Generally I just tell people I'm a database admin. If they ask what that is, I give them the nickel answer of "you know sites like Amazon and such? I manage the database on the backend that store all that data." Of course, I also made clear I don't work for Amazon...
Although, I may to some extent, even if it's longer, start using this description for sysadmins:
(Shamelessly stolen from /r/sysadmin)
I've finally figured out what, in my opinion, is the bestway to describe to friends and family, what being an IT Professional is like.
Peter Stromare's character "Lev" from Armageddon(1998).
If you don't recall, he's the Russian Cosmonaut who runsa space station that the American's need to refuel on as they travel towardsthe asteroid. Anyways, I've always love this character, almost like we had aconnection.. and it finally dawned on me:
He's isolated, for years, in his own space station.
He's kind of crazy. Like, "5 cups of Coffee stayedup all night working on DNS records" kind of crazy..
He's often forgotten, but in a time of crisis, iscritically important.
Dumb people walk in, messing his shit up.
He's ornery and yells.
He wants no one to touch his systems.
Those systems he's created work, but man, are they janky.
He's cynical, but willing.. "Eh, chances are, thiswon't work, but let's do it anyways"
As he hurtles over the Asteroid with Bennifer and MichaelClarke Duncan (RIP), all he wants is for once, to be recognized as a hero.
He hits broken things with a wrench to fix them, becausesometimes.. well, it works. ("American stuff, Russian stuff, IT'S ALL MADE IN TAIWAN!!!"while beating on it with a wrench)
He saves the day (three times) and is a damn survivor!