Sys admin recommended reading: Improve your skill set

If your bookshelf is crowded with technical manuals, it might be time to make room for books that will help you develop as an IT professional. From social networking to statistics, valuable reading awaits.

There are numerous IT references out there, and system administrators seem to have bookshelves full of technical books and manuals. Yet there are many resources that sys admins are not consulting, but should. There are many topics a system administrator should read about, but probably hasn't. None of these areas are particularly technical -- which is partially the point.

The first missing piece is business management books. A favorite of mine is Re-imagine! by Tom Peters. Books like his help system administrators build a "business of one" and provide excellent service for which they are rewarded.

Another topic that is often missed is networking (no, not that kind!) -- social networking. One of the best books about this is Never Eat Alone by Keith Farazzi. These books explain the importance of building and maintaining a network of friends, coworkers and others who can help you when troubles arise or when the job search begins.

As a system administrator (or a technical support person), a large part of the daily routine is supporting people who don't understand all the technical details. Therefore, a few good books on customer service should be on a system administrator's reading list. One of these that I like is Magnetic Service by Bell and Bell. Books like these can help an admin understand what it is that gets people to not just accept your help as good, but to rave about it to others. And Tom Peters talks about the "Wow! factor," which is also part of good customer service.

When designing programs for system administrator use, most admins do not consider the user interface. This seemingly inconsequential area can cause many little bits of grief (that can all add up to a bad day), or in the worst case, cause destruction. A book like The Humane Interface by Jef Raskin can introduce new ideas for user interface design that can ultimately make your life easier.

Most system administrators are well versed in basic mathematics -- including calculus. However, sys admins may not have excellent knowledge in the are of statistics. A book like Statistics for Dummies by Deborah Rumsey may be just the ticket. Statistics can be used to help analyze disk growth, processor utilization and more through analyzing trends and using this knowledge to prepare for the future. Programs (and books) on packages like R or GNU Octave can also help.

These are some of my personal favorites. Happy reading!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Douthitt (RHCE, LPIC1, SCSA, Linux+, CNA) is a UNIX Systems Administrator for a major healthcare software company. His blog is Unix Administratosphere, where he continues to write on UNIX, Linux and OpenVMS. He has also written two books on system administration. He still has his copy of Red Hat 2.0 and 4.4BSD.

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