For small businesses, hiring the right geek is a special challenge

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Business Week writes Mary Clark knew that she was looking for the rarest of gems. When her company, a 116-person electronic-payment processor called Cibernet, relocated from downtown Washington to Bethesda, Md., she lost her in-house computer guru. That meant that Cibernet’s networks and e-mail systems would be running primarily on hope. Clark had to find a replacement who could troubleshoot a network, fix the printer, and handle pretty much anything in between. As a veteran manager, Clark had a good idea of what she had to avoid, too. “I didn’t need an IT snob,” she says. “IT people are very capable of pissing off everybody they’re supposed to support.”
HIRING THAT jack-of-all-trades technology pro — also called a system administrator, or sysadmin — is especially challenging for smaller companies. For one thing, the rÈsumÈ of even the most qualified applicant can look a lot like gibberish to someone without a similar background. While a big company may be able to get away with hiring a brilliant but antisocial geek to program in a darkened room, the rest of us “need somebody who is very flexible about taking on whatever there is to do,” says Adam S. Moskowitz, an IT consultant and principal with Menlo Computing in Cheltham, Mass. Equally important are interpersonal skills — no one wants to be laughed at because she finds her computer confusing. For all of the above, expect to pay $50,000 to $100,000 per year depending on location, says the System Administrators Guild.