Coding is something that I've realistically never done. Sure, when I was in middle and high school I played around with BASIC, and I am capable of writing fairly clean HTML and CSS, but that's not really the same thing. At least in my head it's a lot more daunting.

As I walk down these paths of learning more, it is interesting to see what new things will start to pique my interest, to lure me over. Maybe this is just how I am becoming a well-rounded professional. Or maybe there's another plan for me that I just can't see yet. Either way, I'm sure it'll be an interesting adventure.

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