The senior systems engineer tends to involve more design and build-out work than an standard systems administrator position. While both jobs contain responsibilities for day-to-day administration and upkeep of servers and storage, a senior systems engineer will also have been the one who original designed the solution; this can range anywhere from choosing a server platform to details related to processors, RAM and network cards.
In addition to general Windows/Linux servers, a senior systems engineer will generally have some type of specialty. Typical specialties include storage (with additional focus on particular vendors, with Netapp, Hitachi and EMC being the most common), virtualization (Vmware Vsphere first, Hyper-V second), or specific large-scale platforms. These large platform specialties, such as SAP or SaaS, tends to leave the job choices a bit more limited (whereas storage and virtualization tend to be more universal), but it also often leads to the more secure and higher-paying jobs.
The best senior systems engineers tend to have at least touched on multiple facets of the systems world. Ideally, a senior systems engineer in a Windows shop will have at least passing experience with Active Directory, Exchange, storage, virtualization, basic networking (ideally Cisco), at least one antivirus solution, and at least one enterprise backup solution. In a Linux or Unix Environment, the list is essentially the same, just replacing Active Directory with Samba/EDir and Exchange with something like Zimbra. Because of the fact that a senior systems engineer is designing platforms, instead of just maintaining them in an ongoing fashion, the broad experience ensures that they have the knowledge needed to come up with designs for new projects and platforms.
Senior Systems Engineer Tasks
- Install, configure and upgrade and enhancements to software/hardware/network systems.
- May be responsible for designing a data contingency plan or data disaster recovery plan.
- Oversee the planning, design and implementation of system engineering projects.