Lessons & Learnings

from real life experiences and examples

From Sysadmin to Infrastructure Developer

Having spent the most amazing 6 years of my life in this industry its time to write about the journey till date.It has definitely been the most exciting roller coaster ride one can ever have.From being an Intern and Junior Sysadmin to a Global Network Admin for an organization spread across 20+ locations worldwide, to being a Senior Consultant in Infrastructure Development for potential customers.These are some of the exciting and interesting stories of this journey which started back in March 2009 , journey of a girl in IT world …..

The interview started with a deep discussion on various networking problems and scenarios, around ip addresses,vlans,routing switching and so on with one of the senior Technologists in Thoughtworks Mr. Sriram Narayanan a.k.a Ram.While we were at it he stepped out in between for some work and asked me to wait.He came back after 10 minutes and asked me to follow him to his desk.
This was the the first time I was walking inside a corporate office which was so different than what I had heard.There were no cubicles,instead there were these big dining tables with monitors,laptops,cables etc.No wonder I was already into it.
At his desk he had his laptop with some operating system (I had no freaking clue then what OS was that, I only knew windows) on it.There was a browser open with some website (I guess it was google) which said unable to load website.

Ram:“Do you know which OS is that?”
Ram: “Its Solaris.Do you know what is the issue”
Me: “Is the OS firewall on? Is internet working for others in the office?”
Ram: “Firewall is off. Internet is working for others”

I went closer to his laptop and turned to its back to discover that the network cable was unplugged – thats it !!!!.Ram was very pleased and later I came to know that was key factor for my hiring. That was the day I solved first network issue.And my journey had just begun.

I started as an intern in the Infrastructure Services or IS as we used to call it then.About 4 months after I joined, one day my manager called me and said “Pack up your bags, you are going to Chennai next week to setup the office”.That meant setting up internet connectivity locally and vpn to all other TW offices in India and globally.
I arrive at the Chennai office server room to find to my surprise that the electrical sockets were still under installation and ISP had not yet activated the link.We finally get the ISP link activated by next day afternoon and I start working on the setup.The setup went on and it was 11:30 pm at night, but the vpns were still not coming up.I was trying hard to debug the issue, so I called my Tech lead who was in bangalore , but we could not figure out what was wrong ,then we called in our IT Head who was traveling in some part of the world (i do not remember if it was India or Abroad) for help.30 mins we were still breaking our head, we also had to decide whether or not to cancel my return flight next day. Thats when my IT head asked “Hey Kamalika did you add the default route in asa” and that was it, one line of code and the vpns were up one after the other.That was my first assignment and definitely the one whose fun and excitement I will relish for rest of my carrier.

Being a sysadmin has been the best thing to start my career in this world of technologies.It opened up doors to a wide range of domains and techs.As a sysadmin I got opportunity to work on multiple domains like Networking, Virtualisation, Security, Datacennters, Windows, Linux and the list goes on.I got to interact with customers and people all over the globe that has definitely added to my people skills.Some of the core responsibilities included: Managing 22 office networks (LAN and WAN) across the globe,VPN setups with customer networks, new office network setup. Managing various linux and windows domains and services. Infra Security Consultant to potential customers and the list goes on.

The knowledge and exposure around these wide range of domain and technologies was beyond my expectation.It helped open up my mind to challenge myself for more adventures in futures.Having spent around 3 years as a sysadmin and gaining so much exposure to the operations world, now I was curious to know what the other side of the world looks like - the world of Software Developement.How is a software developed and deployed on these infrastructures? What are the key factors that makes a product successfully delivered? The curiosity to explore these unknowns was the major driving factor to start my journey to the world of Infrastructure Developement.

My new journey started on September 2012 as a Senior Consultant in PS (Professional Services as we call).There were various terms that has been floating around like Devops, CD, etc which were catching momentum.I was new to these terminologies.I started with building automated infrastructure and deployment process for various customers.Its been 3 years I have worked on almost 5 projects each with its own flavors.Some had cloud platforms like AWS, while some needed TDD(Test Driven Developement) across app and infra in private Datacenter.Though there are various names that has been given to my role, I like to call myself an Infrastructure Developer who works closely with customers to provide Infrastructure Automation, Configuration Management, Continuous Integration for Build and Deployment.

This has been another awesome journey and one thing that definitely is the key takeaway is that “Change Can Be Good”. While being a sysadmin I learnt about operations world , being an Infra-Dev gave me exposure to application Development.Not to mention I have definitely grown in terms of efficiency and my consulting skills.The rest is as you can see here.This journey has taught me a number of lessons which will my priced possessions for rest of my life.

Lessons Learnt:

  • Change can be good
  • Always have a plan B
  • Keep Learning
  • Never loose interest to learn new stuff
  • Don’t be biased with tools, give importance to technologies and concept

And did I mention all the cool stuff that I learned as an Infra-Dev.Here is a glimpse of some of them.The list is too long to include in one image. Hope this journey will inspire more (especially women) to get involved in this vast world of infrastructure.One thing I can assure there is no end to it.Each day brings something new to learn.