Last Friday was Sysadmin Day (or, System Administrator Appreciation Day in full form), an annual day of recognition for hard working sysadmins. It was created by sysadmin Ted Kekatos in 2009 after being inspired by an HP ad promoting LaserJet 400 printers where a sysadmin was celebrated by colleagues. For context and the full story, check out this 2011 interview with Ted by Spicehead Nic Tolstoshev.
We’ve acknowledged the day in various ways over the years to try to get more folks out there thanking their resident sysadmins for keeping them up and running all year long. Although I’m not going to go as far as to try to create an entirely new, competing holiday honoring all IT pros, for marketing purposes. That would be disrespectful to Mr. Kekatos and just plain tacky, IMHO.
We’re certainly not the only tech vendor serving our part of the IT market. Nor the only one advocating that IT gets some appreciation. For a few weeks we shared memes, posted blogs, published an infographic and New Yorker-style cartoons and hash-tagged ourselves silly.
Apart from the Russian sysadmin community, our favorite acknowledgements of Sysadmin Day came from the following:
- Spiceworks' 12 Days of Sysmas with a Sysadmin Day livestream
- Trevor Pott's coverage of Sysadmin Day in the popular IT trade publication, The Register
82% of Polled IT Pros Never Heard of Sysadmin Day or Weren't Getting Recognized for it
Last Friday I started to wonder how many folks in IT knew about the event. So I ran an online poll in a large forum of IT pros and sysadmins that got 907 responses.
Bottom line: 82% had either never heard of Sysadmin Day or were not properly getting recognized for their hard work.
The comments were the best part and I added some further in this post to keep it real. Here's how the poll data shook out:
The Russians Nailed It
Before I address the poll, I want to call out my favorite thing that happened during Sysadmin Day this year. It came from a gentleman from Russia who provided this really great comment and a killer slideshow you can watch here.
“In our city it's a mass celebration when system admins of all kinds walk out and drink beer, pull up tricks and jokes, swim in fountains and so on. We have competitions for mouse throwing for far distance, puzzles made of keyboard keys and traditional burning of "User" scarecrow. We have a monument of a keyboard where usually the celebration happens.”
Now THIS is how it should be celebrated. All fun. No sponsors or ads. More like a track and field event with hardware peripherals instead of javelins.
Sysadmin Day Needs More Respect
Now back to the poll. Fifty-one percent of all respondents noted that no one at their company acknowledges Sysadmin Day. While only six percent said their company acknowledges it.
Fifty-one percent did nothing? Only six percent were appreciated? Now that’s just wrong.
Vendors Held Suspect, As They (We) Should Be
About one-in-ten (11% of all respondents) consider the day to be a vendor marketing promotion opportunity. As a marketer working for a software vendor (please don’t hold that against me), I was particularly interested to see how this question fared.
The answer wasn’t a shocker considering the majority of the activities were carried out by vendors all with a vested interest in being involved. Yes, even us.
For a little contrast I added this as an answer option: “Vendors honor it authentically”.
The result here was not a surprise. Only 1% see it as a day that vendors honor without an agenda.
That’s a fair assessment. I mean, c’mon now, what high tech marketer starts on credible ground with the IT crowd? You’ve got to earn credibility through authenticity. Come close to shilling and you're out. Read any Dilbert cartoon referencing the marketing team and you'll sort it out.
To be honest, I really get into Sysadmin Day. It feels meaningful to me. I’m close to several IT pros and I know how tough the job can be. Fix my [fill in the blank problem I cannot even aptly describe on a trouble ticket] and I'll respect you for life.
We celebrate it here at Ipswitch by doing things like bringing in lunch for the IT team, inviting senior executives to come by for a personal thanks, and wrap with a cool beach towel from Think Geek. (Yes, a team photo is requested for social media, but I don't think that's too much to ask.)
Sysadmins and IT pros have a super strong BS meter. Like stronger than any marketer thinks. If you can’t do something in a genuine way just don’t bother. Seriously. Sure, we all have to make a living and help our employers become successful, but while doing this I really hope we come across as genuine.
To be transparent, I published an infographic and blog late last week based upon a Sysadmin Day poll. The infographic links to a webpage where you can download our free network monitoring tools. If you were to download one or more tools you'd soon get a thank you email saying nice things and offering up a free 30-day free trial of our network monitoring products.
Don't tell my CMO this, but if you only want/need/can afford our free tools, have at it. If you really want to look into our network monitoring software, you know how to find us.
Almost One-Third Had Never Heard of Sysadmin Day
Apparently there’s more work to do to make Sysadmin Day recognized at the level of "Hallmark holiday" considering that 31 percent said that no one at their company acknowledges the day.
I’ll let the poll takers’ comments take this one for me.
“First time I've heard there is a sysadmin day. I do however hear appreciation comments on a regular basis.”
As you should.
“What the hell is a sysadmin anymore? At this point I need 'the guy who handles anything with wires or blinky lights'-day."
Well, kind of the same, but I get your point. Especially considering I cannot handle wires or blinky lights. But I do remember to reboot before opening a ticket.
“Is it today I'm assuming? We had a catered lunch today but not because of that :-D They treat us well regardless.”
I’m glad you get treated well, regardless.
“I personally think the trend of a day for everything is ridiculous. We do our jobs, we get paychecks. That's a pretty wicked appreciation. I use my appreciation to feed and house my family.”
“Will there be donuts and coffee?”
Pizza and ice cream are highly recommended by Mr. Kekatos. A donut can leave an empty hole in your heart.
“No one at my company has heard of it or acknowledges it… And we’re an IT company.”
That sad. Just sad.
“Punch and pie.”
That makes me hungry.
Yeah, It's Kind of a Given
I’ll wrap with my favorite quote from one of the folks who took the poll:
“Luckily one thing my work is good at is appreciating IT. Most feel like we work miracles. It doesn't stop them from doing stupid s**t and breaking things but that's a given.”
Coming from someone who does stupid s**t and breaks stuff, I couldn’t have said it better.