System Administrators Report Optimism and Confidence, Survey Says
November 05, 2012
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SolarWinds released the results of a survey revealing that despite being saddled with increasing hours, responsibility and system complexity, systems administrators express surprisingly strong job satisfaction and high confidence for 2013.

These results are part of a wide-ranging survey of more than 400 US-based systems administrators, which was conducted last month in an effort to measure the evolving nature of this critical IT role. The survey results capture systems administrators' attitudes and preferences on both a personal and professional level, from their enjoyment and frustrations of their jobs to their favorite after-work hobbies and pop culture heroes.

A sample of some of the key findings includes:

- Rising job demands: Most systems administrators are feeling some level of increased pressure in their jobs, as reported by 85 percent of respondents. Contributing factors include more responsibility and demand on their time (reported by 90 percent of respondents), doing more with less (88 percent) and increased system complexity (88 percent). A wide majority are spending more time at work (88 percent), with nearly half (44 percent) indicating they spend a significant amount of their free time completing work tasks.

- Steady career satisfaction: But the increasing demands don't appear to be dampening the enthusiasm for their jobs. Seventy-one percent express some level of satisfaction with their careers, and only three percent do not enjoy their work. Moreover, they envision additional career path opportunities (75 percent) and are getting consistent training to gain new skills (58 percent).

- High company confidence: Sysadmins, as they are affectionately called, are fiercely loyal to their employers. While they see IT budgets staying flat, most feel 2013 will be a growth year to some degree for their companies (76 percent). Trust runs high in their IT department leadership (82 percent), and their senior/executive leadership (82 percent). As a result, sysadmins rarely switch jobs, with 50 percent reporting either 10-plus years with the same company (32 percent) or having never switched jobs at all in their careers (18 percent).

- Lacking broader appreciation: Outside of the IT department, sysadmins feel a bit misunderstood. A majority of sysadmins agree on some level that most of their company's employees don't understand what they do and the value they bring (71 percent). Fifty-six percent say they feel appreciated or highly appreciated, while 34 percent feel only somewhat appreciated and nine percent not at all appreciated.

- Job likes and dislikes: Sysadmins just want to be part of the solution. They get the most enjoyment out of solving problems (75 percent), helping users (62 percent) and thinking on their feet (52 percent). Notably fewer overall respondents expressed job frustrations, but two of the top three issues cited were money related, including too little pay (22 percent), increasing workloads and responsibilities (16 percent) and not enough budget (13 percent).

"It's encouraging to see the job satisfaction that systems administrators expressed in our survey, particularly in the face of mounting pressures to do more with less. That collective resiliency is critical for a group doing some of the most important and demanding work in their companies," said Kevin Thompson, President and CEO, SolarWinds. "Though they are often misunderstood, we make it our business to truly get them. In my book, sysadmins are the unsung IT leaders of the present and the future."

The survey also revealed several interesting tidbits about how systems administrators view themselves and what they enjoy in their free time, including:

- Who they are: Sysadmins also see themselves as friendly (94 percent), fun-loving (92 percent) and funny (91 percent). They are also a bit frugal with their money (79 percent), which might explain the compact car (26 percent) being their top vehicle of choice.

- What technology they use: A slim majority of sysadmins prefer Android phones (39 percent) over iPhones (32 percent) while 12 percent stick with the Blackberry. An overwhelming majority are PC users (84 percent) over Mac users (13 percent).

- What they watch: Star Trek (23 percent) rules the galaxy of all-time geek/sci-fi TV shows for sysadmins, followed by The Big Bang Theory (19 percent) and The X-Files (11 percent). But on the big screen, light sabers beat phasers as Star Wars (22 percent) ranked No. 1 in sci-fi movie franchises, with Star Trek (17 percent) and Lord of the Rings (17 percent) just behind.

- What video games they play: Their top all-time video game is Call of Duty (28 percent) played on an Xbox (23 percent), though nearly 20 percent don't consider themselves gamers at all.

- How they relax: Even away from work, 72 percent like to spend time surfing the web, and 29 percent even program for fun. Another 57 percent also love the great outdoors, and 32 percent like to participate in competitive sports. But the most popular free-time activity: just unwinding at home (72 percent).

The complete survey results can be found on SlideShare

An infographic on the data can be found on the SolarWinds Whiteboard blog

SolarWinds will be releasing additional survey data in the coming weeks on systems administrators in the UK and Australia.

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