A picture of Ted Kekatos tangled in wires while on the job back in the day.
Jul 25 2013

Q&A: SysAdmin Day Founder Celebrates 14 Years of His Self-Made Holiday

After inventing the holiday as a nod to his fellow IT underdogs, SysAdmin Day has grown far beyond the founder’s initial expectations.

If everyone is destined for 15 minutes of fame, why shouldn’t everyone have his or her own holiday?

Inspired by an HP ad that showed workers giving their IT administrator cake for ordering new HP printers, Ted Kekatos decided to turn SysAdmin Day into a real holiday.

It started 14 years ago with his company picnic, which was on the last Friday of July, but now thousands are gathering in Russia to celebrate the people who everyone in the office runs to when the network is down. It’s also been featured a couple times in Krishna Sadasivam’s web comic PC Weenies and shouted out by This Week in Tech’s Leo Laporte.

While the holiday doesn’t have any specific rituals or traditions, technology vendors have jumped on board and offer deep discounts on the holiday. Kekatos has recommended giving sysadmins a simple cake in the past, though a brand-new smartphone wouldn’t hurt either.

We caught up with Kekatos to ask him a few questions about how SysAdmin Day has evolved and how he feels about its growth in popularity.

BIZTECH: Has the spread of SysAdmin Day accelerated since social media has taken hold?

KEKATOS: Oh, absolutely. Previously, when you found an interesting website you would forward the link to your friends via email. I would scan all the computer magazines, you know the print magazines, Computerworld, InfoWeek, looking for mentions of my website. But now, basically I just monitor Twitter and all of the mentions [of #SysAdminDay] and excitement on Twitter.

BIZTECH: What’s the most inspirational or impressive story that’s come out of SysAdmin Day celebrations?

KEKATOS: In some parts of the world, SysAdmin Day has almost evolved into like an entire weekend festival, almost like a Woodstock-type of thing with camping, food and entertainment.

Two years ago, I read somewhere there were 3,000 people that attended at this one meetup in Russia, so that’s pretty impressive. But I don’t know what’s gonna happen this year.

BIZTECH: Who’s the most high-profile person you’ve seen acknowledge SysAdmin Day? Is the Woz a fan of your holiday?

KEKATOS: Steve Wozniak, that would be an excellent choice, but I can’t say I’ve seen that. The one person that I do follow is Leo Laporte, and he kind of mentions it like every other year.

Another interesting thing that happened last year was I was visiting at my parents’ house, and they had a calendar on the wall from the Realtor. I was flipping through the calendar and in the back page, they listed all of the national holidays all on one page, and in the list of holidays was SysAdmin Day. That was pretty crazy.

BIZTECH: There’s been a lot of talk about the diminished role of IT workers with the advent of BYOD and cloud computing. Do you think systems administrators are in danger of being more unappreciated than they were before?

KEKATOS: There’s just so much technology in business, in every business from banking to trucking to medical, there’s technology everywhere. So there’s always gonna be technologists. So, no. Definitely the job is changing though.

There’s two things that are happening. Systems are getting more and more complex — exponentially complex. But they’re always getting better and better. The interaction between the complex systems is I think maybe getting worse before it’s getting better.

BIZTECH: As SysAdmin Day grows each year, has it become more work for you?

KEKATOS: No. I’ve got a guy who helps me out with the website. He’s been with me now for three years. He’s a website developer so he’s got the experience that I don’t have.

Originally, I was doing the website myself. The first bunch of years I was hosting the website myself. I did get a couple of really big bills from the hosting company, but for probably more than 10 years, the hosting has been complimentary.

BIZTECH: What was your first job in IT?

KEKATOS: My first job in IT I was a consultant, and this would’ve been in like 1983, and I was helping to set up dedicated word processors. I started as a consultant and very quickly went into systems and servers and networks, and that’s what I’ve been doing now for 20-plus years.

Ted Kekatos