My Stay Puft Marshmallow Man Moment

A couple years ago I was sitting at a poker table for my final interview for a sys admin position with . It had been a long day of mentally exhausting questions, and the interview was coming to a close. The person I was interviewing with sat for a moment and pondered his next question for me.

“You’ve got a building across the street with a bunch of data on a server. The building is on fire. You’ve got a connection between the two buildings. What’s the fastest way to get the data over to you before the building burns down?”

“I’d use dd over netcat”

What the fuck did I just say?

The interviewer gave me a strange look and asked me to elaborate.

I knew right away what I said was not the best answer. In fact, I knew anything I would have said at that very moment would have been wrong. As soon as I heard the question, “I couldn’t help it. It just popped in there.” There was more information needed to answer the question correctly. I spent the next few minutes awkwardly elaborating on the idea and eventually shifted into a completely different answer as I talked out the problem more.

Part of being a sys admin sometimes means having to make important decisions during major disasters. These issues will come up at anytime, and they don’t care if you are running on 2 hours of sleep. The worst thing to do in these situations is to act on the first thing that pops into your mind. Seemingly harmless commands can turn into disasters quickly. Stop and think for a few moments, gather additional information and formulate a few possible actions to take. The few moments spent thinking before taking any action could be the difference between a smooth outage and an outage where a 100 foot tall marshmallow man comes marching out of the Temple of Gozer.