The slow death of the Unix systems Engineer!

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I am by full time employment a Midrange Unix Engineer and while I hadn’t realized right away it has come to my attention that my career path is dying a slow death. Big Box Unix systems have become a niche in large organizations where the cost of supplanting them with lower cost Linux and Windows virtualized servers is prohibitive.

I find myself in a similar predicament as the Mainframe Engineer before me. The market for Big Box Unix skills is now shrinking year to year just like Mainframes started to in the early 1990’s when Sun Microsystems, HP and even IBM began to flood the market with highly redundant and highly scalable Unix systems.

The dilemma for the Unix Engineer/SA is there are two choices here. The first choice is to do nothing and continue on my merry way of being a Unix Engineer and become pigeon holed into a niche Engineer who will only find employment at very large companies. The kind of companies who still only trust their big ERP or Analytics systems to name brand companies. My second option is I can adapt, change career paths, seek out new skills and become more marketable.

Luckily for me it is an easy choice. I am never happy keeping up the status quo and simply keeping the lights on. I yearn for new knowledge and experience. I crave  newer more exciting ways to accomplish business or even life goals. I will always be studying and learning new subjects technical or otherwise.

I work for a large company and I do one thing and one thing only and that is to administrate, design and build IBM AIX systems and the occasional Sun/Oracle system. I am lucky that with the IBM stack we at least moved a good portion of the architecture to IBM’s Power virtualization product PowerVM. This kept me busy the last two years learning the product and deploying it into our organizaiton.

How ever that isn’t enough for me. That project is over and is now status quo. There isn’t really any new projects coming this year where I can sharpen my skills. What is an engineer to do you ask? Well one answer would be to simply study new technology for the sake of doing so and I have done that on occasion. There is a better answer for me however.

In addition to learning new tech for the sake of learning new tech, I consult with small businesses in my local area. I branched out into Linux, Windows support. I learned open source CMS packages like Joomla, drupal and WordPress. I build web pages, program new features into them as much as I can using PHP and soon Ruby.

I find that for me this has kept my mind occupied from boredom and has allowed me to learn all sorts of new skills both technical and business wise. This also helps me learn technology faster as I am learning it and applying it to meaningful purpose at the same time. I also am starting something I have wanted to do for years and that is write about these experiences and about technology. I hope I can find a voice to share my experiences and technical knowledge with the masses via the written word.

They say the best way to learn and remember new skills is to teach them to someone else. Writing gives me that opportunity and it also helps build your personal brand. It is a win win situation all the way around. I hope you enjoyed my insights and look forward to sharing many more in the future. Thank you for reading!


Chris McAuliffe

I am technologist with nearly 20 years experience in designing, testing, supporting and building medium to large infrastructures. Over the years I have supported or built local area networks, Windows server, Linux, Solaris, HPUX, AIX and other even older variants of OS. I love technology both hardware and software. I like fixing things and diagnosing performance issues. I also love building technology. I love building new iron as well as configuring virtual machines. I love building webpages and learning scripting and programming languages. I learn new concepts quickly and I am able to relate knowledge of specific subjects to technical problems to come up with solutions that aren't always the norm but can are effective. I do not believe in the status quo and believe there is always a better way to do things. Improving one's work and one's life is a life long quest for me!

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