Having just concluded almost a quarter century at one job in one place, I've been reflecting on a number of things.
What I accomplished, what I've failed to accomplish, highlights, low lights and everything in between.
I've also learned a lot over these twenty five years.
One thing I learned is DevOps and System Administration.
Back around 1993 or 1994 Stuy wasn't really on the internet. Yes, we were able to scam stuy.edu even though we were a high school and yes we did have a class B address block but no one really had access.
Somehow, Bruce, a student of mine at the time and I ended up with the job of getting Stuy onto the internet. Bruce was one of our superstar kids and people thought I had extensive experience setting up and running networks. Truth be told I messed around a bit but there's no way I would have hired myself for the job.
Nonetheless, we were off.
We were able to take one of the RS/6000 AIX workstations that were supposed to be used as CAD stations and repurposed it as a server. We made email accounts for everyone and were off.
Neither Bruce nor I really knew what we were doing but we figured things out. I learned a lot from him and I'd like to think he also got some benefit out of working with me. Fortunately, we seemed to have a knack for finding the answers.
Of course, we had our moments. Once, we got a critical patch announcement from IBM. It said that if we needed the patch and didn't apply it were were in big trouble but if our machine didn't need it, applying the patch would kill our system. It was unclear whether we needed the patch or not.
After about a half hour research, we determined that we didn't need the patch.
But applied it anyway :-(.
After a brief set of panic attacks and a bunch of fumbling around, we did manage to restore things.
So, Bruce and I ran the system for a year or so and as I said, I learned a lot. Now, Bruce was close to graduating so I was starting to worry that I'd have to figure this all out myself soon. That was a seriously frightening thought.
I figured it would be good to bring in a couple of new super smart students. As it turns out, Jon was one of them.
At one point, there was some problem and Bruce and I were going to head to the office to try to figure it out. Jon asked if he could come and watch. I thought that was a great idea so I agreed.
We all went to the office and Bruce and I went to work. After about fifteen minutes, Jon blurted out:
"I just figured how you guys do it!!!"
"You guys have no idea what the F you're doing!!!!!"
We all cracked up.
He was absolutely right. We had no clue. We didn't know what we were doing but we had become pretty good at figuring things out.
Truth be told, that really is the norm. If you already knew how to solve the problem, well, then it really wouldn't have been a problem to begin with.
So, you learn to figure it out. It's something I learned not to be afraid of a long time ago. I hope that it's something I've been able to convey to my students.