To Linux Foundation SysAdmin Ryan Day, Elegance is the Best Tool

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ryan day sysadmin

System administrators keep our lives and work seamlessly humming. They are the super heroes who often go unnoticed and unrecognized only until things go wrong. And so, leading up to SysAdmin Day on July 25, we're honoring the hard work of our Linux Foundation sysadmins with a series of profiles that highlights who they are and what they do.

Ryan Day is one of nine Linux Foundation system administrators, and is part of the global team that supports developers working on collaborative projects. Here he describes a typical work day, talks about his favorite tools, his nightmare scenario, and how he spends his free time, among other things.

Linux.com: How long have you been a sys admin?

Ryan Day: My first paid sysadmin position was 20 years ago, but I think hooking up an Apple II to a cassette player (much longer than 20 years ago) for storage in middle school should count as sysadmin work.

When did you start at the Linux Foundation and how did you get the job?

I started with Linux Foundation in December, 2013. I was recruited by Konstantin Ryabitsev (my manager). I think he found me on LinkedIn.

What do you do for the Linux Foundation? What's your specialty?

I'm part of the team that provides infrastructure and services for Collaborative Projects. That translates into helping developers manage their code and communicate with each other when they may be widely dispersed.

I'm a typical sysadmin in that I'm a generalist, so it is hard for me to pick an area and call it my specialty. I just like helping people use computers.

Will you describe a typical day at work for you?

I work out of my house so a typical day for me involves sitting in my basement office in front of a few computer screens. I'll keep in touch with my team via IRC (internet relay chat). I'll spend a lot of time reading and searching the web to find solutions for the developers I support or my team members.

What's your favorite part of the job and why?

The best part of the job is the constant learning -- getting smarter every day. And I enjoy helping people. That's even sweeter when the greater goal of everyone is to advance the cool projects that are supported by the Linux Foundation.

What is your nightmare scenario? How have you prepared for it?

I like the saying: "Failure isn't an option. It's mandatory." That's how I think about complex systems at large scales. The individual components are going to fail in lots of different ways and the challenge is to think about how to build systems that can deal with that failure gracefully and transparently.

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What is your favorite sysadmin tool and how do you use it?

I'm going to resist the temptation to say something like "tcpdump" or "puppet", or even "the scientific method" which are pretty cool tools in my estimation. I think a much better answer is "elegance,” since each individual tool's usefulness is not all that great when compared to a simple, elegant design.

What's your favorite story about working at the Linux Foundation?

Having been here for less than a year, I don't have a wealth of stories to draw on. So far, the story I like to tell the best is how I was called upon to drive a test bed vehicle that demonstrates Linux in automotive systems from Portland to a conference in San Francisco. That was pretty cool.

What do you do for fun, in your spare time?

I enjoy my time with my family. We are home-schooling our two children and that means lots of activities, projects, and outings. Eventually I suspect that will evolve into traveling more and I enjoy that a great deal, too.