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Coming back

The phone rang this morning, around 9 AM. I’ve gotten used to that; my recruiter’s been calling me around 9 for the last few days. But this time there was a different tone to his voice. He was nervous.

Great, I instantly thought. Another rejection. What is this, high school?But I let him finish, because he said he had some good news. "Dave, they’re excited about you. But there’s a problem. Do you think there’s any way you can start tomorrow?"

Tomorrow. He’d told me yesterday he thought they’d probably be interested in me, and that we’d be preparing for a start day of July 5. Being able to start tomorrow was about the last thing I expected.

I wasn’t the least bit prepared, but in reality, what did I have planned for tomorrow? A trip to the post office, certainly. A trip to a thrift store or two, most likely. Maybe I’d get ambitious and change the oil in my wife’s car, and maybe I wouldn’t. So I’d make $7, maybe $15, and I’d save another $20.

I figure that every day I didn’t work cost me between $150 and $200 (pre-tax). So you do the math. I told him I’ll start tomorrow.

Actually this was a longshot if there ever was one. The job position involves Unix administration. I’m not a stranger to Unix, but it’s been a year since I’ve done any Unix on a regular basis. I pulled out all the stops on the job interview, showing up in a suit and tie on a 90-plus degree day on just a couple of hours’ notice. It was all downhill from there. The entire department of five interviewed me, plus one guy who’d been recently promoted out of it. They peppered me with Unix and e-mail questions. One of them asked me why to never type "rm -rf /" and I asked him whether the "r" was uppercase or lowercase. Apparently in Solaris it doesn’t matter. It does in every Linux distribution I know. But I got the rest of the question right. I struck out on the others, sometimes badly.

I left the building with a little more than a thank-you for my time from the supervisor. I made a note to myself to make sure my recruiter briefed me better on what the responsibilities would be, and to get me enough time to actually brush up so I’d look like I know something, and not some idiot off the street who can barely spell "Unix."

Then they started interviewing other people. And with each passing interview, my recruiter felt more hopeful. I started to feel hopeful too. I didn’t count on anything–my wife and I all but started a business last week, and we’re profitable. It won’t pay the mortgage, let alone make us rich, but we made more than enough to pay the electric bill, and we did it on our terms.

And then the phone call came. A few hours later I drove 10 miles, signed some papers, and it was official. I’m a professional Unix administrator.

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7 thoughts on “Coming back”

  1. All right!

    The Windows guys at our data center seem to work really hard patching systems all the time. You could do worse than being on the Unix side, where patching isn’t a seemingly every week occurrance.

    Just checking the man page on the system I’m posting this from (ubuntu hoary), the man pages indicate that both rm and cp accept either "r" or "R" for recursive. I’m pretty sure that I’ve encountered at least one command (maybe cp) that does the same on HP-UX.

    I wish I could work some with Solaris also. Around here a lot of places that want Linux seem a mixed shop with Solaris and Linux, sometimes trying to move more things to Linux. Knowledge of both seems to be a good combination that should serve you well.


    1. Hallelujah! Now, remember, grow a scraggly beard and dust off the pointy hat.

      Seriously, you’ll do fine. Unix is pretty straightforward. I printed off a few man pages (vi, ps, grep, and a few others) for “off-line” reference (sometimes it helps to read away from the screen – it makes more sense), and I stumbled through it. Even got good at it after a while.

      And remember – the only difference between “unix admin” and “experienced unix admin” is a few mistakes… 😉

  2. Glad you are working. In this day and age of the world economy, you might consider self-employment.
    After all what if Bill had settled for nine to five, I wouldn’t be enjoying blue screens.
    I made a mistake and grub boots windows first.
    Would love to hear de La Stenches and the Scotsman Farquhars opinions on your lifes turnings.

    "Life does not consist mainly, or even largely, of facts and happenings. It consists mainly of the storm of thought that is forever flowing through one’s head."
    Mark Twain

  3. Congrats, Dave – and it’s cool that you’ll have a job with real computers for a change ;-> (sorry, Unix snob, couldn’t resist)

    On a more realistic note, it is a good thing to be able to add Unix Sysadmin to your resume along with Windows…

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