The 8 most important skills for IT admins

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Joanne Yip|Updated November 28, 2023
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This article is part of our IT Admin Mythbusters campaign. Discover the truth behind other common industry misconceptions in our roundup article 5 common IT myths & essential tips for IT pros.

Here’s an inconvenient truth: too many people treat IT like they’re Best Buy’s Geek Squad — jacks of all trades hired for their magical ability to fix anything from computers to audio/video equipment and even literal fires. They’re often expected to produce instant solutions, support an entire organization 24/7/365 with a too-small team, and be able to learn everything they need to know about technology and company infrastructure in a month or less.

While getting the technical knowledge and know-how may be a more straightforward pursuit, experienced IT pros we’ve asked in-house here at SmartDeploy favored honing those soft skills. Here are eight crucial but underrated skills that don’t always show up in an IT job description.

8 crucial skills for IT administrators

1. Patience

In IT, the ability to remain patient and unfazed in the face of the most intense, ridiculous, or frustrating situation is key. Even when it seems everything that can go wrong does go wrong, being able to stay calm when tackling problems can lead to more constructive outcomes.

2. People skills

It’s often assumed that IT admins only need technical skills to do their jobs. But it’s also essential to communicate and work well with others, including non-technical people. This is especially useful when recruiting management support for projects, managing user issues, and building strong, collaborative teams.

3. Analytical skills

Solving IT problems can sometimes feel like you’re swimming in murky waters, trying to navigate the best way forward with limited visibility. Having strong analytical skills with a healthy dose of common sense can help you connect the dots, unravel complex scenarios, and make logical decisions.

4. Investigative skills

IT admins also have to be good investigators, asking the right questions, identifying critical clues, and spotting anomalies or inaccurate information. Knowing how to Google for information also comes in handy when deducing solutions to issues.

5. Resilience

IT work can be stressful. Building mental and emotional resilience enables you to persevere through difficult moments without getting discouraged or demoralized in the long run. When you’re handling issues during a time-sensitive cutover at 1 a.m. and you’re down to your last energy drink, grit is likely the only thing that will keep you going.

6. Ability to learn quickly

Mistakes will happen. There’ll always be things you don’t know. Also, technology evolves quickly, and what you do know may no longer be relevant. Being resourceful enough to learn from what went wrong, adapt quickly, and gain more IT know-how on the job will make you much better at it.

7. Ability to develop healthy coping mechanisms

Too many folks in the industry suffer in silence, working to the point of burnout without even realizing it. The ones who manage not to are those who have learned to handle stress without self-destructing, ask for help when needed, and maintain a healthy work-life balance by making time for people and activities they love, outside of work.

8. Staying positive

Beneath their wicked sense of humor, IT admins tend to be a cynical, self-deprecating bunch. Being able to cultivate and sustain a positive mindset — by assuming good intentions, building a strong support system, and taking care of your physical and mental health — can help prevent you from getting sucked into a cycle of negativity.

Common challenges that IT admins face

Seasoned IT pros know that the secret to survival lies in developing these critical skills that enable them to weather storms and keep their heads above the water. For the benefit of the uninitiated, our team laid out the five most common challenges IT admins may face in their careers.

Being treated like Best Buy’s Geek Squad

Contrary to popular belief, IT is not responsible for fixing every electronic item we own. Nor are they responsible for facilities or building maintenance. Yet there are people who still submit tickets asking IT to help with changing lightbulbs or fixing the projector in the conference room.

A lack of awareness about what IT does

Non-IT people don’t always know what IT teams do and the vital role they play in ensuring that day-to-day operations run smoothly. This includes management, who may only see IT as a cost center rather than a proactive function that can elevate the business. This misunderstanding can lead IT professionals to feel underappreciated, unsupported, and burdened with misplaced expectations.

The XY problem

It’s hard to troubleshoot when you’re not given an accurate picture of what’s really going on. The XY problem is one where users seek help with their attempted solution (Y) — mistakenly identified as the problem — instead of the actual problem (X), much to the confusion of anyone attempting to resolve the root issue.

Not having enough time to learn

Technology is constantly on the move and keeping up requires a lot of time and effort. IT admins are expected to be experts at all things technology related yet are not given the time or opportunity at work to pick up new skills and knowledge.


Enduring long, intense hours with little or no support also results in high levels of burnout within the field. Unlike stress, which is a normal and momentary response and can be motivating, burnout is a prolonged state of overwhelming mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion. Of all the challenges that IT admins grapple with, burnout is probably the most serious and overlooked.

No job is worth sacrificing your mental health and happiness. If you're feeling burned out at work, it may be time to brush up your IT resume and look for opportunities elsewhere.

Besides developing these critical soft skills, IT pros can also advocate for their own success with tools like SmartDeploy that empower them to work more efficiently. By using SmartDeploy to streamline endpoint management and automate daily tasks, it frees up time and resources that can be spent on more high-impact projects, learning new skills, or just taking a much-needed break. Learn more from our live demo or download a fully functioning free trial to see what else you can do.

joanne profile
Joanne Yip

Joanne has always loved the impact that words can make. When she isn’t typing away in the world of sysadmin, Joanne loves hiking with her husband and dog, true-crime podcasts, and dreaming of her next scuba diving adventure.

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