Denislav Bankatev, DevOps Engineer at Foundry 4 team at Questers
On the occasion of the International SysAdmin Day, we’ve talked with our colleague Denislav Bankatev, a DevOps Engineer who has been long interested in computer systems and networks. He has started his professional career as a System Administrator, and we were curious to find out about his views on how the SysAdmin differs from the currently trending DevOps role and if it would be replaced by it. Here’s what he shared:
Tell us a bit about yourself? What is your educational and professional background?
When I was a child, the only place where you could see a computer was the local computer club. There at the age of eight, I got my first touch with these machines and with the video games. Like many children at this age, I was fascinated by them, and actually, they’ve helped me learn a lot - how computers and networks work, how to deal with IPs and more.
While in high school, I had my own workshop, where I was building computers and configuring operational systems. This was quite interesting for me, and after finishing high school, I decided to study Computer and Communication Systems at the University of Plovdiv.
Soon after my graduation, I started working as a System administrator for a private US company. I was supporting clients from the US remotely. The job was interesting, and I’ve learned a lot. I also have experience as an Internal SysAdmin for a fast-growing FinTech company. At this position, my responsibilities were to configure servers and network devices, manage VPN networks, provide software and hardware support for colleagues, etc.
With time, I wanted to learn more and to develop myself. Therefore, I started to learn programming languages and virtualization technologies more intensively. I also took some courses from the Software University.
Recently, I started to work as a DevOps Engineer at the Foundry 4 team at Questers.
In your opinion, what are the similarities and differences between the role of a SysAdmin and a DevOps Engineer?
In most companies, the System Admin position has identical responsibilities. Usually, organisations have similar systems and technologies which need to be administered. Configuring Windows and Linux servers is a core part of the job. And almost always, SysAdmins have to cover local hardware or software issues as well.
DevOps position, on the other hand, goes in a different direction. The role combines responsibilities from two IT functions – development and operations. To improve production and performance, IT teams need someone who can make the link between these two. And therefore, the role of the DevOps was created.
In practice, DevOps engineers have to work more with cloud virtual environments (such as AWS and Azure) and automation technologies. The requirements of the DevOps positions may vary from organisation to organisation. Each company defines what its DevOps team would do and how it will interact with its employees. Some DevOps engineers are required to work more with code, while others – to deal more with virtual environments.
But overall, we may say that the System administrator is there to maintain the local environment, while DevOps is there to give solutions to virtual production environments.
Do you think that the DevOps role has replaced SysAdmin's one?
I don't think that DevOps can replace SysAdmin role. The two roles have different goals.
The System administrator is the company’s internal IT specialist who takes care of most of the core systems for this domain to operate. This is the person on the first line for everyone to approach with regards to various types of issues.
The DevOps engineers, on the other hand, are working on specific projects, most of which are usually external ones. They stay at the back side and collaborate closely with the software engineers configuring the environment they need. They do not always work with the company's internal infrastructure. And their main goal is to provide development and operational teams with infrastructure solutions.
Is transitioning to a DevOps position the logical career development for a SysAdmin?
My professional opinion is that the System admin is an amazing role to start your career with. It allows you to face various challenges which the IT world can offer. It gives you the opportunity to work with hardware, software and networks. You may also be required to work with code and virtualizations and even with security regulations. The role also provides direct contact with all employees from the company.
In terms of career development, there are a lot of ways to go. Some of which are Cyber Security Engineer (a major part of the companies’ internal security is managed by System administrators), Network Engineer is another good opportunity (sometimes SysAdmins has to deal with a lot of networking as well).
And yes, I think one of the possible paths to evolve from a SysAdmin role is to a DevOps position. Once you’ve learned to tackle a local infrastructure quickly, it's easy to understand how to manage a virtual one. However, in order to get on this path, you will need to learn a lot of new technologies and computer languages. The SysAdmin role is a good place to start, but it is usually not enough.
I encourage everyone who wants to evolve and advance their career to not hesitate to try!