Filling the role of network administrator within a business can be a large challenge. Bearing the responsibility for operational uptime, while supporting the needs of team members and planning for future efforts and needs can pile up quickly, often leaving staff in a reactive state that isn’t in a position to help push the business forward.
It’s a problem I’ve faced many times. Prior to joining the team at Valiant, I worked in technical roles within businesses for 15 years. From the CIO’s assistant at the beginning of my career to Director of IT and everything in between, I’ve found that there are distinct qualities that make for an effective network administrator
Never stop learning
Technology is constantly changing; a system that is new today may be considered legacy technology in a relatively short amount of time. Modern businesses are just as dynamic as the technology that drives them and it’s important for a network administrator’s skill set to remain up-to-date with both the technology of today and tomorrow.
While the fundamentals may not change, continued education prepares network administrators to work with new concepts and approaches that introduce value, efficiencies, and operational advantages to a business.
Communication skills are vital
Technology is at the heart of many businesses, and a single uncommunicated change or event can have undesired consequences. It’s vital for network administrators to clearly and plainly communicate any efforts taking place and ensure that other departments have time to respond with any concerns ahead of any risk to operational continuity.
In addition, it’s always nice to have management on your side and clearly communicating your ideas, needs, and other matters – particularly when they’re attached to growth is well worth the effort.
Strong decision making and collaboration skills
While there may be many solutions to a problem, network administrators must focus on one and develop strong decision-making skills to ensure projects move forward and have positive outcomes.
Decision making, in many cases, shouldn’t be the responsibility of a sole individual. Collaborate with other staff and departments who have a stake in the work performed to ensure your plan accommodates their needs and their support will follow.
Keep growth in mind at all times
A reactive approach to network administration keeps a business running; a proactive approach enables it to grow.
The decisions a network administrator makes, from day-to-day support to strategic planning, should take growth into consideration. Solve problems, understand why they happened, and work to prevent them from resurfacing in the future. When planning a project, ensure that it doesn’t just address immediate needs, but also functions as a step towards future business goals.
Document all the things
Many see documentation as a necessary evil; countless detective movies have thought us that we should be fixing problems and not stuck at a desk doing paperwork.
Proper documentation can be an absolute lifesaver. You never know when an incident will occur or who will be tasked with resolving it. Accurate documentation provides the necessary information when it’s needed most and can be the difference between a minor hiccup and hours of downtime.
Documentation is a never-ending task and has many benefits. Updating documentation gives you a chance to find opportunities for improvement, helps keep track of many moving parts, and can serve as a way to regularly evaluate progress within your IT department.
Be curious, ask questions
Curiosity and technology often go hand-in-hand. After all, most of us at Valiant got our start in technology-related fields out of a desire to understand how things work. This is a quality that can be a huge asset to a business when leveraged properly.
For instance, as a network administrator, you may understand how to put a system in place but be able to say the same about why it was put in place. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Questions are great, particularly when positioned with company growth at their core.
Come across a process that may be made faster or less error-prone via an alternate approach? Get involved; present your suggestion as one that can improve the quality of work, save time, and reduce support needs.
Test everything and have a backup plan
Ready to implement a new system on your network that is going to provide new tools and ways to work? Excellent!
Has it been thoroughly tested; not only from IT’s point of view but the staff who will be using it? If not, take a step back from the “deploy” button and consider running proper tests to ensure that the system works properly before you wind up with a pile of support tickets and decreased confidence in your work.
Things don’t always go the way we plan. Miscommunications and simple errors can lead to problems, and network administrators should always have a contingency plan at the ready to minimize interruptions should an issue occur.
Own your mistakes
Mistakes happen. We never set out to make mistakes, but when they happen they can be turned into a learning experience.
When a mistake happens, we learn about the cause, the impact it had on business, now to resolve it – and do so in a manner that minimizes the chances of it happening again. When you make a mistake, own it and find a proper resolution. Handling problems responsibly, barring embarrassment in favor of growth doesn’t just help business, it’s an important part of self-development as a network administrator and is the basis of all the other qualities I’ve mentioned in this post.
Network administrators have a lot to handle on a day-to-day basis, and it isn’t uncommon for them to become overwhelmed at times.
If your business is feeling the squeeze of an overloaded IT department, Valiant Technology can help. Our Co-Managed IT services remove infrastructure responsibilities from your team, allowing them to focus on growth. Interested in learning how leveraging our team of 40+ technology experts can help your business? Reach out to a member of our sales team and we’ll show you.