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PAUL BOUTIN — What do those guys in Operations do all day? You can never get your systems administrator's help when you need it. That's because you haven't figured out how to grease the skids: Say hello, fill out the paperwork, and never forget the sysadmin's secret super power.No one sets out to be a professional systems administrator — do you ever see kids wearing toy pagers playing sysadmin? For those fluent with computers but uninterested in writing huge software programs, it's a pretty good job. Except for the part where they have to deal with you. Treat your admin accordingly, and you'll find your PC mysteriously runs better than anyone else's.

  • Say hello. Even when you don't need something. You say a big Hi to the pretty lady at the front desk every time you pass. Why not treat the tech guy the same? Sure, he doesn't say anything back. Don't be fooled. Sysadmins are like cats — he won't acknowledge you, but he's mentally keeping score.
  • Don't question what he does all day. Systems administrators are like firemen and cops. If you don't have a couple of bored ones hanging around, you'll be sorry when there's an emergency.
  • Fill out the stupid request form or other idiotic bureaucratic formality every time the printer jams. If you go directly to Joe Admin for help without putting a request in the system, you'll eventually get him fired. The CEO asks the department head for an automated help desk report to justify headcount, and see? What does that guy do all day? He doesn't even say hi.
  • Treat everything he does as a favor. Like most first-responder jobs, sysadmin is a career cul-de-sac — the only way out is to become, ugh, a manager. Let him savor the delusion that everyone envies his gig in Operations because he's got all the root passwords and triple-encrypted card keys to the server room.
  • Never forget: He can read your mail.

Paul Boutin is a former systems administrator.