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Ask Slashdot: Best Practices For Leaving an IT Admin Position?

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the many-bosses-are-panicking-while-reading-this dept.

IT 290

An anonymous reader writes "I've been the server admin at a university for the past five years. Recently, I was given the chance to move from servers to networking, and I jumped at it. I now find myself typing up all my open-ended projects, removing certain scripts and stopping others. What would the community recommend as best practices for passing on administration of some servers? I am trying to avoid a phone call that results in me having to remote in, explain something, jog to the other side of campus to access the machine, etc. Essentially, I'm trying to cover all my bases so any excuse my replacement has to call me is seen as nothing but laziness or incompetence. I am required to give him a day of training to show him where everything is on the servers (web and database), and during that day I'm going to have him change all the passwords. But aside from locking myself out and knowing what is where, what else should I be doing?"

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Wiki (5, Informative)

cyrano.mac (916276) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195603)

Build an internal Wiki. You won't be free from questions since you can 't cover everything in a one day training session. I'd make that two half days with a month or so in between.

Re:Wiki (5, Funny)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195637)

Don't forget the "in case of emergency" glass case equipped with a suicide pill.

Re:Wiki (5, Funny)

laejoh (648921) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195719)

Na, use two letters.

You know, when they forced Khruschev out, he sat down and wrote two letters to his successor. He said - "When you get yourself into a situation you can't get out of, open the first letter, and you'll be safe. When you get yourself into another situation you can't get out of, open the second letter". Well, soon enough, this guy found himself into a tight place, so he opened the first letter. Which said - "Blame everything on me". So he blames the old man, it worked like a charm. He got himself into a second situation he couldn't get out of, he opened the second letter. It said - "Sit down, and write two letters".

Re:Wiki (4, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196241)

Thankfully, unlike in politics(where we call them "culture" or "institutions" or "traditions") everybody in IT fucking hates legacy systems.

Do your successor the favor-he-won't-immediately-recognize-as-such by employing a fire-axe to allow him the room to build the systems according to his own vision from day one.

Sure, the first week or two will be rather stressful; but he'll thank you in the end.

Re:Wiki (5, Insightful)

Ash Vince (602485) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196357)

Thankfully, unlike in politics(where we call them "culture" or "institutions" or "traditions") everybody in IT fucking hates legacy systems.

That is how you can tell a good IT person from a great IT person. The one who is truly brilliant will sit down and learn his way around everything, he might hate it but he will learn every last wire or line of code before making any improvements of his own.

The ones who come straight in and want to change how everything works from day one before they fully understand how it all interrelates are going to screw something up sooner or later.

Re:Wiki (5, Interesting)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196253)

If you are in a position to leave without being escorted hastily out of the door within a few minutes of handing in your notice, you might consider yourself to be in luck.

I can understand the rationale behind such a practice in a toxic workplace where such suspicious attitudes are rife, but it doesn't feel good being on the receiving end of it.

This happened to me once, back in 1990. I thought I was doing the right thing by giving plenty of notice so that a replacement could be found and given an orderly handover, but my desk was immediately cleared by the HR manager, who then personally escorted me out and drove me to my house to pick up the terminals and modem hardware I used to drive the systems outside hours from home. It felt like I was being sacked.

Re:Wiki (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196453)

So if you give them 12 months notice, do they sack you or are you still on their payroll for 12 months?

Re:Wiki (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39195655)

You won't be free from questions since you can 't cover everything in a one day training session. I'd make that two half days with a month or so in between.

Indeed. It is not realistic to expect that you can cover everything in the documentation you are now creating and a single day of training. There's always things you forget. Things you find totally self-evident because you have grown so accustomed to them but that are not for your replacement.
Scheduling another training day somewhere down the line after the replacement has settled in a bit. If you agree to handle any remaining questions at that time there's no reason for the replacement to bother you in the mean time, unless it is really urgent.

Re:Wiki (4, Insightful)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196395)

The other consideration here in my opinion is that he's not even really "moving on". I've worked in universities, changing departments is certainly changing jobs, but you're not going to get out of being helpful that easily. I spent at least a few hours a weeks helping out other departments, and I wasn't even in the position OP is in of having moved internally. Barring some kind of university politics that make Old Boss and New Boss hate each other, universities tend to be friendly places with lots of resource sharing. All it will take is for the old department head to call down and be like "$newkid is having some issues can you spare Soulskill for an hour or so?" and new boss will not only probably agree, he'll likely be glad to help. Old department head is likely a friend, and at the very least having him owe a favor is worth a few minutes of the new hire's time. Much better to just accept ahead of time that another day, or at least half day, is likely to be needed a couple of weeks in, and plan accordingly.

Re:Wiki (3, Informative)

Mysticalfruit (533341) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195825)

I agree with the wiki idea. You should also diagram your whole environment. Both the physical machines and also the applications and how they fit together. Then, unless you're going to let the guy follow you around for two weeks, you're going to have to provide support.

Re:Wiki (2)

hardie (716254) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196379)

I like the Wiki idea, but it could be expanded. You can really learn something when you teach it. As you provide bits of support to the new person, make them add the info to the Wiki. Then the question shouldn't come up again.

I ended up in test engineering at a small manufacturer due to the former person getting seriously ill. When I finally moved back to design, I kept getting calls from the new test engineer and from test operators (who knew which person had the answer). One day I was out. I came back to a pile of messages, started digging through them. Lo and behold, most of them had been solved in my absence! Be helpful and give support, but don't make it too easy.

Re:Wiki (5, Insightful)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195869)

I agree with this, but in reality the time when you are leaving is not the time to be setting that up, it should have been set up on the very first day the person started - lets face it, you are *never* going to be able to document everything now, its a hopeless task. If you manage to touch on everything, then you will miss the little foibles that even you have forgotten (until the next time you have to touch that function yourself).

Re:Wiki (5, Informative)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195915)

I thought you are supposed to keep documentation of your setup since day 1, in case of a bus error.

Re:Wiki (5, Informative)

dimeglio (456244) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195941)

Mod this up... As a manager, I would be a total failure if I didn't ensure all systems were adequately documented. Yes, it's probably the most challenging task next to HR.

Re:Wiki (5, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196053)

Sounds great, most managers refuse to allot time for IT to do this. do you give them 4-8 hours a week to get documentation proper?

Re:Wiki (1)

Antimus (1366367) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196089)

If I had mod points I'd use every one on this post.

Re:Wiki (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196475)

Documentation is part of the job. Are you saying that managers do not give you time to do your job?

Re:Wiki (1)

Aggrajag (716041) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196151)

I used to work for an OEM about a decade ago but I still could basically reproduce the manufacturing process thanks to the fact that us in IT had to document and certify every step.

Re:Wiki (4, Interesting)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196117)

You're supposed to, but if nobody asks for it then it likely doesn't happen since lack of work documentation would be somewhere around #43542 on my list of worries should I end up in a traffic accident. And if your manager is ridden hard to always do new system and new projects, well he too might let it slip until the shit hits the fan. It's the same way documentation and testing have a mysterious way of disappearing from development plans. Sometimes it seems companies are happy to find a scapegoat, but do nothing about the system that leads to it being that way.

Re:Wiki (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196295)

Sometimes it seems companies are happy to find a scapegoat, but do nothing about the system that leads to it being that way.

I've seen this very recently. Seems some managers don't really want to fix problems, they just want them to go away.

Re:Wiki (5, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196045)

"You won't be free from questions since you can 't cover everything in a one day training session. I'd make that two half days with a month or so in between."

Great idea, but I charge $90.00 an hour with a 1 hour minimum for EVERY call I get after my last day. Honestly, why would Anyone work for free?

This tactic stopped the calls, today I do this on my exit interview. I charge a per hour rate unless the company is willing to give me continued free stuff if they expect free stuff. For example I told Comcast that I'll answer question on the phone for free if they continue my free Ultimate cable TV with all pay channels and top tier internet. Otherwise I charge per phone call and per hour.

Most of my calls were answered with, "did you look in the lumpy operations manual I left on my desk the last day I was there? as the answers you need are in there. and Manager X has all the passwords. I cant give you any passwords over the phone."

I left a good detailed file, but some people are too lazy to read a document or ask the proper person for the login information. It's another reason why I charge. I get to tax laziness and stupidity.

Re:Wiki (4, Insightful)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196235)

Honestly, why would Anyone work for free?

No idea.. but I've done it and still do from time to time. Someone calls me up with a question that I can answer without a great deal of effort, especially if it's a reasonable question (not documented, ambiguous, etc..), I'll answer it.

Big part of it is everywhere I've worked I've considered most of my co-workers friends and still hang around with several from previous jobs. I see it more as helping a buddy out than providing free labour (and again, a lot of the time we are talking a 10 second question.. usually followed by 5 minutes of enjoyable conversation / catching up). I guess if you are in an uptight all-business environment or didn't really like your previous co-workers I can understand.

Re:Wiki (1)

karnal (22275) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196293)

+1 funny if that was actually an Adventure Time reference.

Re:Wiki (2)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196163)

When I left my last job as the sole network/server/helpdesk guy, my old boss asked me to come in 5 evenings over the course of 6 weeks to train the new guy. The first two or three times were within a week to give him the overview and the rest were later on when he ran into things he wasn't experienced with. I still get a quick email every few weeks with a question about something or other. Of couse, I made sure I got paid for every minute I was training the new guy.

Re:Wiki (1)

Ash Vince (602485) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196297)

Build an internal Wiki. You won't be free from questions since you can 't cover everything in a one day training session. I'd make that two half days with a month or so in between.

To be honest, you should have done this 5 years ago. Everything should be documented at the time you build it, so if you leave / die someone can pick up supporting what you put in place. I know many people might come back saying this is a waste of time, but it is the only way to be sure that everything that needs to be gets documented. Trying to figure out what bits of the last 5 years need documenting now is a nightmare and you are guaranteed to miss stuff. Doing 5 years of systadmin stuff with no documentation of how it all fits together is like doing 5 years of coding with no comments or supporting program design work.

This advice might be too late to help the original poster, but hopefully someone else out there will see the benefit of this.

Re:Wiki (1)

FridayBob (619244) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196511)

Yes, a wiki are great, but in this case it needs to contain useful information. The wiki forces you to organize what you know about the network and how everything is related, but it's a lot of work and it takes time and effort to do it properly. The bigger and/or more complicated the network in question, the longer it will take to complete an adequate set of documents.

Documentation is not something you start on a day or a week before you leave: it's something that should be created as soon as possible and maintained for the life of the network. It's damn useful even if you're not planning on going anywhere! But if you're only considering it after handing in your resignation, you're too late.

Just Leave (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39195613)

You are not as important as you think you are. Just leave. They will figure it out. Worked for me.

Re:Just Leave (3, Funny)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195619)

Ah, the old "Screw you morons, I quit" tactic.

Re:Just Leave (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39195669)

Basically the same as "screw your mortgage and family moron, you are fired".

Re:Just Leave (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195695)

Yes, but not every employer will do that, and (in my experience) most will only do that if you give them a good reason, or they have no viable alternative.

Re:Just Leave (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39195973)

or when your company is bought out and new CEO claims he will fire 25% of all employees.
Screw him...

Re:Just Leave (5, Funny)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196077)

I'm sorry dave, but the CEO really wants another Yacht and we cant afford to keep you. Yes we know that you do 12 jobs and are critical to our operation, but we are going to hire some kid right out of college for $28,900 and save a shitload of money and abuse the snot nosed brat by making him work 120 hours a week with only 40 hours of pay. You are just too old for us to screw like that anymore.

Re:Just Leave (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39196335)

Not every employer. But the MAJORITY of employers will. Especially if they can save a dollar doing it.

Re:Just Leave (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196405)

and (in my experience) most will only do that if you give them a good reason, or they have no viable alternative.


I don't mean to disparage your experience, but I should mention that when you have a lot of it, you will find a few asswipes amongst your list of employers.

I have had some bosses with whom I might almost have worked for free, while on the other hand I have had recent experience of another boss who has been personally responsible for a 250% turnover of staff (including myself) in the 11 months I was at that workplace. I consider myself fortunate (and nearly unique) to have survived my notice period without some pretext having been found (or manufactured) to precipitate my being sacked.

Re:Just Leave (5, Insightful)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195735)

That tactic is too common, and leaves people thinking you're an idiot because they get no chance to find out _why_ you did things certain ways. This role is in the same university: you do _not_ want to leave enemies behind in your old workgroup. Unless some other political issue is driving you out, plan a much longer hand-off period. Unless there's other staff that can fill him in on common practices after beginning, you should schedule time every day, then every week, then occasional emails to touch base. Have lunch with him and a notebook occasionally in the first month. Just be careful not to become a crutch.

The server admins and the networking group should remain on friendly terms: you're going to need favors from each other in the future, and keeping things helpful will help the server team grant those favors gracefully. It'll also let them know that when you say yes, it's as a colleague who wants everything to work, and when you say no, it's not personal.

Re:Just Leave (4, Insightful)

curious.corn (167387) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195765)

Hats off. These days it's rather difficult to find reasonable, competent and professional people in the field; therefore I won't pass this occasion for a well deserved praise.
Definitely good advice, there would be so much more unnecessary stress and emotion if this attitude was more widespread.

Re:Just Leave (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39195641)

I didn't see any presumption of importance in there, just that there is a lot of information to cover.

My institution had the same issues, One of the reasons we make sure EVERYONE has a trained backup. In cases like this, the trained backup can handle the training and questions of the new guy when the old guy is gone.

Re:Just Leave (2)

justforgetme (1814588) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195703)

Also known in the computer industry as the hit by Bus factor. Never let someone leave the office
without having at least one person being able to take over his responsibilities.

Re:Just Leave (4, Insightful)

Splab (574204) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195701)


If you really are that important, have them contract the work to you.

And to siblings, it's not about saying screw you guys - it's a job, it's not your life, they will dump you the second you are redundant.

Stay in touch with your workmates if you liked them enough, but the second you are off the clock, it's someone elses problem.

Re:Just Leave (2)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195835)

yes, but prior to being off the clock, you can work to make it easier on them, once you are off the clock. Not everyone will dump you when you are redundant, especially if they make a point of keeping backups in positions, as another user mentioned. Even in the places where you are still too redundant, many employers will try to reshuffle you to other positions you can fill. Not all employers are cold, heartless bastards.

Re:Just Leave (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39196127)

If you find yourself in a position where you are redundant and you haven't been let-go, it's time to find another job anyway - not firing redundant people is a terribly inefficient business practice and they will be tanking soon anyway.

Re:Just Leave (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39196245)

Would agree,

However, he's not leaving by the looks of it... hes moving to another job within the same establishment, so there will have to be some form of handover.

Re:Just Leave (1)

JATMON (995758) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196279)

You are not as important as you think you are. Just leave. They will figure it out. Worked for me.

Back in 2001, I worked for a company where I build a system that outputted a report that went to all the management up to the VP of the company. I was the only one that had access to the server and I had all the passwords. A couple weeks after they laid me off, the VP stopped getting his report and no I did not cause it to break :). When he asked my old manager about not getting his report, my manager had to explain to him that they only person who knew anything about the system and had all the password was laid off. They actually had the nerve to call me and ask if I would give them the passwords and help them fix it. I laughed and told them I would for $1000/hr. They never got the system working again.

Already covered at length on Slashdot (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39195615)

Here [] , here [] and here [] . :-)

Have him/her sign off after your training (5, Interesting)

KnightMB (823876) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195621)

Be fair of course in how you word it, but nothing speaks better than "I showed the new Admin X,Y,Z and he knows how to do X,Y,Z; here the signature to prove it". I know you are trying to avoid a new Admin coming in and then complaining about how the previous guy didn't know what the hell he was doing. Happens to everyone I'm afraid, but at least have your bases covered for what any replacement needs to know to operate in your permanent absence. It will also discourage the new admin from making any drama scenes with his/her new boss when he/she knows you have something in writing that is suppose to demonstrate/validate his/her new skills in the position. Other than that, don't burn any bridges, try to be helpful to the new Admin, when you have the free time, but don't go out your way and sacrifice your new job to help a struggling admin who might be in over his head due to fluffing up the resume.

Re:Have him/her sign off after your training (4, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195809)

Don't know about you, but if I was the new worker and at the end of the day you came to me with a paper for me to sign saying I now know everything my first reaction would be "WTF?" and the second "No way." I have no idea how much you forgot to tell me, even if it says "managing the $foo server" you may have forgotten to tell me about some job or routine or process related to that. In fact, it'd probably be the start of a drama scene with the new boss as I go to him to talk about it.

If you get called, you'll quickly figure out if it's (1) help me do my job, (2) I couldn't be arsed to read the documentation or (3) something genuinely non-obvious. Dismiss (1)s, even if you do remember (2)s point them to the docs instead and answer (3)s. At least so far I'd say 100% of my past employers have asked for a few minutes of my time and 0% have abused the privilege. Just stick to answering how it was but you can't say what direction to take going forwards anymore and it'll be over quickly and friendly.

One Day? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39195633)

That seems like an awfully small window to brain-dump all the info the new guy will need. I think you'll find yourself doing an "oh, yeah, I forgot to tell you about this" thing for awhile. Trying to make the guy look lazy or incompetent for not knowing everything after 1 whole day of info-sharing sounds mean-spirited.

You should (2, Insightful)

skovnymfe (1671822) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195639)

change your name and get a new phone number, and let the new guy figure out everything on his own, from reading your properly written documentation. You did write good documentation, right?

Seriously? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39195643)

You seriously expect he'll be able to take in everything in a single day? Better make sure he records the session, isn't love-sick, in perfect physical and mental health, and not nervous. If those servers are important at all, chances are he's competent (unless there's nepotism, which could be even more dangerous to you).

Wow (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39195659)

Wow -- seriously? I'VE been doing IT for FAR longer than 5 years, and the attitude you're displaying right now I'd notice and either not hire you or fire your ass.

I'll be the first to agree if you end up with some incompetent boob, you want that on him and not you ending up doing two jobs, but if you had any maturity or experience, you'd recognize it _might_ take longer than 1 day to do a full knowledge transfer (in fact, if it only takes 1 day, frankly, you shouldn't have had a full time job.. you must have had a lot of downtime to post on Facebook). I'd do my best to document everything in a wiki, show him the ropes his first day, and provide him with my contact information. If a month later he was still bothering me for minutiae, we'd have words -- if three months later he was calling me for an emergency, I'd handle it and then handle him. But 1 day and gone? Either your 'sysadmin' position was 'sit on ass all day' or you need to realign your expectations. What would you want to happen if it was you coming in blind?

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39196007)

I had the same thoughts when I read the OP.

Posting as anonymous because too many people seemed to think 1 day was enough. Scary.

Re:Wow (1)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196385)

You really need to work on your reading comprehension, buddy. The submitter said what he was already planning to do, but also said he wants to do more. It's not like he isn't open to the possibility of more hands-on training days, or whatever else it takes for a smooth handoff.

Give them the knowledgebase (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39195661)

Make sure they know where everything's been documented.

Everything is documented, right?... If not, expect many, many "please help" calls.

Re:Give them the knowledgebase (1)

Y2KDragon (525979) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195675)

Or. Change your phone number after you leave. To be honest, you owe no obligation to your former employer once you part ways. Give the new person the fair rundown on what you've been doing, make sure that person knows the general architecture and who is responsible for what, then let that person run with it. If they are worth the pay, they'll make that their own inside of 6 months, and you'll be nothing more than "that guy who was here before". Relax, it will be fine.

Whenever you move on to a position (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39195665)

... I find it's best to leave a turd on a keyboard. In other words, literally move on it.

Re:Whenever you move on to a position (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195859)

... I find it's best to leave a turd on a keyboard. In other words, literally move on it.

It's actually more phun to leave shrimps under the false floor.

perfection is not the key (1)

Ginger Unicorn (952287) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195667)

I'm trying to cover all my bases

Perfection is unattainable. This is like trying to write some code and anticipate every possible bug before you ship. There will be bugs - accept that there will be a beta phase to your handover.

Leave the keys on the kitchen counter... (4, Insightful)

IANAAC (692242) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195677)

and don't look back.

Let the bank deal with all the trash you left behind and how to clean it up before they try and resell the place.

Oh, you weren't talking about being foreclosure. On second thought, my first thought stands.

Honestly, what's wrong with the new admin coming to you with questions, as long as s/he doesn't abuse the relationship? You'll find that in moving to networking, you're probably going to be doing some work with he new admin anyway, just not directly. Might as well maintain a healthy relationship.

The Great Escape (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39195681)

Run, run like the wind, burn every bridge and make it known you will be moving on far away and never communicating with the ex employer again then disappear into the wild not seen or heard from into eternity and you might just avoid being burned at the stake or sent to prison for having a password.

You be late, mon (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39195687)

Five years, no site documentation? Bit of a failure right there. Right now the best course would be to stay on for a couple weeks, set up a wiki or anything else to aid taking notes, and work with your replacement to bring it to completeness while he gets up to speed. He can explore and write down, you fill in the details. If you don't have weeks, you give him the wiki but keep access for a while and fill in the details as and when you can. Any question answered that way --and most won't be time-critical-- is a phone call avoided.

Take the stapler (1)

KermodeBear (738243) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195689)

That your red Swingline stapler with you. It's yours, you earned it!

On a more serious note, document any kind of common troubles (networking problems, services that need special care, whatever) as they come in. Consolidate that information and provide a nice little package.

This is what I am doing where I work. We have a client on old, legacy software with some really quirky behavior in some circumstances. So I have a document detailing common issues, what the symptoms are, how to troubleshoot, and how to fix. This is THE FIRST document I am handing off to the next guy and will cover 95% of the issues he's going to be dealing with. I don't mind if he calls me for the extra 5% - that's where the dragons are anyway.

Cover the worst case scenario stuff first with the limited time you have left. If that means you don't have time to document the mundane stuff like a normal server configuration, then that's okay. They can piece together the non-critical stuff during normal business hours. They may grumble at you then, but they'll worship you if you can save them during that 2am emergency phone call.

Break a few things (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39195709)

Then they won't invite you back

Last minute changes? (4, Interesting)

rednip (186217) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195723)

Essentially, I'm trying to cover all my bases so any excuse my replacement has to call me is seen as nothing but laziness or incompetence.

Do you hate the guy? Sure people can be time wasters, but you wouldn't be blowing off a user, but an admin who's hands you might need at some time in the future.

I now find myself typing up all my open-ended projects, removing certain scripts and stopping others.

What's with all the last minute changes? Clearly it's not a 'best practice' to change anything just before you hand it over, as some issues can take days, weeks, or months to become noticed, if they can be traced back you your last minute 'unwarranted' changes, you'll be at the other end of those 'incompetence charges'.

Make a support contract (2)

MikkoApo (854304) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195753)

Ideally administrators should aim to automate everything with scripts and then document the use of the scripts. That way, if you're hit by a bus the whole system is already in a good shape for others to continue. Personally I think it's part of the administrators responsibility to keep the system in such a good shape. Management should also understand the importance of this and allocate enough time to keep systems in good shape. Doing things like that as an afterthought takes a really long time and makes knowledge transfers really painful.

If your management has allocated only one day for the knowledge transfer, they're taking a huge risk. There's no way you can teach everything about a system in a day. What you can do, is tell your current management realistically about the situation and the risks. After you've gone through the system with the replacement talk to the management about how the knowledge transfer went and make a signed contract about how much support you are willing to give afterwards and how much it will cost them.

With a contract it's up to the management to decide on how much their system is worth to them and you'll get compensation on doing extra work. Who knows, maybe the management will realise that spending a week on the knowledge transfer upfront might be cheaper than paying you afterwards.

Don't be a dick, dick (5, Insightful)

jholyhead (2505574) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195769)

If the guy who replaces you needs a hand, give him a god damned hand!

If you've failed to adequately document your role in the time you've been there, you're the one who is lazy and incompetent - it is in your best interests to convince your replacement not to point this out to your old boss, who might point it out to your new boss.

Re:Don't be a dick, dick (1)

EliSowash (2532508) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195995)

Damn skippy. I left a job three months ago, after 8 1/2 years with the firm. I've forgotten more tribal knowledge than most of the remaining staff knows, and on average, I've gotten at least one phone call a week since then. I think I was pretty well documented (again, I'm in agreement with you) but there's just some stuff that never got written down. If I'm a reliable repository, why shouldn't I be tapped for a question?

Re:Don't be a dick, dick (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39195997)


you're still going to be around the place? Don't be a dick.

Don't do their job for them.
Don't second guess changes they start making.
Don't set them adrift. Be a responsible member of the community.
For any significant issues / problems that you are called in about, make sure to include your boss and their boss and work to make sure they don't need you again for the same sort of thing.

Re:Don't be a dick, dick (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39196035)

It is wise to be helpful. Anyway, you should help him or her even if there is no direct benefit in it. This is called normal social behavior. Being an egotistic dick, is definitely not the right choice.

One Day is Insufficient (5, Insightful)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195785)

Get your management to buy into you sharing your time between networking and systems for perhaps two or three weeks (you decide based on volume and complexity of what needs to be handed over) and spend as much time as needed to (a) evaluate the skills of the new 'guy' and (b) get them up to speed on whatever they need to know. If you don't do it in the beginning you'll be doing it for months.

During this 'handover' period, track questions, answers, issues and concerns in one document that you and the new admin review at least once a week (again I don't know the scale of your environment). If any questions come up later and you've documented the entire handover period this way you're covered.

Re:One Day is Insufficient (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39195857)

I fully agree w/ this! Plus, it will show that you're a team-player and not simply trying to leave him to fend on his own. 1 day would not be enough even for a well qualified replacement. It may be enough to get him started, but remember, this was your baby, you'll want it to succeed even when you're gone. If the time/resource allocation is the issue, get w/ management and explain the situation and how you'd like to give a few days of your time to get them on a solid foundation. I'm sure you're management would be in support of it, if they are fully aware of your intents (to help, not to push stuff away).

Handing Over Professionally (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39195833)

The best way to do this is to ensure that your documentation is up to date, provide him with a list of key events in the year. You work at a University so it should include the following -

Tasks carried out at the beginning of the academic year
Tasks carried out at the beginning of the academic year
Significant times of the year e.g. exam times.

You are running a full change control system, ;-) Universities in my experience don't but they should. List every change you make to the systems from now until you hand over.

Don't burn any bridges, expect to be called by your replacement, remember you are not leaving the organisation and the management are within the rights to ask you to help out. Eventually you will realise that you have not had a call for 6 months.

Remember people who post things like "change your name and number" have either never worked in the industry or have just started out. They will not get far with that attitude.

Disclaimer I’ve worked for three universities in the UK, this is based upon experience.

Relax (5, Insightful)

coldfarnorth (799174) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195849)

It sounds like you are taking most of the right steps already. Writing up projects, one last round of cleaning. . .

The rest really depends on how big of a job you are handing over. If you were a full time admin, then a single day of training is probably not going to be sufficient. If it was a part time position, then perhaps one day is sufficient. That said, I still wouldn't assume that the new guy is incompetent if he has questions after the first day.

I'd suggest that you tell the guy up front: You are moving to a new job and you won't have a lot of time to answer questions, but you don't want him to feel like you screwed him over. Do your day of training, offer to field emails for a week or two (you'll reply within 24 hours) then schedule an additional session for two weeks later. You should scale this to the size of the job you are handing over: perhaps an hour phone conference for small stuff, up to another day of training if you are handing over a full time position. At that point, he or she can ask any further questions and you can call it quits.

This buys you a bit of goodwill from both the new guy and your old boss. (Going to be wanting a reference from him someday? Show that you care and want things to go well, even after you leave.) Besides, odds are that the new guy is even moderately competent, he won't email you after the 3rd day, and will cancel your 2 week phone call. Plus, if he really is incompetent and starts seriously leaning on your expertise, you should call your old boss and tell him that the new guy has issues - that's probably more valuable than a slip of paper with a (now-known) incompetent's signature.

Best of luck.

Checklist (2)

porsche911 (64841) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195871)

Put together a very detailed checklist of everything you are going to hand off. Make him own the list and take notes then make him do a review with you and his manager of what he's learned and then have both of them sign off on the training. Be available for quick questions but keep very detailed notes about how much time you are spending during the first couple of weeks. When he calls you should ask what he's done already with the problem to make sure he isn't getting into the default behavior of calling you first. You need to make sure he can be successful (as in the don't burn bridges philosophy) but at the same time is taking ownership of the job.

Good luck,

Flash gun (4, Funny)

6Yankee (597075) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195873)

Wait for the first phone call.
Grab flash gun, keep it hidden.
Disappear behind server rack, muttering "I'm so lucky Health and Safety never came back here...."
Discharge flash gun.
Scream, swear loudly, and wave hand as if burnt.
Wait for "It's OK, we've got this."

Every support request/answer in writing / email (1)

farnsaw (252018) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195899)

Make sure you answer all support requests via email CCing your new boss (and possibly his) so everyone knows how much time you are spending on the handover. Additionally, it also allows you to track duplicate and repeat questions and to just forward the old email, again including your new boss and possibly his. This is a STRONG encouragement for the new guy to truly take over and your support duties will diminish over time.

It should already be documented. (2)

djsmiley (752149) | more than 2 years ago | (#39195901)

You should of documented everything as you went along.

Now it bites you in the ass, lucky for your replacement you haven't just been run over / killed some how and they CAN question you.

To Do List (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39195937)

As a good admin, you have documented the server configuration. Especially which services are there, which serivce uses another service etc. In short the architecture of your system existsin a document (or better in a Wiki). there is al ist of all admin-passwords for these services in a separate location (in paper). If you have a wiki, you normally you have a page per machine, containg a service list of it on that page including services which are used by that machine (LDAP for auth). Also you have a separate page for the architecture of all machines.

If you have kept you documentation in a good state, you can just pass that to the next admin. Every open project has a ticket and its progress documented in a ticket system (we use trac so wiki and bugtracker are combined in one tool, but the tool as such is not important, only the function is important). Such projects comprise requests for SSL certificates, request for service deployments, changes etc.

If you do not have such system, then help the next guy to establish one.

Lemme try this on (5, Insightful)

Stargoat (658863) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196021)

OK. Lemme try on:

You installed a bunch of open source software all over the place, removing Windows, Unix, and or Novell. (Probably Windows.) Your documentation is, admittedly, less than complete. You, admittedly, have scripts running here and there, which are also likely less than documented. You also are doing a job that should take a month, bringing a new admin up to speed on your (literally) custom built network, in a day.

And your primary concern is (and I quote):

I'm trying to cover all my bases so any excuse my replacement has to call me is seen as nothing but laziness or incompetence.

If I was your boss, I'd fire you and might consider bringing you up on charges of interfering with government property. What, is your name Terry Childers? Probably not. He at least was trying to do a good job. You're just the sort of tool that gives Linux users and computer guys in general a bad name.

The best practice for leaving an IT position? You should start by improving your attitude.

Re:Lemme try this on (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196103)

At which point did the OP mention Linux at all?

Re:Lemme try this on (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39196201)

GP is projecting so hard he should be pointed at a wall in the board room.

Re:Lemme try this on (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196309)

GP is projecting so hard he should be pointed at a wall in the board room.

LOL wish I had mod points, made me chuckle.

Re:Lemme try this on (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39196243)

this is slashdot. linux is implied. so is opensource and ponies. there's probably a beowulf cluster of c64s in the corner running the spam filters.

Re:Lemme try this on (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39196359)

Let me clarify,
The guy coming in has no server experience and I have a rep for just doing other peoples work because it's easier than fighting for it. I don't want to be stuck in the position where i'm doing 2 jobs.
I had no say in his hiring, hes a friend of the boss.
The servers are linux and there is nothing that is not documented, i'm meticulous he does not know how to use vi, doesn't know of nano I have my work cut out here and i'm looking to avoid sitting there 2 months to bring him up to speed.

So in your pessimistic view of how i operate you would of been right however you assumed too much. I don't see where I admitted anything was undocumented do you? Yes, i have open projects, who doesn't? I'm removing them because they are my projects that are unfinished, he might want to go in a different direction. Put your pitchfork away and try to be a little more constructive in your response

I'm going with the Wiki idea,

what i was trying to prevent was a call every 5 minutes and him hitting the staples that was easy button when i'm done doing the work.

Do unto others (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39196059)

Oh I don't know, maybe you should treat the guy that is replacing you, how you would like to be treated by the guy you are replacing.

Here is what you do: (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39196071)

1. Put a backdoor in all of the servers.
2. Don't tell anyone about it.
3. When you are trying to get another job, show off your backdoors to the interviewers.
4. Demonstrate how you could cripple the servers with a simple keystroke.
5. ???
6. Profit.

Prepare for leaving from the first day (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39196115)

You had to have all scripts documented. You had to have all your job documented. You had to start prepare for leave from the first day. If you did then just hand all stuff to replacement and half day speak on what is what and then go to have a drink. If you didn't then you got paid for not doing your job, phone calls should be ok.

You Suck, the New Person Doesn't (1)

emmjayell (780191) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196135)

Pretty much, no matter what you do, even if you build a wiki, have everything amazingly documented, and are in the top 10% of all shops in terms of best practices, the new person will find reasons to find fault with what you have done. Servers will be rebuilt, upgrades will happen, etc. A year from now, things will either be better off than when you were running them or worse off, but the reality is that re-use just doesn't happen enough in our industry. So if re-use isn't happening, then it's really just up to the quality of the individual.

Handover? (1)

pev (2186) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196165)

A days handover for five years worth of running systems seems foolish. If it was me I'd have ideally arranged one to two weeks overlap so the new guy can shadow you and go through a few cycles of standard stuff in progress...

scorched earth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39196203)

scorched earth is the best policy. It just makes things easier for everyone.

Help Them Out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39196205)

It does seem like you are expecting trouble for some reason. A few things:

1. You've worked in your old job for 5 years - if you haven't convinced your old boss that you are good value it is probably too late to start now.

2. Does it really matter what your old boss thinks of you once you move?

3. You should help your replacement to the limit your new boss will let you (and you should advocate strongly for providing the assistance). The idea of a one day handover after five years under your administration (I'm assuming you are full time) is not reasonable.

I know there is a bit of a culture for inexperienced techs blamestorming when they arrive in a new environment because it is unfamiliar/not setup like their last job. Just accept it is human nature - geeks are the worst because they like to be in control. Help them get the control they are after, and then enjoy the benefit of a productive working relationship with a colleague who will respect your site knowledge and be prepared to help grease the wheels of the machine so you can be more effective in your own job.

OP is an Ass (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39196223)

You sound like an ass from your statements. A smooth transition will take more than 1 day. Likely several weeks. Dont you have some sort of log book/run book/wiki where you note all the crap you dont want to have to remember?
If I were your boss and you had this attitude you would not have gotten any kind of good reference other than "Yes that person does work here." More likely you would have been fired long ago.

You would not last in any type of real world job.

One day? X hours over a year is better (3, Insightful)

bradley13 (1118935) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196249)

One day is not realistic. Even if you are super-organized, and actually managed to touch on every single topic in that day, there's no way the new person will understand it all.

It's a slightly different context, but when I turned over a software system, I agreed to this: 40 hours consulting included, anytime over the next year. The first few hours were obviously used immediately. After that, questions came in less-and-less frequently. For me: I knew there was an end. For the people taking over the system: when unexpected issues came up, they knew they could count on help. In fact, they were so restrained about questions that I didn't mind answering a couple of questions after the year was up.

Long story, but I think the same idea would work for you. To keep things clear, write up an agreement and get the right people to sign it. However, as others have pointed out: wanting to be able to prove the other person to be lazy or incompetent is worrisome. You are all on the same team. Check your attitude - it's better to be colleagues than enemies.

Re:One day? X hours over a year is better (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39196387)

I'm going with the wiki idea. But that is also a nice point.
My main point it I don't want to be stuck doing both jobs as he has no server background and I'm the one who built the servers, databases and content.

I'm not looking to make him look like a fool, but i'd like him to feel he has to research a little before picking up the phone because when he does, i don't have the authority to say no to him, I have too much invested in my career.

Same company? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196305)

if so, expect to be helping the new guy for months. One day of training the new guy isn't going to be reality. Did you figure it out in a day? did all your projects take a day?

if you are moving to a different company, expect phone calls, that you can always refuse or ask for a fee..

But ya, if you were not documenting as part of normal practice, document it all now..

Re:Same company? (1)

IT.luddite (1633703) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196411)

Can't agree more. If you really want to hand off, you have to find a different EMPLOYER and not a different department/supervisor. Otherwise, every project you've ever lead will be yours forever. Sure, someone may be "responsible" for the day to day stuff and it can be upgraded half a dozen times, but if it falls over and the current guy/gal can't figure it out, you'll be getting the call. Documentation is great, but it only gets you so far as it's nigh impossible to document everything you did and why, much less what to do when X happens do Y for every case. The other reality w/ documentation is that for it to be useful, someone has to READ it. Good luck with that, RTFM became part of the gestalt for a reason. Suck it up, follow a previous poster's advice by CC'ing your new supervisor so he/she atleast can see how much time suck is going on and just be helpful as you can to the next guy. After all, it's us vs the users! ;)

overlap insufficient (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39196317)

Regardless of documentation, best-practice is to have *considerable* more overlap than one day. At a minimum, a month.

Standard industrial practices (2)

SpaghettiPattern (609814) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196429)

I should recur to standard industrial practices. The rather lovable character known as BOFH [] compiled a comprehensive canonical volume. A standard opus for all sysadmins. I fancy you will find ample advice on how to behave in the situation whereby handover must be effectuated imminently.

Indeed I am so pleased to know your valiant endeavours are not within the organisation I am currently engaged with.

Your concern is admirable, but... (1)

Arrogant-Bastard (141720) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196455)

...keep in mind that those you work for would cut you loose without a second though if it were convenient for them do so. You owe them no loyalty whatsoever: that's why it's called a "job", you're only obligated to do what you do as long as you're being paid for it, and that obligation ceases instantly when you're not. (If you think that their perceived obligation to you will last one nanosecond longer, then you are foolish and naive.)

So while you hold the job, you should do the best that you can to document and to explain. Of course, if you're being replaced by an idiot, no amount of documentation and explanation will suffice: stupid people are, well, stupid. But presuming that your replacement has at least minimally acceptable level intelligence, it shouldn't be all that difficult for them to transition into your role.

Despite all of this, however, you WILL be blamed when something goes wrong because that's a natural human tendency: people who do not think through cause-and-effect relationships leap to conclusions, and this particular one is especially tempting. It's really not worth going through the effort to refute it; doubly so if your replacement reinforces the idea. (I'm STILL being blamed for the failure of a subsequent admin to read a very-well documented shell script that was specifically and extensively covered during my last handoff, despite the fact that I handed this person a piece of paper with that script mentioned by name, in bold 18-point type, in the first 3 minutes of our first meeting. *shrug* There's nothing I can do when faced with such an alarmingly low level of comprehension.)

You are dead to them (1)

shrapnull (780217) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196469)

True story: I took over a 10,000 node network for an admin that had just killed himself, leaving no server or network documentation whatsoever. It took time to reflash all of the switches and find tricks to replace passwords on servers and figure out how everything was more or less organized. Leaving a few passwords for the next guy and a rough, top-down analysis of how things interact on paper will work wonders for the next guy. That being said, it's possible (not pleasant) to move forward with no prior knowledge; any explanation you can provide will go a long way. Doubly-so if you put it on paper. You have to realize that gaps will be filled with his way of doing things, not yours. In a few years the network as you knew it could be almost unrecognizable, but it's for the best, and the new guy will have complete control of what's there and how it interacts.

You should grow up (5, Insightful)

dirtyhippie (259852) | more than 2 years ago | (#39196497)

It's unrealistic to expect everything to just work smoothly under a new person after 5 years working (I presume) mostly by yourself. It's not laziness or incompetence for the FNG to consult the person who architected the system when the documentation inevitably falls short. Grow up, be a professional, and help the new guy out.

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