Development and Managed Hosting

Manuel Alberer: What the System Admin can learn from the Social Worker

Written on July 19, 2017 by Lucia Schöpfer

Manuel is Senior Linux System Administrator at Anexia at takes care of complex customer systems as well as internal projects. But Manuel knows more: Before his job at Anexia, he was working as a Social Worker in a shared house for teenagers for five years.

I have met Manuel for a #joinourrevolution-Interview and asked him, what the System Admin can learn from the Social Worker.

Who are you and what do you do at Anexia?
Well, my name is Manuel Alberer and I’m 33 years old. I work as a system administrator at Anexia.

What does the everyday work of a system administrator involve?
Our work can be divided up into two different task areas, so to speak. For one, we carry out monitoring work. The entire team is responsible for monitoring all customer servers. That means when there’s a report, we look into it. If it’s possible, we fix the problem with the customer’s system immediately and inform the customer. In the case of less urgent issues, we inform customers immediately, but then decide with them what course of action to take.
Our second area of responsibility is customer tickets. Above all, I’m involved with outfitting customers. In other words, providing them with infrastructure. Working with the colleagues from Network Operations, I ensure that the network is suitable and then set up all the virtual machines, services, databases, etc. When everything’s all done, the system is then transferred over to the customer.

How did you come to work for Anexia?
A colleague, who I’ve known since I was twelve, referred me to Anexia: Diddy and I are from neighboring towns and we grew up together. He had frequently asked me if I wanted to come out to Anexia and then one day he invited me to lunch. Alex [Head of System Operations Alexander Griesser – ed.] was also there and then everything went pretty quickly. Just two days later, I received an offer and started working.

You didn’t have to submit an application?
I sent the application in afterwards. And yes, I somehow managed to crack the code of the application process. It wasn’t that easy, but I did it.

Your colleague must have been quite convincing in order to get Anexia to bring you on board. What did you do before that?
[laughs] Yes, something different. I worked as a social education worker in a youth home for five years. Ten young people between the ages of 12 and 21, both male and female, lived there. But my ending up there was more a coincidence.

You’ve got to explain that to me.
A few years earlier, I’d started studying computer science at the University of Klagenfurt while working. I chose psychology courses for all my electives. I liked them so much that I also then enrolled in the psychology department. To study psychology, however, I was required to do an internship that would have overlapped with my job as an IT consultant with my former employer, a large software company. Because it wasn’t of much good to me anymore, I quit my job and did an internship with the Diakonie [social welfare organization of Germany’s Protestant churches]. The internship turned into a full-time job where I worked for five years in the home.


The social services sector is definitely very different from IT consulting. In your eyes, are there any similarities between IT and psychology?
Well, it’s definitely a very different field, and the work is quite different. During my studies, however, I already noticed that it’s definitely worthwhile to simply take your studies in a completely different direction. That way you’re exposed to approaching everything entirely differently: Papers are written differently, tasks are assigned differently, and group work is carried out in an entirely different manner.
By the way, I never finished either of these degrees. [laughs]

That seems to be an Anexia thing: Admir and Joachim also told me that they didn’t finish their studies.
I never felt the need to finish my IT studies. Having a degree often doesn’t matter in the IT industry. Upon accepting the job at Anexia, my boss didn’t know which degree I had. That didn’t matter to him.

But then where did you acquire your technical knowledge?
It was really just my own private interest. I got my first computer at the age of six and immediately fell in love. Unfortunately school really wasn’t my thing. There were some subjects that I liked. But the others couldn’t really inspire me. My grades turned out accordingly. I then did an apprenticeship in computer science. I was in my first year when this profession was introduced in Austria and we didn’t yet have a curriculum or anything. After the apprenticeship, I started working for the company that trained me. I was there for ten years: first as a System Admin, then in Database Administration and finally in Consulting.

And where was there time to fit in two courses of study?
I finished my school-leaving examination at night school and yes, did my studies while working.


What motivated you after ten years to enter into the social services area?
In the end, I was very active in the Consulting area. Traveling was great and I liked it. But after three years everything became very routine. I actually do enjoy solving problems. What I don’t like doing, however, is producing papers, as I call it. I was in consulting, and there were some weeks of just visiting customers, attending meetings, or writing documents. That wasn’t for me, so I quit.

It seems like you live in the moment.
As long as the work is interesting, I’ll do it. At that time I quit, because I saw a new, exciting task in the internship. And even when I changed back to IT and Anexia, I was certain exciting new tasks awaited me here.

And, at the same time, system administrators certainly also earn better than social education workers. What was your experience?
Yes, unfortunately that is the case. If you ask me, it should be the other way around. In the social sector, you work with people all day long. If you make a mistake there, it has serious consequences. You really learn to deal with stressful situations. I noticed, for example, that I developed a certain level of calmness. If a server is not available, I can tackle it calmly and in an even more focused manner. This certainly has to do with my experience in the social sector as well as me learning how to deal with stressful situations there.

My experience in the social sector taught me how to deal with stressful situations. I can tackle problems calmly and in an more focused manner.

You learned and studied computer science. Did you always know that you wanted to get into system administration? When did you make this decision?
I fell into the area through my apprenticeship. I spent time in two or three departments and then eventually joined the database team. I liked that. What I never wanted to do was program and test. I simply said no straight away. I may program some little stuff for my projects now, but having to do just that the whole day long, that’s something I couldn’t do.

And what do you like about your job as a system administrator?
The good thing is that the tasks can be completely different. What I now do at the hosting provider Anexia is entirely different than what I did at the software company where I was before. This makes a change of scenery possible.
I like solving problems as a system administrator. Every problem is different here due to the fact that we serve so many customers with solutions that are always individual. It’s very rare that problems repeat themselves because we have so many different systems and so many different setups. As a result, things always stay exciting and never get boring.

So, no day is like any other. What else is important to you at work?
I really like that we’re still in a strong growth phase and are therefore not stuck in a rut. This is changing slowly and I find it very interesting to be involved in setting up structures and processes.
The working culture is rather casual, which is really nice. There is no finger-pointing or anything else. Mistakes are made but then we sit down and fix them. There’s no big drama.

As a System Admin, you are solving problems. That’s what I like about it.

Do you work in a team as a system administrator?
We work closely with the other departments. Our colleagues from the network team are always involved anyways. Only in emergencies do we have to work in pairs and that is almost never necessary. Otherwise, everyone makes sure they do their own job. But it sometimes happens that you hand over your projects to others. For example, I always come to work late and another colleague therefore leaves earlier. I often take over open projects and then continue working on them. And, vice versa, he also finishes off things that I didn’t get to in the evening. This works without us having to really coordinate with each other. So even if we don’t really work together, our team works excellently.

What is your favorite part of your job?
I really like working on internal projects, even when there’s frequently not enough time for them. Due to the company’s strong growth, it’s necessary to further develop internal systems. The systems must also grow with the company. But as with any IT company, there’s not always time for this. Customer projects always come first for us and then the internal ones. In other words, there’s always enough work for new system admins at Anexia. [laughs]

You mentioned before that you always arrive late. Are you a night owl and what do you do after finishing work?
Yes, I am a night owl and definitely not an early bird. [laughs] At my old job as a social education worker, I enjoyed the fact that the shift always started at noon. And clearly I find the flexible working hours at Anexia great too!
Well, what do I do after finishing work? Right now, in the summer, I go for rides after leaving the company, to take a quick dip in the lake to cool off. I like to ride my bike regardless, but it’s more on the casual side. Every now and then, I also go climbing: something you can take advantage of you when you live in Carinthia.

Leaving Carinthia was never an option for you?
I’ve thought about leaving time and time again, but somehow I got stuck here in the end. The job offers that I got back then were mostly in Vienna, and I definitely didn’t want to go there. A big city isn’t for me.

Perhaps we’ll talk about it one more time: If somebody reading this interview wants to become a system administrator, what path would you suggest taking?
Well, above all, you’ve got to be interested in technology. Ideally, you constantly read technology blogs on a casual basis and keep afloat of the latest updates that way. As a system administrator, you do not need any training or a university education. If the interest is there, it all just happens on its own. It’s learning by doing. So, if you like sitting in front of the computer and tinkering around, then that’s a very good foundation. And we could really use every man and woman to help us out here on the seventh floor at Anexia!


If you feel like rising to Manuel’s challenge, then we’d be happy to receive your application for the position of System Administrator at Anexia: