Graybeard sysadmin asks what job stones I'm still leaving unturned
November 8, 2016 1:30 PM   Subscribe

Fellow sysadmins of MeFi, I chose the wrong year to be out sick then stuck in a wheelchair. Please describe the toolkit and read me the runbook for 'every freakin' thing I can do to get back to work ASAP'

Those of you with jobs you hate or are bored with, I'd love to trade with you!

Graybeard Linux/Unix sysadmin in Silicon Valley. Former rockstar software developer in the minicomputer/character-cell days. You can see me over at MeFi Jobs. Used to be highly regarded as a sysadmin, both FTE and contract . Never used to be short of work, though rarely directly involved web dev or web ops.

Got sick a while back. Boy did I pick the wrong year to recuperate. And I'm stuck in a wheelchair for the near-to-medium term - no racking/stacking etc.

I need to get back to work. ASAP. Now. I've taught myself a whole bunch of current tools/languages. I'm waiting for a job offer from more than one employer, but they are taking their sweet time.

How specifically would you move forward if you were me? How do I close the sale on a DevOps position with my relatively limited web experience? If I move into web dev (Linux on my dev laptop), what tools/ides should I be using and when will I know I can charge for my work? I know about LinkedIn, Craigslist, OldGeekJobs, Indeed, Flexjobs; avoiding Monster, Dice and BrassRing -- any other job/gig sites (disaabled-oriented too)? How hard and persistently do I approach friends and business contacts? When I have gingerly reached out to a coouple of business contacts, they have so far not responded for whatever reason. Any online support groups?

(On preview, another Ask has some good tips for improving my LinkedIn profile; SimplyHired just shows me a blank webpage - help appreciated; didn't know about Glassdoor and Jobserv; and I know about AskAManager - I'm looking for more SV+Sysdmin specific help)

To put it bluntly, fellow sysadmins of MeFi, please describe the toolkit and read me the runbook for 'every freakin' thing I can do to get back to work'...
posted by zaixfeep to Work & Money (13 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Corrections: s/SimplyHired/GettingHired/ ; s/disaabled/disabled/
posted by zaixfeep at 1:37 PM on November 8, 2016

For search, check out Who Is Hiring, AngelList,, and Don't underestimate the value of a good recruiter (e.g.). Post projects to github and refer to them in your resume. For support groups, look for appropriate Slack communities and subreddits.
posted by caek at 2:19 PM on November 8, 2016

I'm not a sysadmin -- just a legal assistant with a strong IT bent -- but have you checked out Hacker News, especially the monthly "who's hiring" post? Also, have you looked for Facebook groups and/or LinkedIn groups that meet your demographics?

There are also resources out there -- I cannot immediately get the Google magic right, but others no doubt can -- which allow you to think about other careers you can use your skillset for. You might want to investigate those career suggestions if you are not having luck with your current searches.

Sorry, not fantastic help, I know, but maybe a little useful.
posted by WCityMike at 2:22 PM on November 8, 2016

High level thoughts:

- I'd think that with the increasing virtualization and use of cloud platforms, your current inability to shlep hardware should be less of a factor than the old days. I think there's lots of potential remote gigs out there - a lot of startups using Amazon AWS, for example, and without a strong admin background on someone's part AWS is NOT a recipe for success, as my own company learned the hard way when we were dabbling in self-hosting (we got better, i.e. that hurt so we stopped doing it).

- not that you should hide your (current) limitations, but again with the virtualization and remote positions out there - I think there's a lot of work you could pick up where they wouldn't even need to know. I'd just approach the job search without thinking about it too much. Obviously if the job is IN a data center and you've got to BE there, that changes things a lot (transportation plus what you can do once you get there).

- how hard and persistently? I'd be contacting everybody I knew. You've got to know a lot of people; I'd be talking to every single one of them I trusted to help me. What have you got to lose? I think we worry too much about the etiquette of all this. It becomes like a sales process; many will (as you found out) not respond, but likely that's because they have no ideas. You haven't done anything wrong.

- I'm thinking about startups/business incubators -- the ones I know about are often willing to think outside the box because they need part time help and/or have small budgets. Is there any sort of startup space in your area? Maybe introduce yourself and offer to do a bit of consulting to some of their tenants on a contract basis?

I couldn't find you on the MF jobs page. You seem to have MeFi mail disabled; if you can change that and MeFi mail me, I have a specific suggestion for a company I know hires remote devops guys.
posted by randomkeystrike at 2:43 PM on November 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was a sysadmin for the early part of my career. I haven't done that work for a while, but I work closely with a lot of sysadmins and managers thereof. I know that we have a really hard time hiring DevOps people and pay them a lot (more than we pay standard software engineers). I don't know if I'd say lack of "web" experience is a huge issue, but I guess it depends on how you define that. We need people who know about stuff like Chef, Docker, Kubernetes, monitoring tools, the core AWS stuff (ec2, ELBs, RDS, etc.) and so on. Getting yourself up to speed on some subset of that would make you much more marketable.
posted by primethyme at 2:45 PM on November 8, 2016

Response by poster: FYI: My job listing
posted by zaixfeep at 3:03 PM on November 8, 2016

Have you looked into systems level programming for an "internet of things" type company? I've seen a few postings here and there that seem to demand a lot more unix and low-level networking knowledge to integrate with custom hardware. If I were you I would try to put my core skill sets in a different context instead of trying to convince people you can work on a different skill set.
posted by deathpanels at 3:19 PM on November 8, 2016

Response by poster: My MeMail should now show as enabled.
posted by zaixfeep at 3:20 PM on November 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have no idea of this translates to your industry, but when I graduated nursing school there were no jobs for new grads (my industry waxes and wanes this way). I went in person to literally every hospital, nursing home, cancer center, dialysis center, etc I could find locally, and asked to speak to a manager. I asked if I could just have a brief conversation about what they're looking for, and how I can best prepare to get hired there in the future. I left resumes and collected business cards.

Once my local hospital started hiring, I had a real person to contact there (that manager's business card) and I emailed her and and let her know I'd applied and that I was very excited and hopeful. She spoke on my behalf to the hiring committee and I was hired into a competitive new grad program and still work for the same institution several years later.

Perhaps this exact script won't work for you, but the lesson I got is to be extremely assertive and outgoing and talk to every single person I could and then follow up with them later. It might feel annoying, but it worked for me.
posted by latkes at 3:28 PM on November 8, 2016

I agree with primethyme. Rack-and-stack knowledge is useful, but learning how various cloud providers work is a lot more marketable these days. AWS and Azure are the two biggies. Get fluent in metrics-based-monitoring and containerization technologies (both PaaS and DIY aka container services and docker cli) and you're most of the way there.

I'd also recommend that you talk up knowledge of obscura when you're interviewing. Being proficient in new technologies is good, but many places don't have anyone who can accomplish designing routing tables, or knowing how DNS really works, or many other things that were once bread-and-butter but are now seen as arcane.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 3:29 PM on November 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

As for specific hunting recommendations, don't discount SFBA Meetup events. There's a monthly Docker users' meetup, for example.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 3:33 PM on November 8, 2016

I assume you know about Hacker News ( They do a hiring thread on the first of every month, silicon valley is well represented. Also, it's good to read about what's topical in software and startups. Might be able to do some networking in comments, etc.

Here is the November hiring thread.

Also, some of the listing are remote. That seems like it could work really well for you.


Good luck!
posted by TomFoolery at 3:54 PM on November 8, 2016

I would focus your resume on the Docker/Ansible/Python/Nagios stack of technologies, all of which are still actively in use, and round it out with side project experience on top of AWS and possibly running ELK stacks for log analysis. There is still very much a market for DevOps, but the biggest thing missing from your background is experience with cloud and cloud-adjacent technologies.

For the AWS leaning, I've heard good things about this site but I haven't used it myself:
posted by asphericalcow at 11:24 PM on November 8, 2016

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