Don Jones

Tech | Career | Musings

I was a SysOp.

In the 1980s, I helped run the BBS for TCUG, the Tidewater Commodore Users’ Group. It ran on a C-64, and ran ColorBBS. I was a SysOp again in my first IT job, which was night-shift AS/400 Operator. I ran backups, mainly. Mmm, mag tape.

But sometime in the late 1980s and early 1990s, “SysOp” became not a term anymore. We were “Network Engineers” all of a sudden, which sounded awesome. I mean, actual engineers with degrees eventually got annoyed and started putting the kibosh on that term, but it was great while it lasted.

These days, Microsoft refers to us as “IT Pros,” which is a little insulting to Developers, who are apparently not professionals. A lot of people at Pluralsight refer to the space as just, “IT,” which is also a little silly, since software development, data science, and other fields are quite clearly Information Technology as well. Officially, we use “IT Ops” to describe the space occupied by people who are often known as “System Administrators.” SysAdmin is an okay substitute for SysOp, I suppose, although it sounds a bit like you spend a lot of time scheduling meetings and getting coffee.

Of course, now we’ve got DevOps Engineers, which is fantastic on the one hand, and alarming on the other, since it suggests the employer has no idea what DevOps is. “SysOp who creates solutions that support a DevOps environment” is probably too long for business cards, though, and at least we got “engineer” back, right?

Some of us are “Specialists.” Server Support Specialist, for example. Others of us are “Technicians.” Server Technician. Both of those sound a little lame. Even a little medical, like a Dental Technician. Specialist in particular is just so vague.

I wish we could be SysOps again.

What’re you?

17 thoughts on “Remember “SysOp?”

  1. Till late last week i was a Cloud Administrator… next one not sure Cloud Engineer.. maybe PFE? who knows 🙂

  2. Joey says:

    Systems / platform engineer.

    1. Don Jones says:

      Platform! Fancy!

  3. burtd667 says:

    Data Center Operations Engineer… Put that on a card.

    1. Don Jones says:

      DaCeOp doesn’t have quite the ring…

  4. matthew grossman says:

    Network Engineer > Systems Engineer > Cloud Engineer > now Identity Architect (meaning I’m the only one that can answer an AD question. No, not Azure AD, the one true ADDS).

  5. bklyngyinfl says:

    Network Engineer > System Engineer > Cloud Engineer > now Identity Architect (meaning I’m the only one who knows where the FSMOs are).

  6. I’ve moved between some variation of System Admin and/or System Engineer. With a father that has a PhD in Engineering from MIT the “Engineer” tag always seemed to have a reaching or phony quality too it. That title did promote some amount of incredulity from Pops. Though I appreciate the idea that it conveys building something as apposed to merely having authority over it.

    It seems system is the more perennial term (system op, system admin, system engineer).I kind of approach it these days more from the “Systems” point of view. I think in more rudimentary terms where a system is defined through “input, processing, and output”, not merely a server. Whether that system is a delivery pipeline, an automation workflow, or a hybrid cloud environment. Systems today are more then just a mash of tickets, admin rights, and servers. Its the pets vs cattle argument, for titles. Do you want to be seen as the cowhand or the rancher?

  7. Michael Stoica says:

    Production Infrastructure Engineer

  8. majst32 says:

    Technology Architect

  9. Missy (@majst32) says:

    Technology Architect

  10. Steve Cain says:

    I was a SysOp for 10 years, ran a 2 line PCBoard system at home and still have the hardware stored away. Those skills I learned led to my first IT job. Currently a Sr. SysAdmin working on my PowerShell/DevOps/Cloud skills even though not needed at my current job. But things always changing in IT!

  11. jwilhlemi2 says:

    It has always depended upon my audience. Sysop being the first (c-64 bbs sysop) then came electronics Technician, followed by dba application engineer. Onward to software developer then to project manager. Finally Systems Administrator.

  12. brendan62269 says:

    jack-of-all-master-of-none

  13. Ummar says:

    Im a Senior Software Engineer @ BankofAmerica

  14. Ray Ebersole says:

    Until Friday I was a System Administrator. With the promotion I got by accepting a new position I am now a “System Administrator Coordinator – Virtualization & District Applications”. So, that means I coordinate a few other SysAdmins with our virtual environment and all District Applications whether virtual or physical.

  15. sumdog says:

    While in University I was a student lab admin. When you installed the desktop edition of RedHat (now Fedora) it created an anaconda kickstart file. You could put that on a boot floppy, tack on your commands to the end, and it would auto-install Redhat and run your commands in the chroot environment. I had scripts that would mount a remote share and install all our custom packages. Cron jobs kept all the machines in sync and up to date.

    I used that very same process at my first job where we used a bunch of Linux terminals for a call centre. Long before Puppet, CFEngine and Ansible, I has shell scripts that were essentially doing “devops” type provisioning.

    Creating infrastructure with code is not a new concept, it’s just got a new fancy name.

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