Amazon diagnosis

Paul Graydon paul at
Mon May 2 20:05:38 UTC 2011

On 05/02/2011 09:27 AM, Jeroen van Aart wrote:
> Jeff Wheeler wrote:
>> IT managers would do well to understand that a few smart programmers,
>> who understand how all their tools (web servers, databases,
>> filesystems, load-balancers, etc.) actually work, can often do more to
> I fully agree.
> But much to my dismay and surprise I have learned that developers know 
> very little above and beyond their field of interest, say java 
> programming. And I bet this is vice versa.
> It surprised me because I, perhaps naively, assumed IT workers in 
> general have a rather broad knowledge because in general they're 
> interested in many aspects of IT, try to find out as much as possible 
> and if they do not know something they make an effort learning it. 
> Also considering many (practical) things just aren't taught in 
> university, which is to be expected since the idea is to develop an 
> academic way of thinking.

   I work with a bunch of developers, we're a primarily java based 
company, but I've got more than enough on my plate trying to keep up 
with everything practical as a sysadmin, from networks to hardware to 
audit needs, to even start to think about adding in Java skills to my 
repertoire!  Especially given I'm the only sysadmin here and our 
infrastructure needs are quite diverse.  I've learned to interpret java 
stack traces that get sent to me 24x7 on our critical mailing list so 
that I can identify whether is code or infrastructure but that's as far 
as I go with java.  I don't particularly see that I need to either.  I 
strive to work with//developers, no 'them vs us' attitudes, no arrogant 
"my way or the highway".  I can't conceive why anyone would even 
consider maintaining those kind of attitudes but unfortunately have seen 
them frequently, and it seems so often to be the normal rather than the 
   Programming is not something I'd consider myself to be any good at.  
I'll happily and reasonably competently script stuff in perl, python or 
bash for sysadmin purposes, but I'd never make any pretence at it being 
'good' and well done scripting.  It's just not the way my mind works.  I 
have my specialisms and they have theirs, more productive use of time is 
to work with those who excel at that kind of thing.  Here they don't 
make assumptions about my end of things, and I don't make assumptions 
about theirs.  We ask each other questions, and work together to figure 
out how best to proceed.  Thankfully we're a relatively small enough 
operation that management isn't too much of a burden.

   Smart IT managers, in my book, work to take advantage of all the 
skills that their workers have and provide an efficient framework for 
them to work together.  What it seems we see more often than not are IT 
managers that persist in seeing Sysadmin and Development as 'ops' and 
'dev' separately rather than combined, perpetuating the 'them' vs 'us' 
attitudes rather than throwing them out for the inefficient, financially 
wasteful things they are.


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