So I’ve been thinking about my career, and my future; dangerous waters for sure… The thing is that I love programming, but more and more I am finding myself to be restricted by the kind of work I can get, in short I tend to find that there is too much ‘fix it, fix it now!’ and not enough thoughtful, well designed and planned and innovative development going on to really hold my interest and allow me to get the creative / intellectual buzz out of my work. Frankly, in the long term, if I am going to stay in programming, I think that I am going to have to evolve my skillset away from purely web-based technologies, if only to give me the opportunity to pick the most interesting work I can get instead of the most interesting web-based work I can get.

I am really enjoying the freedom and flexibility of contracting – don’t believe the hype about the money; it was great in the 90’s, but unless you are prepared to fly a lot closer to the grey areas of the tax rules than I am comfortable with it is not all that much better than appropriately compensated permanent work these days. Still the freedom and flexibility is well worth the extra hassle and uncertainty, so I’d like to carry on being a freelancer / contractor whatever I end up doing.

It has also occured to me that I like and am interested in server / systems admin, particularly on the UNIX / Linux side of things, and that I already have __some__ skills in that area.

So here’s the rub… I have some periods on my CV that I can legitimately claim as times in which my job has genuinely required me to act for a portion of my working time as a UNIX sysadmin. I have some skills in that area and would certainly not be over-selling myself to describe myself as a “power user” in UNIX-like environments, i.e. I LIKE the command line, I use grep, sed, vi, perl, regular expressions and many other tools that characterise the sysadmin, box-pilot, code-monkey trope. I also love servers – I know this is a little weird, but if I had the money I would have a small rack of server appliances in my home, just to play with; I love the kit, I love what they can do for me if used correctly and the soft hum of server fans and the blinking of (preferably blue) LEDs is very attractive to me. I am a geek; there I said it, I feel better. Bearing all of this in mind, I think that I might like to move into doing contract-based sysadmin work, specifically providing short-term relief for key server support staff on long-term sick, or maternity leave or who simply leave a company ‘in the lurch’ by changin jobs unexpectedly and leaving a resource gap. The problem is that I am not sure of three factors:

1. How to shore-up (or is that sure-up?) my skills… Should I look into certification? Should I look for lower paying ‘doing my time’ work? Are there steps that I absolutely should take?

2. Where to look for short-term / freelance / contract sysadmin work.

3. Is all of the work in this field going to come with an on-call burden, or is there the potential to escape that?

Your thoughts, friends, would as ever be very helpful to me…