There are two kinds of sysadmins in the world

I mentioned recently that in my experience there are two breeds of sysadmins: the long-hair and the short-hair.  I think we all can picture the long-hair breed.  They’re the stereotypical representation of sysadmins in the media: long hair (duh!), often bearded, generally overweight, sloppily-dressed, anti-social, addicted to caffeine.  Think Comic Book Guy from “The Simpsons”.  The lesser-known breed is the short-hair sysadmin. The short-hair has short hair (duh again!), generally no facial hair, professionally-dressed, often with military experience.

Although it might seem like these two breeds are polar opposites, they do have some traits in common.  Because they are still sysadmins, both breeds tend to see themselves as the rulers of their domains (interestingly, the short-hairs tend to be more flexible and accommodating to end-users).   Security incidents are seen as an unforgivable personal insult, so paranoia is a desirable trait. Though short-hairs are more likely to have a social life, both breeds are quite geeky and prone to obsess over technical details.

Now I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject, and these are my own personal observations.  Nonetheless, I can’t think of any sysadmins that I’ve come across that don’t fit generally into one of the two breeds.  Not every one fits in precisely, but close enough that there’s no question which breed he or she is.  What’s interesting is that these two breeds don’t seem to clash professionally, perhaps because the easiest way to earn a sysadmin’s respect is to have unquestionable technical skill.

3 thoughts on “There are two kinds of sysadmins in the world

  1. While I agree with most of this, occasionally these two breeds do clash. Often times the clashes occur due to the difference in end-user accommodations as you mentioned. A lot of the old UNIX-beard types tend to have more BOFH tendencies, and tend to fight to keep the user locked down instead of listening to their need.

    A big thing to keep in mind while listening to users: while their exact request may be unfeasible, ask them what they’re trying to accomplish. Often times you can find a way to help them, you just might have to take a different path to get there.

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