Eric Searcy is the IT Infrastructure Manager at the Linux Foundation. Here he tells us how he got started as a sysadmin and at the Linux Foundation, describes his typical day at work, and shares his favorite sysadmin tools, among other things.
How long have you been a sys admin?
Eric Searcy: My first sysadmin job was in 2002, when I set up and began maintaining a Slackware Linux server as a Samba domain controller, file/print server, and DNS server for an office that had about a dozen Microsoft Windows 98 desktops.
When did you start at the Linux Foundation and how did you get the job?
I've been with the Linux Foundation for 3 years. John Hawley, who was managing kernel.org, knew me from the Oregon State University Open Source Lab [osuosl.org] and referred me when the IT Manager position opened up.
What do you do for the Linux Foundation? What's your specialty?
As the IT Infrastructure Manager, I am responsible for the design and architecture of the systems that power our core programs, like our Events and Training websites, as well as collaboration platforms for our workgroups. I also handle a lot of the actual setup work and maintenance for these services. My specialties are in web performance scaling, automation, security, and monitoring. I also am pretty good at faking being a DBA (database administrator). :-)
Will you describe a typical day at work for you?
I spend the majority of my time maintaining and improving our services, which includes updating or patching software, watching our monitoring systems for indications of bugs or capacity problems, and tuning things for more performance. When I’m not maintaining our existing services, I’m handling user support requests or working to set up new software platforms.
Pretty much everything comes back to typing at a command prompt or in a text editor for the majority of the day, though.
What's your favorite part of the job and why?
I love elegant solutions. Taking a complicated situation and transforming into something simple is a lot of fun for me. It can be a lot of work, and a seamless transformation from the former setup to the new setup can look more messy than how it started, but it’s a huge payoff in the end when you have a more robust, flexible infrastructure.
What is your nightmare scenario? How have you prepared for it?
Carpal tunnel. Aaagh!
What is your favorite sysadmin tool and how do you use it?
This is always a hard question for me. At the top of my list are probably Vim, rsync, Git, pt-query-digest, Drush, GNU Screen, GraphViz, and Valgrind. So many awesome tools out there.
The one thing I couldn't live without as a sysadmin, even if it's not exactly a tool, is regex (regular expressions). Mastering regex, especially a lot of the features of PCRE (Perl-compatible regular expressions), makes all sorts of tasks simpler, whether it's crunching web server logs to answer a one-off question about traffic or being able to quickly write complex URL redirections.
What's your favorite story about working at the Linux Foundation?
It wasn't even work related! Last year we had an employee team-building day at one of our conferences and had a competitive cooking competition. So much fun!!
What do you do for fun, in your spare time?
A big part of my life is being active in my church, where I serve as a deacon. I also enjoy cooking, landscaping, and social ballroom dancing, and my wife and I routinely host board-game nights with our friends.