jb… a weblog by Jonathan Buys

Cutting Corners

After reading the MacSparky piece on craftsmanship, I’m reminded of how I like to look at my career as a systems administrator. I find that there are times when things that are not quite right just bother me. Like when there are inconsistencies or one-offs scattered throughout the environment I am responsible for. There may well be perfectly logical reasons why some systems are monitored and some are not, why some are registered with configuration management and others are not, but in my mind it is these little inconsistencies that add up and make your work look sloppy.

A craftsman is not sloppy. They are careful, competent, precise, and thorough. It is knowing that the little details matter, if to no one else but you, the accumulation of details is what defines the quality of your craft. It is knowing what the right tool for the job is, it is knowing when to use the power tools, and when to do it by hand. It is knowing that every corner you cut will come back to you in the end.

Cutting corners is unacceptable for a professional sysadmin. It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself “devops” or an old school neckbeard, you must decide to do the right thing and make sure that all of your bases are covered. I like to think of the environment like the internal workings of a clock. There are lots of tiny little gears, but when they all work together, you can feel the system ticking happily along.

Your profession matters less than how you approach your work. Do you do it sloppily, haphazardly, or as a craftsman?

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