All Star, Seattle, WA
Over 12 years in the field
An Exciting Network Administrator Career
When the networks go down at All Star, Robin Yamaguchi kicks into high gear. His mind works like a computer as he evaluates root causes and finds the best possible solution so that the company's computer networks are up and running 24/7. When he's not problem solving, he's thinking of new and innovative ways to improve processes and limit network outages.
How did you become a network administrator?
I initially pursued a degree in computer science when I went to college, but I quickly learned that I did not want to become a software developer. I ended up with a degree in history, but also worked full-time in an IT shop while I was in college. I started doing basic desktop support, but through continuous on-the-job training and mentoring, I quickly climbed the ranks to become an experienced systems and network administrator.
What do network administrators do?
Network administrators are responsible for the maintenance of hardware and software in a computer network. This includes deploying, configuring, maintaining and monitoring network-based services, such as web servers, email, file servers, etc.
Most of my time is spent working on my office desktop, and connecting remotely to systems through the network. On medium to larger sized teams, network administrators act as the Tier two or three support level. For the company's day-to-day operations, we take escalations from our desktop support, and can further escalate issues to the system engineers when necessary.
What are the best and worst parts of the job?
The hardest part of network administration is the constant context switching. I am usually juggling two or three tasks at a time, and am constantly interrupted with new requests and questions. Sometimes, I'd rather be focused on a more specialized, technical aspect of the job, such as working with our public-facing production servers. I would often rather not work on the day-to- day desktop-based issues or the infrastructure that supports an office network.
On the flip-side, supporting an office network allows me to interact with many different kinds of people. At All Star, I am able to improve my "soft skills"—something I underestimated earlier in my career. I have learned that this is a part of the job that I really enjoy. If I were in an R&D-based environment, I would interact with other technical people like myself, and that could get old after a while.
Network administrators often have to work nights and weekends. Since we administer network services that the company relies on, those systems can only be taken offline outside of business hours. Network administrators also participate in an on-call rotation, which currently consists of two weeks on, and six weeks off. During your on-call rotation, you are the first point of contact for all emergency events which involve the production servers, 24 hours a day.
What is the best training to enter the field?
One important thing I learned about being a network administrator is that learning and training never stop. Information technology is incredibly dynamic and fluid. The things we do today will be outdated 10, five, or even two years from now. Unlike a lot of other careers, being a network administrator is self-perpetuating. Constant training and keeping up with technology will continue to push my career forward.
Do you have any advice for students?
A degree and formal education are important, but so are hands-on computer networking training and experience. Be curious—some of the best network administrators have a driving need to understand how the underlying technology works. Having that type of personality and knowledge will make you better at approaching projects and problems. Approach your work like you are a sponge for knowledge. If you want to be successful, you will never stop learning or seeking out training on new technologies.