Barry Roomberg on Sun, 14 Oct 2001 18:50:11 +0200

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[PLUG] Employment interview issues

Right now I'm interviewing for a Unix sysadmin.
This person would be in charge (or at least responsible for)
about 10 Solaris systems, 8TB of storage,
a dozen Linux boxes, and a hell of a cabling
mess.  They'd have a jr sysadmin (tape monkey,
novice shell/perl scripter) who works for them
part time.  They have a small user community,
because most of the systems are servicing
very few people, but it is a critical position.

The network portion of the job really is interfacing
with the networking staff, but it helps if you
can understand what is going on and why during 

Ability to script (or steal) monitoring commands
to centralize all logs and notices would be critical.

If you say:  I'm an administrator, not a programmer,
so I don't need perl or awk, or bash scripting, you
really have no idea what administrating a bunch of
Unix systems is about.  99% of your job should be
automated to the point you are reading manuals or
magazines for a living.

If you don't know about redirection, pipes, and signals, get
out NOW!  Same with the difference between STDIN, 

Ability not to crack under pressure is a real issue.  No
matter how good you are, if you can't communicate during
critical moments you can't do the job.

Ability to say "I don't know" and do some research, as
opposed to "Maybe this will work" and kill  the system, 
or "I don't know" so it's not my problem.

Ability to learn by reading and playing.  There will almost
always be some serious hardware around to learn on, but
since we are a production environment for most of the 
boxes, you need to realize some boxes can NEVER be
"played" on.

Ability to recognize that if you had to ask the same question
3 times, and you pretended to understand it the 2nd time, you
are probably in the wrong career.

Key technical areas are:

	Sun SPARC, Intel/AMD PCI based Linux
	systems, ethernet (100 and GB), fibrechannel, scsi, 
	many tape systems, switches, routers, large disk
Unix/Solaris/Linux -
	ability to determine what is running,
	how much memory, disk, cpu it is taking,
	what systems it is communicating with,
	what resources it is utlizing.  

Other goodies:  Veritas, Oracle, Apache, secure shell,

Note:  The above list'o'stuff encompasses a HUGE
amount of commands and areas.  Knowledge of
top,ps, df, du, iostat, lsof, netstat, route, ping, who, snoop,
ifconfig, tar, cpio, dump, mt, etc, etc, etc.

This is a senior position.  Senior means that while you
don't have to know everything, you have to know enough
to figure the rest out.

The reason I started this "spiel" was I saw someone talking
about interview questions.  One of the ONLY was to really
determine if a person knows what they are talking about is
to run something like "netstat -rn" or "mount" or "ps -ef"
or  "iostat -Mnx 5 454545", print it out, and ask:

What command created this?
Explain in detail what each bit means.
Tell me when you'd use it and why.

The key issue is there is no open ended fuzzy BS questions.
Weed out the BS artists quickly.

If you don't know, admit it and then I'll let you attempt to
figure it out based on the context of what you see, but admit
you are guessing.  Hell, I wouldn't mind if you requested a 
session to run the 'man' command in the middle of an interview,
at least it shows you know how to look things up in the manual.

Imagine the interview I had a few days ago.  Guy had the most
AMAZING resume'.  Coded for AT&T in the early days,  and
had lots of recent "high quality" admin time for a variety of
Solaris systems.  He could not remember 1 Unix command, thought that 
the output go the "netstat -rn" command was my "/etc/hosts" file,
and thought he should have 4 full time jr sysadmins to run 12 small
Sun boxes (420s and 450s).  It was painful.

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