Who’s more important to a business? The Sysadmin (System Administrator) or the CEO?
To answer that hard-hitting question, and to celebrate System Administrator Appreciation Day 2022, I spoke to PaperCut CEO, co-founder, and former Sysadmin, Chris Dance on the Print Geeks podcast.
For those unfamiliar with the story of our founder… Chris came up with the idea for what would become PaperCut 24+ years ago. He was working as a part-time Sysadmin for Parkdale Secondary College. And an overflowing recycling bin of abandoned printouts inspired Chris to work on a bit of code to stop print waste.
Those 5 lines of code then became PaperCut Software. Today, we’re an industry-leading solutions vendor in the print management space.
But we’ve never forgotten our humble roots. And we’ve never forgotten the importance of the Sysadmin.
In our humble opinion, Sysadmins make the world go round. Not only do we create software with the humble Sysadmin in mind. But many of our PaperCutters were once Sysadmins themselves!
Inspired by my chat with Chris, and as part of this year’s Sysadmin Day festivities, I reached out to some of PaperCutters former Sysadmins for insights on their glory days.
As a kid did you dream of becoming a Sysadmin one day?
“No. Working in an office with a computer was the last thing I wanted to do. It came about because I was waiting tables at a pizza restaurant at the ski resort. The IT department was the first full-time opening that came available. I ended up loving the challenge of getting things to work and solving a new puzzle every day.” - Aaron Pouliot, Senior Technical Support Engineer
“No, it was an accident. The IT supervisor was on holiday when the new accounting system arrived (a small IBM AS/400) and they asked me, as the most experienced developer, to get it bedded in. It turned into a full-time job.” - Alec Clews, Developer Advocate
“I always had a fascination with automating repetitive or mundane actions that I saw people doing on computers. And I just kept doing that until I dropped out of high school and decided to do that for a living.” - Josh Hancox, Product Engineer
Tell me a little bit about your Sysadmin days… what did you love about it?
“I loved automating stuff. I didn’t love the overnighters when everything was down and not coming back up.” - Geoff Smith, Distinguished Product Engineer
“Tinkering with kit I could not afford.” - **Alec Clews, **Developer Advocate****
What was your most rewarding challenge as a Sysadmin?
“Automating user on-boarding and off-boarding experiences. It used to take hours and many hundreds of clicks to provision a laptop and set up a user account. I got the process down to minutes by creating a spreadsheet that would generate the PowerShell commands for me to do everything.” - Aaron Pouliot, Senior Technical Support Engineer
“Collectively figuring out the absolute weirdest things tech could throw at you. One comes to mind in a legal firm. A printer was randomly printing black specks/lines on paper between 2-4 pm for 2-3 weeks. And only between 2-4 pm.
“After many parts being replaced, we moved the printer into the IT room to test, and the next day it would print fine. We moved it back to where it lived, and it started printing black lines again. We then moved it to another room, and it started working fine - so we decided that’s where the printer lived now.
“The HP tech at the time I was working with called me super excited. He said he was so confused with the problem, that he went digging internally. He found that on THIS specific model, there was a defect where light could get onto the drum unit at the right angle and print black specks. It turned out, that 2-4 pm was when the sun beamed into that specific office where it lived!
“We put a computer tower in between where the printer was, and the window… Lo and behold, it started printing just fine after that!” - **Josh Hancox, Product **Engineer****
In a world without Sysadmins, what happens?
“Have you ever seen Jurassic Park? That. From a sysadmin perspective, the entire movie is about an organization’s catastrophe because they relied on a single developer to manage everything. The catastrophe could have been avoided if they had a sysadmin to implement backup and recovery procedures, and change control policies, documentation.” - Aaron Pouliot, Senior Technical Support Engineer
“Nothing. Literally.” - Geoff Smith, Distinguished Product Engineer
“Un-integrated chaos.” **- Josh Hancox, Product **Engineer****
Who’s the Sysadmin and why in Star Wars?
“R2-D2. He safeguards and transmits important data, manages access systems to open doors, and fixes the hyperdrive without being asked. Without his remote support, the first movie might have ended with the heroes getting squashed in a garbage compactor.” - Aaron Pouliot, Senior Technical Support Engineer
“Han Solo. He’s a small startup and has to be his own admin.” **- Alec Clews, **Developer Advocate****
Wishing all Sysadmins out there a Happy Sysadmin Day!
Tune in to the Print Geeks podcast to hear our CEO’s take on some of the above and other topics. He also answers the burning question, “Who is more important to a business, the sysadmin, or the CEO?”