37signals is looking to hire a System Administrator Jason 17 Aug 2006

25 comments Latest by Gerrit

It’s time for us to hire our first dedicated System Administrator. Please see our job posting and get in touch if you think you’re the one. Passion, motivation, and optimism are especially important to us. We look forward to hearing from you.

25 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Matt Lee 17 Aug 06

Says ‘Location: Anywhere’ - what’s the deal with employing people from say, the UK? Is that going to be a problem?

Michal Migurski 17 Aug 06

I humbly submit that just like lawyers, a good sysadmin is a pessimistic sysadmin. Their job is to predict problems, worry about worst-case scenarios, and plan for them defensively. The best sysadminds I know are cynics and pessimists. You don’t want a sunny personality who sees the good in every situation in charge of your backup schedule. =)

Anywhere 17 Aug 06

Yes, does “Anywhere” mean you are paying for relocation, or the job is entirely telecommuting?

Rob 17 Aug 06

Did you pay yourselves to post that listing?

JF 17 Aug 06

Yes, does “Anywhere” mean you are paying for relocation, or the job is entirely telecommuting?

Telecommuting. The UK isn’t a problem — David worked with us from Denmark for 3 years.

Bill P 17 Aug 06

cough cough *Jason Hoffman from Textdrive.com* cough cough…

RS 17 Aug 06

You don’t want a sunny personality who sees the good in every situation in charge of your backup schedule.

Yes we do want a sunny personality. The fact that someone is happy does not mean they make bad decisions.

Rabbit 17 Aug 06

Yes we do want a sunny personality. The fact that someone is happy does not mean they make bad decisions.

Thank you for saying that. :)

Joe Ruby 17 Aug 06

Just curious — how many boxen are currently involved?

JF 17 Aug 06

Joe, this is covered in the job posting.

Mike 17 Aug 06

For someone new to managing open source networks, what resources/books would people recommend? I’m really interested in virtualization via Xen, which is what’s driving my interest. Any advice?

Chris Busse 17 Aug 06

Damn, now I am *really* kicking myself for not sticking with the *nix sys admin and HA networking stuff I was doing 5 years ago. Oh well, it would have probably meant working for a large credit card processing company or insurance company after the dot-bomb.

As for not wanting a sunny personality in a sys admin, many of the deeply cynical sysadmins I have worked with over the years have a very black and white view of things that often doesn’t take into acount the reality of certain business needs.

The ones who do have the sunny personality often do so because they have CONFIDENCE that they know what they’re doing and don’t need to be cynical about the backup schedule because they know they set it up right and they’re also doing test restores and know their data is safe.

matt 17 Aug 06

Mike:

There is nothing really different between open source networks and closed source networks. You still need all the basics of:

How OSes work
How networks work
Storage basics
How to troubleshoot (probably most important skill you’ll need)

Sadly, even though there are good sysadmin books, you really just need to get in there and get your hands dirty. I’d probably recommend the following as decent building blocks:

Computer Networks (tanenbaum)
Modern Operating Systems (tanenbaum)
Unix for the impatient (abrahams / larson)

These are some decent theory with some application (unix for the impatient). In reality the real application is probably best by going through some of the basics on a pair of play boxes. Maybe go through the armadillo book (from oreilly) and play around on these boxes setting up and fiddling with them. Try setting up some fun things (mysql, apache, app servers, modifying your kernel, set up routing, dns, email, create some of your own packages, networking, etc.) These are things that SAs do on a daily basis often.

Of course, 14 boxes isn’t really nasty. On the plus side, whoever does this gets the chance to start from things fairly fresh and can actually *gasp* maybe do things right in a manner such that growth can be easier (planning proactively….using a model-based approach, etc.).

Mike 17 Aug 06

Thanks, Matt. It is a bit intimidating coming from the Windows world. But I’ll check out those books.

Joe 18 Aug 06

If someone applies from say, the UK, would you expect them to be available (i.e. online) for a set number of core hours each day (presumably any core hours would be CDT as well) and provide 24x7 out of hours support?

Ryan 18 Aug 06

… but the applicant should realize—at 37signals, a Sysadmin is not just a sysadmin. This sysadmin will be expected to answer support mails, write documentation, develop key parts of the code base, and work with marketing as well.

Because at 37signals—everybody does everything.

Ryan 18 Aug 06

… but the applicant should realize—at 37signals, a Sysadmin is not just a sysadmin. This sysadmin will be expected to answer support mails, write documentation, develop key parts of the code base, and work with marketing as well.

Because at 37signals—everybody does everything.

DHH 18 Aug 06

Thanks for brining that up, Ryan. Because its true :). It’s important that everyone in the company are willing to do what needs to be done. Some times that’s dealing with a support request, or sharing something about our setup that you’ve learned (blogging, marketing through sharing), or fix performance issues or systems integration right in the apps.

We sure don’t need anyone who considers themselves too good for any of these tasks.

Jake 18 Aug 06

It’s too bad you’re not looking for someone with limited technical experience and a lot of enthusiasm. I’d love to work for 37signals.

Joe Ruby 18 Aug 06

Any hints on the compensation? Dental, health, 401K, six-figure salary, months of paid vacation time, pre-IPO stock options, guaranteed ride on Jeff Bezos’ space ship, …?

Gerrit 19 Aug 06

Jake -

I share your sentiment - I would love to be part of 37s. I currently manage one server (web/app hosting for a few clients) but I’ve never done/had the opportunity to do much cluster work.

But you can’t expect a company to want to hire someone with limited experience and, for all intents and purposes, conduct on-the-job training no matter how enthusiastic we are! It’s nice to dream, though…

Geoff B 21 Aug 06

Following the thread from Jake and Gerrit…. so how do you get experience doing cluster work? I’m not a sysadmin, I’m a dev, so my situation is different (in a dev interview, the statement “I haven’t had the opportunity to use Java/Ruby/Perl/…” tends raise a flag, as devs can almost always just download a compiler for free and have at it). But server and/or db clustering experience still seems to be one of those areas where you actually do need to “have the opportunity” to learn - ie., you can’t just get at the material on your own and learn it. Any suggestions on how to get into this from the outside?

Mark Imbriaco 21 Aug 06

Geoff,

I think maybe the best method for getting your feet wet, assuming you don’t have some old machines you can just install Linux on, might be to use VMware Player along with the Virtual Appliances they have available.

You could setup a virtual network and play with all kinds of configurations. You won’t get a broad exposure to different hardware configurations, but it’s definitely a great way for you to start poking around with things.

Take a look at http://www.vmware.com/vmtn/appliances/

Mark Imbriaco 21 Aug 06

I hate replying to myself, but …

Thinking about it a little more, if you’re serious about learning I would encourage you to get a full version of VMware (or Parallels if you’re on an Intel Mac) so that you can actually do the installs yourself rather than having to rely on the canned appliances. You can learn a lot from the appliances, but it’s worth the effort to do the installation yourself and see all of the options that are available.

Gerrit 21 Aug 06

I’ve tried the VMware solution and I just don’t like it, it’s a personal preference thing - I hate emulation. I’ve started to collect some older computers to stick linux on and hopefully sooner than later can have a nice small lab that I can mess around with.

But I still feel that, despite whatever I may be able to teach myself in my own lab, it is no substitute for real world experience. You just can’t reproduce real-world problems, configurations, experiences, etc well enough in a lab to learn much than how to configure x y and z - but that doesn’t help you learn whether x, y and z are any good.

I suppose, to reply to Geoff, the only way that one would gain experience with clusters would be to start as an entry-level sys-admin position and go through all the steps.

I, however, have little interest in going to work for a large company to do that as smaller companies (like 37s) aren’t understandably going to want to spend (or have) the capital to hire both an experienced sys-admin and an inexperienced one.

In summary, I guess I feel there is no substitute for real world experience, but I feel unless you go to work for a larger company, you’re going to have trouble finding sys-admin positions at smaller companies (unless you get in on the ground floor). And I for one, have had my fill of large companies.

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