You’re about to graduate from college and enter the IT workforce. What do you really need to know? What fundamental skills should you have before you step foot into that first interview?
Sure, you should know IP subnetting and the fundamentals of firewalling, switching, and routing. But what about the everyday tasks you’ll need to be able to do in your sleep?
We’re talking math students having a firm grasp on differential equations but not simple math. Indycar drivers not knowing the rules of the road. Authors not knowing how to write dialog — real fundamental stuff. Let’s take a look at 10 “in your sleep” tasks that every new admin should know.
If you know how to add a computer to a workgroup, you should know how to add a Windows computer to a domain. This is basic stuff that will cause a department head no end of frustration if the staff can’t do it. Along with this task, you should know how to cache credentials on a computer. (This can be especially important for a laptop.)
Printing can easily become the bane of your existence. Never a “set it and forget it” piece of your workday, printing is constantly causing problems. You’ll need to understand all the many ways there are to troubleshoot local and network printing, as well as how to remove printers from the Windows registry in case of a more serious issue on the desktop machine.
It’s inevitable that some machines will become infected with a virus that will require the use of a tool like ComboFix. When this happens, you will need to boot that computer into Safe Mode. I would like to say that any person who does not know how to boot into Safe Mode has no business in the IT industry — but I’ve seen this quite a lot over the years. F8 is your friend. Get to know it. Make sure you know how to boot into Safe Mode With Networking so you can further troubleshoot a machine that simply won’t behave in regular mode.
This is another must-know on the list of admin skills. If you’ve managed to get through college (or your first gigs as an admin) without installing an operating system, something is definitely wrong. IT admins should know how to install Windows 7/8, Windows Server, Linux, and Mac — at a bare minimum. It would also behoove you to know how to set up a dual-boot machine.
From my perspective, managing users in Active Directory is a constant job — whether you’re adding, removing, editing, locking, unlocking, or just resetting passwords. You’ll need to know how to find your way around Active Directory and how to manage the AD users. If you can’t do this, you will be scrambling to get up to speed the second you wind up working on a network that takes advantage of Active Directory.
This isn’t always as simple as resetting an Active Directory password. There might be times when you need to change an admin password on a non-AD machine (and know how that change can affect things like Acronis backups and such). You should also know how to reset passwords on a Linux server/desktop as well as on a Mac desktop.
Sometimes, there is no choice but to blow away an Outlook profile to resolve Outlook issues. When this happens, you have to know how to remove the corrupt profile and add another. And if you’re in a Windows-centric environment, you can be sure this task will fall into your lap sooner than later.
Hardware goes bad. Disks wind up with errors. At some point, you’re going to run into an issue that requires a disk be checked — and you won’t be able to do it using a fancy GUI tool. You need to know how to force a chkdsk at boot as well as be able to have the command automatically repair errors (so you don’t have to be present during the reboot/check).
There are a number of reasons why you need to know how to schedule a Windows Server Backup. Even if you use third-party software for backup solutions, you will still need to take advantage of the only tool that can reliably flush an Exchange log (without having to resort to circular logging). Know how to schedule the Windows Server Backup and how to run one immediately.
When the C drive fills up, bad things happen. If this is on a server, really bad things can happen. Should a C drive start to fill up, you need to know exactly what to do — even if it’s just running a simple tool like CCleaner to clear out the temp files that have accumulated. One tool that can really help save you is WinDirStat. With WinDirStat, you can quickly find out what file types are hogging that precious C drive space.
There are many tasks you have to fully understand to be a successful IT administrator. But when you’re just starting out, you should at least have a solid grasp of these 10 things.
Dirty IT job No. 7: Legacy systems archaeologist
Believe it or not, Cobol developers are still in demand, says Jim Lanzalotto, vice president of Yoh, a technology talent and outsourcing firm.
Dirty IT job No. 6: Help desk zombie
Here’s the job that every IT professional hates. Bruce Kane, senior consultant at a messaging consultancy in North Carolina, defines a dirty job as “anything where you have to visit or talk to end-users. Help desk, desk side support, etc. Icky! Users have cooties!”
Dirty IT job No. 5: On-site reboot specialist
Closely related to the help desk zombie, but even lower on the totem pole, is the on-site reboot specialist, says Scott Crawford, research director at Enterprise Management Associates in Boulder, Colo. Unlike help desk or support vampires, the on-site rebootnik must venture out into the physical world and deal with actual people.
Dirty IT job No. 4: Interdepartmental peace negotiator
Cats and dogs, Democrats and Republicans, Martians and Venutians — they’re downright chummy compared to warring departments within many enterprises. Unfortunately, at some point they’ve got to pull together for the good of the company. That’s when you call in the negotiator to smooth ruffled feathers and break up the fights.
Dirty IT job No. 3: Enterprise espionage engineer (black ops)
Social engineer, con artist, penetration tester, or white hat hacker — whatever you call it, Jim Stickley has a dirty job that actually sounds like fun. As VP of engineering and CTO of TraceSecurity in Baton Rouge, La., Stickley gets to talk his way into a client’s offices, sneak into their datacenters, make off with the company’s vitals, then come back later to show them where their internal security broke down.
Dirty IT job No. 2: Datacenter migration specialist
Moving a datacenter is a dirty job. Moving one halfway across the country in 48 hours — that’s a really dirty job. But that was the task facing Scott Wilson and his firm, Marathon Consulting, when one of its clients needed to close down its Chicago datacenter the day before Thanksgiving 2003 and open for business in New York the following Monday.
Dirty IT job No. 1: Sludge systems architect
Sometimes dirty jobs are just that — dirty. These days, technology goes everywhere: oil rigs, pulp mills, sewage plants, you name it. Somebody’s gotta clean up the mess and keep the lights on.