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5 essential soft skills for sysadmin self-improvement

Your technical skills might be superb, but do you have equally compelling soft skills?

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You might be the most technically skilled person in your company, yet you might not be able to pitch your ideas in a meeting or track your work and get it done on time. So what could be the problem in this scenario? More often than not, your soft skills—or the absence of them—are causing this problem. In this article, I dig a little deeper into why these five soft skills are essential for a sysadmin and the resources available to improve them.

[ You might also enjoy: 10 skills every Linux system administrator should have ]

1. Methodical and organized

As a sysadmin, one of the most efficient ways to manage your time and work is to be methodical and organized. It could be as simple as a to-do list on your scratchpad or a mobile app to track your activities and prioritize them. I know about colleagues who inculcate habits like the Pomodoro Technique to manage their time and work better. As much as you use automation techniques at work, being organized helps automate your thinking process and keep track of your tasks at hand. This resonates with a positive work ethic and gives you a sense of satisfaction.

2. Collaboration and networking

Networking and collaboration is another important soft skill to possess for a sysadmin. The familiar saying that sysadmins are, in general, introverted by nature is a fallacy. Staying connected with what is happening around you helps expand your knowledge horizon. I have received a lot of ideas and gained a new perspective from social networking sites where others share their experience. Having a strong network of like-minded people fosters both the emotional and physical health of an individual.

3. Spoken and written communication

Communication forms a significant part of our daily life. As a sysadmin, effective communication helps foster good relationships with colleagues. I take it upon myself to express my thoughts, create presentations, show a demo of the technology that I'm working with, or even share an excellent idea I came across that others may find useful. One such example from my personal life is when I joined an organization as a shy new employee and was reluctant to go out of my comfort zone. My manager ensured that I take the lead in presentations, host meetings with clients, and listen to sessions conducted by other teams. That helped foster camaraderie with my colleagues and built a great workplace environment. Reading is another way to improve your communication and oratory skills as it strengthens your language and your perspectives. The more you read, the more your brain can link cause and effect. For starters, I would recommend the book Atomic Habits by James Clear.

4. Problem-solving skills

As sysadmins, there's no shortage of problems in our work life. Our ability to solve problems is what defines our skill set. Technical expertise is one factor but problem-solving soft skills are equally essential. While technical expertise may give you an answer to a problem, your approach to the problem is defined by the soft skills you possess. To develop your approach to tackling problems and difficult situations, you can try fun games like Sudoku and crossword puzzles as they help sharpen your mind. As Aristotle said, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit." You must develop this habit to conquer challenges both at work and in your personal life.

5. Mental and physical health

I remember this line from a quirky tee-shirt I came across: "Being a Sysadmin is easy, it's like riding a bike. Except the bike's on fire, you're on fire, and everything's on fire." While this quote may be an exaggeration (or is it?), the life of a sysadmin does come with its share of "fire." Sysadmins often work late at night, addressing production issues or in shifts, which can have a detrimental impact on their mental and physical health. It is imperative to declutter your mind and take time away from work. Practicing yoga or meditation techniques helps relax your mind, alleviate stress, and increase productivity.

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Wrap Up

Technical skills combined with good soft skills help you perform better as a sysadmin. Learning these soft skills helps not just in your work life, but you also can reap rich benefits in your personal life with them. Soft skills can be learned and are acquired through consistent practice and from life experiences.

Topics:   Linux administration   Career  
Author’s photo

Pratheek Prabhakaran

Pratheek is a Sysadmin at a Fortune 500 company in India where he specializes in IT automation with Ansible. He has experience in SAP Basis, RHEL Satellite, AWS Cloud, and VMware Administration. An avid reader, cricketer, and artist. More about me

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