Today’s system administrators are wise to arm themselves with specialized technical skillsets, but sysadmins interact with people at least as much as they deal with systems, software, and security. Strong communication capabilities, problem solving, teamwork, and leadership skills are therefore not to be underestimated.
Communicate technical concepts to non-technical people
Solve problems quickly
Communicate with upper management
Not all people are equally proficient in these areas. In fact, as Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert, noted in speaking with Forbes: “Having good people radar is harder to teach than technical skills, but is a requisite.”
The good news is that solid training options are available to help you improve communications and people skills, including options specifically focused on IT and technical personnel. According to Allan Hoffman, an expert on tech jobs, taking a seminar or course is a good first choice for workers such as sysadmins who want to improve communications skills. “To excel as a technical professional, you need to learn how to communicate your ideas and work effectively with others,” he writes.
Global Knowledge offers a course called “Customer Communication Skills for IT Professionals,” with curriculum completed in two days. The class covers such topics as clearly communicating technical concepts to non-technical users, active listening, and conflict management strategies. Downloadable course details are available here.
The American Management Association offers a similar course, according to Hoffman. It has a three-day “Communication and Interpersonal Skills: A Seminar for Technical Professionals” course that has received good notices.
In “How Can Sysadmins Foster Better Employee Communication” Tim Mullahy notes that too much reliance on jargon can undermine a sysadmin’s communication effectiveness. “When discussing the details of a system update or scheduled downtime with non-IT employees, avoid using highly technical language,” he advises.
“Jargon could make you sound like you know what you’re talking about, but it can also teeter on the edge of talking down to people,” writes Fathom’s Caroline Bogart. “If someone doesn’t understand what you’re saying, they’re not going to feel very intelligent.”
Many of today’s sysadmins are directly involved with supporting the rollout and maintenance of cloud platforms and other complex projects. And, sysadmins with strong project management and collaboration skills are needed to help lead such efforts.
Project management for sysadmins is covered in the Sysadmin Casts series of podcasts. The basic methodology laid out in this podcast series has been used by sysadmins to coordinate complex, multi-month projects.
Many sysadmins also use specific project management and collaboration tools. Trello is an example of a popular collaboration-focused tool, and you can find others here. LibrePlan is a free, web-based project management application that sysadmins can leverage, and it is available in mobile versions.
In the final installment of our series, we’ll look at other open source ways to broaden your skills and examine the connection between open source experience and improved employment outcomes.
Learn more about essential sysadmin skills: Download the Future Proof Your SysAdmin Career ebook now.