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Combining software development and sysadmin

After reading Joel's comments about his backup issues, I got to thinking:

"Is it bad to combine the position of a software developer and a system administrator?"

In this case splitting a developers time betwen writing good code, and installing/configuring servers, upgraging computers, etc. 50/50-ish.

Clearly if you are in a very small shop, you're probably going to have to have at least one person do some of both. I can also see that developing in a vaccuum (without some practical knowlege of the hardware, and systems that you're working with) can be detrimental. However, when does that cross the line?

How big can a shop be, before you start requiring a dedicated system administrator?

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

"Is it bad to combine the position of a software developer and a system administrator?"

Well, if you don't mind that your software developer/sysadmin almost never gets to write code, is never able to be efficient during those rare moments when they are writing code, finds this situation to be infuriating, and would readily jump at the chance to go work for somebody else, then no.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

In my experience, programmers are fire and motion... don't back anything up unless you have to, and it should be automatic anyway.

Not exactly the kind of person you want ensuring you back everything up carefully.
Tuesday, January 20, 2004


How come you know me?

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

I was in such a position, it was hard, inefficient and frustrating.

My main task was a programmer, and of a large, important chunk of the system (Firewall/NAT). My second task was Network Security Admin. The tasks are kinda related, in one I was writing firewall code and the other made me write firewall rules (as well as VPN).

I felt that the NSA part was left unattended most of the time, unless an emergency came up and then I'd leave my programming tasks which usually were important too. My programming job was in high priority most of the time, Not a dull moment, so the NSA part was a bit left off.

The end result was frustration on my side for a job not well done, even though I was patted on the back for my good time management.

If the programming environment is that of a constant high priority combining it with SysAdmin is not a good idea, if the environment allows for highs and lows it might be combinable. I didn't try yet, and my previous experience made me decline the opportunity to also be a part time SysAdmin early on with my new employer.

Baruch Even
Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Having to do both at once pretty much is what my current position is.

I manage by dedicating 2-3 hours a day to developpement. For this portion of the day, I go in a quiet office, and don't answer to any mail while the coding is in progress. If an emergency comes by while i'm at it, the right people know the number of said office and give me a call.

The rest of the time, I'm available for all administrator tasks, process mail requests, etc.

It's closer to doing two part times that doing both at once, but it's been working fine up till now.

I wouldn't dream about coding and doing support at the same time. In any busy office you'd go mad in a week from the frustration of being interrupted all the time.

Renaud Martinon
Tuesday, January 20, 2004

My current job lists me as Sr. Web Developer, but on any given day it might as well be Sr. Web Administrator also, as I'm responsible for the server architecture on which  everything runs.

I wind up doing mostly quick apps written for IT purposes, and code review for apps targetting other business functions - not time for much else.

Name Withheld
Tuesday, January 20, 2004

I do a fair amount of sysadmin work for web services, and it is decent diversion.  Today someone asked me to install a cacheing DNS server for the company LAN.  I just told them, "sorry, no time."

web service developer
Tuesday, January 20, 2004

if you are a (good) "web programmer" is it possible to be a software developer who doesn't do any sysadmin work?

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

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