Who Ya Gonna Call? PieSoft Tech Support Department!

Let’s continue our acquaintance with PieSoft professional team. The heroes of today’s story are honest IT first aid officers, our go-to guys for everyone who needs IT help in case of emergency. Not for nothing, but Oleg Kurnitsov (aka SuperOleg) – the winner in the nomination “The most responsive colleague-2018” is also from this department. Though the badge with the same title can be given to everyone involved in the industry, cause it’s impossible to imagine our everyday office life without these brave guys. So, meet – PieSoft DevOps and Tech Support Department!

And to figure out why these guys (running ahead – and one girl) are so cool and at the same time not to get lost in the tons of true stories and stereotypes constantly swirling around this semi-mythical profession, we go straight to the department head Sergey Ponomarenko.

Myths and Legends of tech support and system administration

Myth 1: Admin is not a profession, but a way of life

— I guess it depends more on the person, but mostly I would agree. We are like firefighters in many ways: while everything is fine – we are ok. When something is wrong – we are in around the clock. Sometimes our work reminds me of the cartoon Jackie Chan Adventures where the protagonist finds himself in difficult situations – when just everything goes wrong. And running away from the next trouble, he shouted: “Bad day, bad day, bad day.” So when we’re dealing with much stuff, and there’s too much pressure, you think like this: “Bad day, bad day, bad day” (laughing).

Jackie Chan Adventures
When something goes wrong – sysadmin is in around the clock, as the protagonist of Jackie Chan Adventures.

— Well, how often do users seek your assistance?

— We receive from 30 to 60 tickets (official requests) a day. It is our job to support individual users and various online projects. Regarding “hot” days, Mondays are usually overloaded. After the holidays, everything is precisely the other way around – the users are sluggish, so the work is… sluggish too.

Myth 2: Big knowledge + Internet = search for alternative methods of recreation

— I wouldn’t say so. Sysadmins are ordinary people and know how to rest like all of us. Family, bike, gym, cafe, bar, paintball, laser tag…

Myth 3: Admin’s Nerd Appearance

Yes, there is a strong stereotype in our region built through the image of a classic tech support expert: a good-natured nerd without ambition but in an old sweater and with a beard. But look around – no grandmas’ sweatshirts, no bearded faces. We don’t have a dress code in the company, but we dress neatly and try to shave, too (laughing).

DevOps Nikolai Trofimovich
Nikolay Trofimovich, DevOps engineer, at work.

Myth 4: Admin is always right.

— Yes! (laughing out loud).

— Are there any situations when you are mistaken?

— As they say, mistakes are what make you human. But since the company’s security hangs over us, such situations should be minimal and for a short while.

— Ok, if “the admin is always right,” then what do you do when two admins have different opinions on a particular issue? How do you decide which decision is “righter”? Considering that they both have an impressive technical background and the sense of self-importance is also on the top. Could it lead to sparks?

— Yes, sure, sometimes we have differences in opinion, but we never, ever fight. It’s always important to find some standard solution. Or there is another terrific way out: everyone is dealing with things their way, and then we observe the results. Who offered the most effective variant is more “right.”

Myth 5: System Administrator Appreciation Day, aka SysAdminDay, or Sysmas. Do tech support experts celebrate it? When, how?

— Sure. Beer. Bar. Meat.

— When exactly?

— In fact, the SysAdminDay is only one. The last Friday of July is a holy day. Last time, we gathered in Becker Bar, Gomel (the previous comment belongs to Alexey Pavlenko, who could not resist and joined the discussion of such a sweetheart topic).

Myth 6: System administration and female employees are incompatible.

— The girls proved to be successful administrators a long time ago, so here I have no prejudices. For example, Kseniya Solomka working in our tech support department is a great specialist. And in general… Kseniya is an engineer, first of all. And only then is she a girl. But I think some parts of our work are not very suitable for all women: climbing the stairs with wires or carrying heavy servers can’t be very convenient.

PieSoft Support&Tech Department
Both males and females are good system administrators. But the number of women willing to occupy this position is still noticeably smaller.

Sysadmin weekdays (and sometimes even weeknights) at PieSoft

— When does a sysadmin working day begin and end in PieSoft Tech Support Department?

— We certainly try to stay on the company’s schedule, but our department is probably the most extended in time. Some of our guys are busy from 9 am to 4 pm, the others – from the afternoon until late at night, because they work with users from the United States.

— How do you all stay in touch?

— Well, we all team up during the day, check email frequently, but basically, the chats are everything. They always help.

— Have you ever had to go out to work urgently, to save the day?

— Sure. We can mostly do everything from home, but Stas Solomenin had to stay in the office overnight and into the early morning hours one day. We even have a special banner for such cases – No obstacle to work at night (laughing). I used to stay until the morning, having some damage control. Or for example, a few weeks ago, the entire infrastructure in one of the data processing centers failed due to a power outage. Only through the joint effort (N. Trofimovich, E. Telegin, S. Krotov, and me), we managed to fix everything in 4 hours. Of course, such a quick data center failure recovery was possible only due to the excellent work of the whole Tech Support Department for a long time.

— How do your family feel about such an unpredictable schedule?

— Of course, they don’t like it but try to understand the situation. However, sometimes you are at home sitting in front of a computer screen, working, and you have a daughter on your shoulders: “Dad, what are you typing in there?” – and at this moment, you are trying to bring up some network (laughs).

— What is the ideal user?

— They provide detailed information about what happened and do not panic when something does not work, but treat with understanding.

PieSoft sysadmins and DevOps engineers
Ideal users never panic but treat with understanding.

— So, the disaster user is a person who does not give detailed information and is fussy?

— Yes, they shout, “Ah-ah, it doesn’t work, I feel terrible,” and start calling the manager, trying to solve the problem through them. As a result, we play the telephone game, and you don’t understand what has happened at all, and find out everything yourself as a skilled tracker. For example, we have one “superuser” whose letters always come in red, with caps and many exclamation marks. This style never helps.

Or, for example, not so long ago, another story happened to our colleague Yuri Yermakov when he was setting up remotely a printer/scanner for a user. He downloaded the driver, was about to install it, but the computer couldn’t see the hardware. Yuri checked the network WIFI. The user assured me that the printer was on the same network. Yuri already got to the router, but there were no printer signs! Once again, he asked the user if the equipment was precisely on the same network, and the answer was… “Yes-aaaaa, I’ve checked it all, now I’ll turn ON the printer, and you’ll see for yourself.” That’s it, kaput. Twenty-five minutes wasted. In many ways, remote maintenance is about breathtaking moments like this =)

— A lot wonder how people from your department come to IT?

— Most of them are techs – network engineers, telecommunication systems support specialists, etc. But there are also “exotic” cases, for example, Kirill Dumov – a linguist, English language expert. We needed a technical writer and a person taking phone calls from the users. Now he’s gone a lot… further and is no longer just a technical writer. Still, an experienced specialist deals with such issues as user interaction with a solution or interaction process automation, etc., approaching the problem solving from the users’ point of view.

A real catch for our department is Yuri Ermakov. He is an excellent specialist and an exciting person with medical background and musical experience. He also participated in the popular intellectual games (Brain-ring or What, Where, When), etc. There are different ways to become a part of our friendly team, but it’s not hard to be a great professional and a nice guy.

— What are your plans as a specialist and as a team lead of the tech support department? And in general, how do you see the future of the department?

— The department’s future lies in the ongoing upgrade of our competence level and new technologies development. We are not just tickets and assistance to users. Our guys, for example, work with the developers, prepare different environments where their applications work. Again, since our sphere is one of the most advanced, we must go ahead of everyone and prepare the ground for the further development of the rest. We aim to follow the DevOps methodology, developing together.

Most IT issues go unnoticed until the impact reaches end-users.
Most IT issues go unnoticed until the impact reaches end-users.

— Ok, what are the top ways to learn new things in the industry?

— These are mainly online resources, for example, Habr, Hacker, StackOverflow, SecurityLab, and various US websites. And of course, the documentation for multiple systems (although who reads it? =)) We are also friends with books, but unfortunately, they become obsolete faster than is printed. Plus, we go on courses on Microsoft products and technologies, as well as on other educational events, the latest ones are the DevOps conference (October 1-2, Moscow), HighLoad (November 8-9, Moscow); virtual VeeamON (December 5, backup software). Also attended the MikroTik equipment conference and the courses of the same manufacturer to receive international certificates.

— Is it possible for you to go to the conference, say, for 2-3 days, won’t your Tech Support department stop working without you?

— No, we tried to make a department that would not depend on a particular person, so our guys can replace each other. The company should not suffer when someone is sick or something else. And, again, pulling a person when he is resting somewhere on vacation is also not very good either. Sometimes it happens, yes, but we try to avoid it. But when everything was BAD bad, the mobile phone saved us a couple of times, and we were able to restore the infrastructure from the 6 inches screen (smiling).

PieSoft Support&Tech Department in the office
PieSoft Support&Tech Department includes professionals with different areas of expertise – sysadmins,  technical writers, DevOps, AWS, Linux, cloud experts, and others.

— Ok, and the last: what is the motto of your department?

— Infra est infernum navigare, ut ad amicum socio Cthulhu, which can be translated as “Flame (hell) is under us and may Cthulhu help us.” Or, as they say, we’ll do it live! =)

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