Women in Tech: Chelsea Fieler, Systems Engineer

Originally posted on ThinkIT, SingleHop’s blog, October 18, 2017. 

According to the US Department of Labor, only 19 percent of systems administrators are women.1

From national attention on the value of STEM education to local conferences for women in tech, there’s been an increase in awareness and initiatives to increase diversity across IT occupations. Employers are also taking steps to empower women in technology careers through professional development and creating defined paths to leadership opportunities. And women are seizing the opportunities available and exceeding expectations.

SingleHop’s Chelsea Fieler is one of those women. Chelsea was recently promoted from a systems administrator to business continuity systems engineer. Here’s how she came into these roles and what she’s learned along the way.

What inspired you to pursue systems administration as a career?

I grew up in a very tech-friendly household. One of my earliest childhood memories was at about five or six years old, sitting on my father’s lap as he tried to teach me the basics of DOS. At the time all I wanted was to play SimAnt, but my father always made sure I had the current technology basics instilled in me. As I got older I got more involved with hardware, such as building my own PCs, and ultimately custom operating systems like Linux distributions. It also always seemed that I was the one to encounter those weird one-off errors that nobody else finds, so my troubleshooting skills were quickly refined.

How did you become a sysadmin?

I had been working IT with a company on and off, but hadn’t been able to fully get my foot in the door to the world of IT. I then landed a position as a NOC Tier 2 Technician in a data center. After a few years, I took the knowledge I had obtained and brought my skill set to SingleHop as a systems administrator. With the additional training and hands on experience with SingleHop, I began working with our backup and disaster recovery products, including R1Soft, Veeam and Zerto. Just recently, I transitioned into a business continuity systems engineer role working with our backup and disaster recovery services and infrastructure.

What does a typical day look like for you at work?

As a systems administrator, you really never know what is going to come your way. Daily activities could be anything such as mitigating network attacks, changing server configurations, performing migrations for out of date operating systems, etc. Nothing is excluded from the realm of possibility and it certainly keeps you on your toes.

Now that I am working with our business continuity products, my normal day typically includes reviewing replication jobs to ensure that these are prepared for use at any moment. I also spend a significant amount of time working with our disaster recovery infrastructure, keeping things running at peak performance and looking for any ways that we might implement new features or increase performance. I am also involved in failovers and scheduled failover testing, for those who wish to ensure their failover services would function as expected in a live case.

What aspects challenge you and which are most exciting for you?

I think the most exciting part of my job is the ability to be there to recover from an unexpected disaster, quickly and efficiently. As much we do our best to avoid disaster, unexpected situations can always still arise. Nobody ever expects a natural disaster or a click-happy end user. We can always plan for it, however, and be ready to jump in with a solution as soon as it happens. It’s very rewarding to be able to have someone back online quickly after a major, or even a minor, disaster by utilizing the planned resources available to them.

What advice would you give to someone pursuing this as a career path?

I think if I were to go back in time and give myself some advice, it would be to pick a speciality and pursue it. Information Technology is an incredibly vast field and can apply to a wide range of skills. I spent about two or three years being indecisive on this. It is always good to have a basic understanding of a broad range of skills, but having a refined set of specialties relating to the career you want will expedite reaching your desired destination, rather than just treading water. In addition, having a desired direction in terms of study guides or certification exams can greatly help.

Secondly, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and let someone know if you may have a solution to an existing problem. At the same time, don’t get discouraged if your idea isn’t chosen. Not every idea is perfect but critical thinking outside the box can make the difference between functionality and efficiency.

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1. Source: https://www.dol.gov/wb/stats/Computer_information_technology_2014.htm