Gratitude and Leadership

My friend Anthony Reimer had an excellent post on Sunday on Recognition, Retirement and Remembrance in the Mac Admins corner of the world. It hit home with me pretty hard. Anthony’s thinking ahead in the way that few in our community do, it’s the hallmark of a leader with their eyes not solely in the tactical and technical, but on the health and well-being of our whole, a much more amorphous problem than any tech stack. It’s important for us all to look at more than just what’s right in front of us.

I am incredibly grateful to this community for pushing me to be a better Mac Admin, for encouraging me to take chances and give talks, to build my skillset and toolkit to be stronger and more effective. I realized with Anthony’s post that I haven’t done nearly enough to thank those people for showing me the path.

That’s people who do the hard work in our conference community, like Anthony; like Mat X in Vancouver; Gretchen, Rusty and Justin at Penn State; Alex Hawes, Ben Toms, and David Acland in London; Marcus and Tony in Australia; like the entire massive team at Jamf who work so hard on JNUC; they’ve all contributed immensely toward my own development as a speaker and presenter.

My good friends Chris Dawe, Allen Golbig, Emily Kausalik, and Jim Rispin have all been huge parts of my conference talk preparation over the last few years, and have been incredibly helpful at helping me refine ideas into cogent talks. Of course, they’re hardly alone, and the incredible works of my peers like Arek Dreyer, Lucas Hall, Graham Gilbert, Sean Kaiser, Jennifer Unger, Pam Lefkowitz, and Greg Neagle. Their talks have deeply influenced my own work, my own IT direction choices, and how I think about technology.

More than that, we have to start thinking about how we encourage and develop the next generation of Mac admins. I know that the art and craft of managing Macs has changed immensely over the last few years, but I don’t see Mac management as a dead-end, either. Looking at the Declarative Management model that Apple is currently testing with iOS 15 User Enrollments, I see a renaissance on the horizon for writing clever management for Macs that is both human-centric and bounded by good common sense controls.

A little later this year, I’ll mark 20 years as a Mac Admin in a non-student context. My own support story goes back to helping my Mom with PageMaker in middle school and fixing Macs in college labs, but I’ll mark two full decades in the space this year. That’s half a career or more, and now it’s time to start thinking of building the next generation of Mac Admins. We need to do a better job as a community at finding and mentoring new voices. This is something I’m strongly committed to for the future. It’s been hard over the last 18 months to help find those new voices, but it’s more and more clear that we have to start doing this, or we risk losing this community that has meant so much.

The pandemic has cost us so much, but I think the workshops at conferences like Mac Admins and Mac Dev Ops are the things that I have missed most. The new admin experience of those workshops is what has given us so many incredible Mac Admins over the years, and they’re badly missed in an era of online conferences that don’t lend themselves well to multi-hour learning.

How do we rebuild these workshops for a new context? I don’t know yet, but it’s time to start trying.

The same goes for recognition and fostering the future. There’s a clear and present need for some kind of professional organization of Mac Admins to help stabilize churn and loss due to retirement, and help build the next generation of professional admin, and also provide professional recognition for the generous contributions of all the people I mentioned at the top of this post.

The future isn’t going to stop coming.

Apple’s not going to stop releasing software and hardware. The work may not always look like it does today, but the work will always be there. And we need to prepare the way by making this an attractive community for new kinds of talent and new skill sets, and we do that by beginning to create the structures that Anthony so clearly identified. We need ways to recognize contributions, we need ways to prepare for future generations of Mac Admins, and we need ways of developing the people we have now. This is how we keep this community and care for it in the long term.