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What is it like to be a Systems Administrator at a large company?

Many of you understand the feeling of panic that flashes through your body when your computer screen freezes at work.  AHHHH!  The presentation you spent the last 2 days on has vanished!  The screen goes grey and you have a meeting with your boss in 1 hour to discuss an impending promotion.  These moments of panic are often converted into sighs of relief thanks to the person commonly known as the "IT guy."  Want to learn more about what these office heroes do on a daily basis and how they got where they are today?  I did just that.

I sat down with James Guigayoma, a Systems Administrator for a global software company, to learn more about the steps he has taken to land his current role as a company-renowned technology superhero.

1.  Which academic credentials do you currently have?   What is your current occupation?

Bachelors of Science: Computer Information Systems

Current Occupation: Systems Administrator

2.   What is the "day in the life" of an Information Systems Manager?

I divide my time between users, support systems, and asset management.  Some days lean more towards telecom spend spreadsheets, some days are spent upgrading server software, and some days I train users on how to effectively use a piece of technology.  The key to having a productive day as a systems administrator is using your ability to maneuver between tasks to make sure there are systems and processes that enable optimal amount of time spent on each situation.

3.  What do you like about your job? What is difficult about it?

I like knowing that what I do allows people do what they are supposed to.  Corporate productivity is reliant on computers and their systems.  Emails need to be sent and received; presentations, documents, spreadsheets, databases, and programs all need to be presented, created, and manipulated.  Successfully completing these tasks requires me to make sure that this technology is available, that it works, and that it adds value.

What's difficult? You can't make everyone happy.  There's a hierarchy with IT/IS. While everyone thinks their specific, department, project or personal technological issue is the most urgent, there is always someone and/or something that takes priority.  The difficulty is in the juggling of time and resources.

4.  What strategy did you use to find a job after earning your degree in Information Systems? Did you network, look online for jobs, work through your school? 

I went online to answer ads and looked for open positions.  I sent wave after wave of resumes in both soft and hard copy.  I also signed up with recruiters, networked with my fellow grads, and went to every job fair I knew about.  It's the typical blitzkrieg approach to job hunting.  I got my current position from a recruiter.

5.  Have you or anyone you know taken online classes?  What do you think about online education? For someone who wants to specialize in Information Systems, do you think an online degree program is ideal?

I have friends and colleagues who have taken online classes and have completed their electronic education.

IT/IS professionals understand the value in online education and its ability to provide primary/extended/continued education without having to worry about personal and/or professional constraints.   IT/IS professionals also understand that having the technical skill and knowledge matters more than where it is attained; online degrees are only as good as their ability to provide the same level of education but in a more convenient, more accessible form.

 6.  Has the recession affected the demand for IT professionals like you? How in demand is your position?

There is always a demand for skilled IT professionals, but I think the emphasis has moved from hiring specific skill sets to hiring those with that same skill set, along with skills in an additional area.

 7.  Do you use a lot of the skills you learned in your degree program on a daily basis at your job? Or is it more of a "learn as you go" after you earn your Information Systems degree.

An Information Systems degree prepares you to solve problems and to find the best method or process to obtain the objectives.  You have to have an underlying understanding of the technologies used to solve technical problems.  That's what I do--solve problems using technology.  Where the "learn as you go" aspect comes in is learning then understanding the differences between technologies and the differences in the solutions, as they are introduced.

8.  Which characteristics do you think a successful IT professional/Information Systems manager must possess?

IT/IS professionals  and managers must be analytical and have the ability to think laterally.  You have to have the ability to assess the situation and come up with what's needed.  Keep in mind that sometimes problems aren't solved by the technology itself, but by how that technology is used.

Connect with James Guigayoma on LinkedIn.