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Ask Slashdot: How Did You Become a Linux Professional?

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the slide-your-pedigree-through-the-slot-worm dept.

Education 298

First time accepted submitter ternarybit writes "By 'Linux professional,' I mean anyone in a paid IT position who uses or administers Linux systems on a daily basis. Over the past five years, I've developed an affection for Linux, and use it every day as a freelance IT consultant. I've built a breadth of somewhat intermediate skills, using several distros for everything from everyday desktop use, to building servers from scratch, to performing data recovery. I'm interested in taking my skills to the next level — and making a career out of it — but I'm not sure how best to appeal to prospective employers, or even what to specialize in (I refuse to believe the only option is 'sysadmin,' though I'm certainly not opposed to that). Specifically, I'm interested in what practical steps I can take to build meaningful skills that an employer can verify, and will find valuable. So, what do you do, and how did you get there? How did you conquer the catch-22 of needing experience to get the position that gives you the experience to get the position? Did you get certified, devour books and manpages, apprentice under an expert, some combination of the above, or something else entirely?"

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Mmmmm the other white meat! (4, Funny)

Tesen (858022) | more than 2 years ago | (#41130757)

I ate a penguin!

Re:Mmmmm the other white meat! (5, Insightful)

Tesen (858022) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131105)

Okay seriously:

* Started to play w/ Solaris on a sparc station at uni while learning C programming which got me interested in *nix.
* Installed Slackware Linux at home and really liked what I saw during my uni days.
* Spent time modifying hardcode on MU** servers and doing basic administration.
* Started working at another college where a bunch of us decided that Redhat Linux was the choice for some services we wanted to host.
* Started supporting a Linux based installation that acted as the firewall for the college I worked at.
* Started setting up Apache web servers and SMB shares for a few local companies.
* Did some side programming projects that involved dealing with some real time application needs under Linux.

While I was never a dedicated Linux admin or coder I keep those skills in my skillset arsenal. That is how I got in to Linux and I run a couple Gentoo boxes at home to support some of the stuff I am doing. I found during the Sysadmin part of my career keeping multi-OS skillsets honed was useful and during the programming part of my career (current part of my career) I spend most of my development in the .NET/MSSQL environment (it pays the bills really well) with the odd side project in Linux here and there.

So it all comes down to what you want to do when you grow-up; I scope my career based on what interests me - I have gone in to job interviews lacking a skillset they were wanting but ended up getting the job because I told them how I would learn it and I also gave an eager competent professional impression that I treat my job seriously and will learn whatever needs learned. I would conclude that while an impressive resume is always nice, the short comings can be made up by the soft skills.

I know not the exact answer you wanted...


Re:Mmmmm the other white meat! (0)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131359)

I have gone in to job interviews lacking a skillset they were wanting but ended up getting the job because I told them how I would learn it and I also gave an eager competent professional impression that I treat my job seriously and will learn whatever needs learned

That's pretty reassuring, thankyou. I've worked in the same job since I left Uni, and any time I've looked at job listings each job seems to require experience in some random framework that I'm not likely to use at my current job, and it feels like working with it at home won't really "count" on a resume. Especially when they often want years of experience with said framework..

I've always refused to use MS languages/.NET , but I guess it is the easiest route to getting a job.. it just would make me feel so dirty..

Re:Mmmmm the other white meat! (4, Insightful)

DragonTHC (208439) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131545)

I spent a few years running slackware servers and hosting my own services. Then I studied and got both my LPIC1 and LPIC2. Then I did a bunch of contracting.

That's when I discovered that companies won't hire Linux admins unless their business deals with Linux. Linux administration is more of a hit and run contract profession for 90% of the companies out there. I've contracted for very large companies, including fortune 500 all the way down to rinky dink fly by night operations that reincorporate when the investment capital runs out.

Linux servers have a tendency to just work when setup properly. I know this because I made a small unsuccessful business of migrating small business customers away from Microsoft servers towards Linux servers to handle most of their services. Once everything was setup, the service calls stopped coming so often. In IT, you'll never convince a customer to switch to Linux for the desktop. The best you could hope for is a Linux home media server or similar.

If you're serious, work towards your LPIC2 to start and learn bash scripting and perl. I currently don't know perl because I've never needed it, but 90% of the permanent jobs are looking for admin scripting skills.

Practice... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41130767)

Practice, practice, practice... learn by failure, otherwise you are just a common user

Re:Practice... (3, Informative)

masternerdguy (2468142) | more than 2 years ago | (#41130779)

Just do Linux from Scratch or install Gentoo.

Re:Practice... (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 2 years ago | (#41130981)

I've been playing with linux at home for years, mostly Gentoo. I've been an applications admin, and knew enough linux to be dangerous. My sysadmins often trusted me with elevated privs on my own when I needed to install things, etc.

They knew I knew enough to NOT do something stupid and something I didn't understand.

I've gained experience that way. On some gigs, I just fell into admin...when other admins quit their job, and I was one of the few that was left that knew anything about Linux administration.

Mod parent up. (3, Informative)

bircho (559727) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131599)

A Linux from Scratch installation is far from a usable system on the long run, but is a great experience for learning.

use it to build my own products (3, Interesting)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#41130775)

I am using Linux to build my own products, I suppose this means I am a 'Linux professional' just as much as a professional in all the other things that I am using in my products. My normal systems are built with either Fedora or Ubuntu at this point, with OpenBSD used as firewall, PostgreSQL, Java, Tomcat Apache, Apache server. Everything else is just various Java stuff.

How do you become a 'professional'? You use it in a way that allows you to sell your product or service, that's what a 'professional' really means as opposed to an amateur. Amateur doesn't mean that the person has less skills, it just means he is not using it in his work.

I studied instead of playing video games (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41130777)

I spent much of my childhood reading instead of playing video games. I received my first programming contract when I was 16, did some telco programming after that, lazed around for a year then went to work as a system administrator. I'm still a sysadmin, in a devop role, where I earn 45USD an hour. I'm probably going to grow further than this, as I've been doing it for 7 years. I believe my next goal will be to reach 55USD an hour.

Far as education is concerned, I've no college degree, no certs, the fact is I dropped out of high school since it was keeping me back.

Re:I studied instead of playing video games (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41131245)

Never become lazy. I started working at a computer store in the early 90s when I was 13, just doing you know, menial stuff. Cleaning printers, etc. The techs there were pretty awesome, they taught me a ton. We ran a makeshift ISP there, we had a T1 back when that really meant something major. We had a FreeBSD box with a couple cyclades cyclom multi serial port boxes hooked to it, branching out into a wall of external Sportster 28.8 modems. Got a deal from the local teleco on discounted 'incoming call only' phone lines. By the time I was 16 I had quit school and was the lead tech as everyone else had gone on to bigger and better jobs.

I worked there for years, devouring as much knowledge as I could on, well, everything computer related.

When I was 21, I became the IT Manager at a luxury resort. It was..... too easy. After putting out all of the fires in the first 2 months that were left by my predecessor (who I never met), I got soooooo bored. I just wasn't learning anything... and truth be told, I could have been. I truly could have been. All I had to do was show up, whenever I felt like it (salaried), and collect a paycheck.

So I quit that job. And now... Now I am broke and cannot find work *anywhere*. In the history of all of the tech people I have known and worked with, I have only ever found two on my same level. It is depression on a level I cannot convey over text.

Anyway my point to the story is this: Never stop learning. Never grow comfortable with your current situation. Never stifle conviction

Re:I studied instead of playing video games (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131301)

I'm in one of those "too easy" jobs, and too scared to quit in case I end up in a similar situation to yourself. A large portion of my programming work basically disappeared when we sold off one of our divisions. I've been trying various things to motivate myself, but right now I feel like I'm just staying for the money. I'm going to at least keep saving until the end of the year, then I'll have some money behind me to possibly take a risk.

Knife professional (4, Insightful)

SSpade (549608) | more than 2 years ago | (#41130781)

Being a "Linux Professional" in most fields of IT is like being a "Knife Professional" working in a kitchen.

It's a useful set of skills, and it gives you the ability to use a suite of tools that are very useful - and essential for some career paths - in that field.

But it's not how you should define your career, or even your desired job. (That you're thinking of it that way might be why you keep seeing sysadmin in a Linux environment as the only obvious role.)

Re:Knife professional (3, Interesting)

ldgeorge85 (1660791) | more than 2 years ago | (#41130911)

Exactly. I agree here. I had been using and developing on Linux for years before I got a job that was in any way related to Linux. I finally broke down and went into a hosting provider looking for work, and because of my Linux skillsets I was able to get a position working with a (at the time) new 'Cloud Platform'. My actual job there didn't involve too much Linux, day-to-day, but without my experience I could never have kept things together when it was falling apart. As I went along, the Linux skills got used more, but my job role was more about keeping the applications up and online, which just happened to involve some Linux skills here and there. I have since left there, and I actually got hired on by the developer of said 'Cloud Platform', where I worked as both the lead support engineer and then as a software developer. I got to use my LInux skills a lot more there, but still my job role was more about not just Linux but all the other pieces that went into the platform. A lot of it was proprietary and I had to learn that stuff. I also had to get into kernel development and debugging. Really, most of the day was spent just trying to help others understand how to use the product in general and trying to keep the systems online. I did, and do, end up using Linux skills a lot, but it is now entangled with so much else. Sadly, it is almost like saying you are a Windows Expert. 'Okay, well, in what area? DB, IIS, Exchange, coding, games, etc?'. Linux skills are just the starting point, unless you just want to do basic SysAdmin. So, as for advice, I would suggest either trying to find a specific niche of IT you find interesting and start delving into it. Most likely your Linux skills will massively help you out getting things done. There are so many areas from which to choose. The other direction is going into a SysAdmin type role that has good growth potential, but that is hard to really guage. Good luck!

Re:Knife professional (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#41130921)

Being a "Linux Professional" in most fields of IT is like being a "Knife Professional" working in a kitchen.

hmm ok

But it's not how you should define your career, or even your desired job. (That you're thinking of it that way might be why you keep seeing sysadmin in a Linux environment as the only obvious role.)

Disagree. If you really love knives and making exotic knife cuts and carvings in food, don't define your dream job as being a pastry chef where you don't get to chop stuff up very much.

Maybe I can give the standard /. car analogy that even if you really like using a screwdriver, it would pay to try and learn a bit about a wrench or maybe even a hammer.

Re:Knife professional (5, Insightful)

ToasterMonkey (467067) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131323)

Being a "Linux Professional" in most fields of IT is like being a "Knife Professional" working in a kitchen.

hmm ok

But it's not how you should define your career, or even your desired job. (That you're thinking of it that way might be why you keep seeing sysadmin in a Linux environment as the only obvious role.)

Disagree. If you really love knives and making exotic knife cuts and carvings in food, don't define your dream job as being a pastry chef where you don't get to chop stuff up very much.

Maybe I can give the standard /. car analogy that even if you really like using a screwdriver, it would pay to try and learn a bit about a wrench or maybe even a hammer.

Why do you disagree, his point was there is no "Knife Professional" in a kitchen where you play with knives all day. If there were, it would be because there are too many knives for cooks to maintain, and your day would be mostly spent cleaning and sharpening them, it wouldn't be a job for people who actually like doing things with knives. If you like doing something for fun, don't do it for work.

There ARE Linux administration positions, but your time will be divided amongst application support and a whole host of other activities. If a company has straight up pure Linux admins, it would be because they have LOTS of "knives" and you'd spend most of your time using tools to manage them, like Chef, Puppet, etc.

To anyone dreaming of becoming a "Linux professional", please get it into your head right now, it is a TOOL. You might choose to become a carpenter because you love working with hammers, but your work doesn't revolve around your tools, your tools revolve around your work, so if you have a problem using screw drivers and nail guns, stay out of the profession.

Re:Knife professional (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131485)

"Why do you disagree, his point was there is no "Knife Professional" in a kitchen where you play with knives all day. "

You have never been to a [] restaurant and watched the Knife Professionals work. They are incredible and can cook as well.

Re:Knife professional (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41131551)

[I don't think a career should be defined that narrowly]

Disagree. [I don't think a career should be defined that narrowly]


Re:Knife professional (5, Funny)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 2 years ago | (#41130957)

That's a bad analogy.

Being a linux professional is more like being a French Chef vs say a Windows Professional which is like a Fryolator Chef at McDonalds.

Mod parent up... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41130983)

That's a bad analogy.

Being a linux professional is more like being a French Chef vs say a Windows Professional which is like a Fryolator Chef at McDonalds.

That's funny...

Re:Mod parent up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41131065)

That's funny... because both are pretty bad for you.

Re:Knife professional (4, Insightful)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131473)

Funny, but I'm not sure I agree entirely (and I say that as one who *does* work -- professionally -- with Linux on a daily basis and really doesn't like Windows all that much).

If you want to work with Linux professionally, then by all means, polish those skillsets. Maybe an RHCE or LPCE wouldn't hurt, although I don't hold either one. But the big key, IME, is not to snub other skills, either. Yes, I work in a shop that uses mostly Linux servers (even Linux-based routers, made by a company called ImageStream [] , who I highly recommend), but we also use Cisco routers, Brocade switches and a few Windows servers -- and I work on them all. Let's face it, most places today, IT professionals wear many hats; being a one-trick pony doesn't cut it.

Re:Knife professional (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131497)

Oh, one other thing...if you like Linux, then I'd recommend getting some experience in other *Nix environments, as well. Download and try one of the *BSD's. They are a little different, but you'll pick it up pretty quickly. Try to get your hands on Solaris or OpenSolaris (is that still available?). These are easy ways for a competent Linux guy to broaden his skills without too much effort, and one of those buzzwords just might get you past the HR filters and into an interview.

Re:Knife professional (4, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131103)

I agree. You know Linux, that is a plus to your resume. You want a job that is only in Linux, then that is a minus. When I was younger I only wanted to work in Linux/Unix environments over the years, I really stopped caring about what freaking OS I am using and more on what am I accomplishing with my work. In my professional life I go on and off Linux... Usually I have both some times I have one or the other. But I don't see the OS as what defines my skills, I see my skills as someone who creates/improves/optimizes. The company uses Linux, No problem I know how to work on that environment and Ill give you a solution you should love. If the company works on Windows, I can give them just as good of a solution. If they are are on some older mainframe system, I can probably give them something that they never though they could do before, with using Linux/Windows/Unix in conjunction with the system. I personally don't care on the OS to define myself.

Now if a company asks me what OS should they use my answer is based on the following.
Linux: If they have a strong IT culture, and there are at least a few employees who know it beside myself, or some people who are exited to learn the system.
Windows: If they have a weak IT culture, or the employees are not that interested in learning a new OS, or they already have a windows network.

It is about finding the right solution for the organization. Being a Linux professional isn't that much more helpful. You need to be a good system administration/software developer/technical writer.... Reguardless of the make of your system. Yes each one works differently and there is a learning curve. But it isn't the 1980's anymore, we got Google, that make it rather easy to get the right information.

Re:Knife professional (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131143)

I'm actually planning on taking a class in kitchen knife skills.

Yeah, Linux is just a tool, but hiring managers and HR bureaucracies are big on buzzword compliance. I've lost work because I didn't have experience with specific tools, even though I had tons of experience with similar tools that do the the exact same job. It's a stupid way of doing things, but that's the way it is.

Re:Knife professional (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41131571)

Being a "Linux Professional" in most fields of IT is like being a "Knife Professional" working in a kitchen.

It's a useful set of skills, and it gives you the ability to use a suite of tools that are very useful - and essential for some career paths - in that field.

But it's not how you should define your career, or even your desired job. (That you're thinking of it that way might be why you keep seeing sysadmin in a Linux environment as the only obvious role.)

This is funny, I am actually a "Knife Professional", never worked in a kitchen though. I've worked as a butcher, field worker (harvesting cabbage and other crops), gardener and with a plethora of assembly line work that require that you are more or less skilled with a knife.

Being skilled with a knife is enough to get you a wide variaty of employment. To have worked a few years with a knife constantly in your hand with a piecework, without getting hurt, is actually the only thing many employers demand to hire someone. Even if I have worked in 20+ professions involving use of knifes, there are still hundreds of knife-based professions that I haven't tried yet, like preparing shellfish or fish (in an industry), or being a kitchen assistant. Thing is, becoming skilled with a knife is the only skill in hundreds of professions that actually require a lot of training and experience (I've used knifes almost daily since I was 4 years old, but it took me 2 years of working as a poultry butcher to become really skilled at using them (inspecting, deboning, deskinning and cutting at least 40 chickens into 12 pieces each working hour, with less then a 2g meat left on the carcass)), the other professional skills you need, except knife skills, you can usually learn in less then a day.

The same way you become a professional at anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41130783)

You just need to appear to know what you are doing and find someone to pay you to do it. I know too many professionals in my field who don't know crap but get paid more than I do.

Re:The same way you become a professional at anyth (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 2 years ago | (#41130979)

They know how to get paid more than you.

Eror 404: Slashdot User Not Found (2)

LostCluster2.0 (2637341) | more than 2 years ago | (#41130789)

Linux Professional? There's nobody here by that title. Most people who know Linux also have some other job to do because there's few jobs for people who want to maintain Linux all day without at least worrying about an app or hardware too.

Re:Eror 404: Slashdot User Not Found (2)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131149)

Don't let the plus mod go to your head. You couldn't be more wrong. First off, he was clear that he wasn't looking for his title to be "Linux Professional". Second, I have been employed as an embedded Linux developer on more than one occasion before I started my business, which still does mostly Linux work, and these [] guys [] would also find your statement absurd. Monster [] doesn't support your claim either.

Easy (4, Interesting)

ccguy (1116865) | more than 2 years ago | (#41130823)

How Did You Become a Linux Professional?

By installing the first one in a non-linux shop when I was asked to install some service, once it was in used I mentioned it in some meeting with some big dog. No one had the balls to acknowledge they didn't know.

Re:Easy (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41131137)

How Did You Become a Linux Professional?

By installing the first one in a non-linux shop when I was asked to install some service, once it was in used I mentioned it in some meeting with some big dog. No one had the balls to acknowledge they didn't know.

That sounds very professional...

Re:Easy (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41131209)

> That sounds very professional...

Some people call it "using your initiative".

Re:Easy (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131499)

It's schizzle to the Mizzle!

His Kernel is super fly, Just dont back your bumper up to him, cuz' he will smack that monkey!

Re:Easy (1)

MicroSlut (2478760) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131603)

It is sad you work with people afraid to admit what they do or do not know.

Well that's a narrow perspective (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41130831)

The world of *nix neither begins nor ends with Linux. Stop being such an illiterate lamer. Maybe your question should be, "How did you become a *NIX professional?".

Re:Well that's a narrow perspective (2)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131087)

The world of *nix neither begins nor ends with Linux. Stop being such an illiterate lamer. Maybe your question should be, "How did you become a *NIX professional?".

Precisely, and that's also how I got started. I worked with Unix systems, then, somewhere along the line, Linux evolved from a hobby OS into something that could be used in the enterprise. I never got any certificates, just started out with shit jobs and worked my way up. I suppose certs might help, other than that a good way to proceed is to contribute to FOSS projects.

Long story... (4, Interesting)

Sique (173459) | more than 2 years ago | (#41130833)

It starts with my first account at the university for a computer lab running AIX V3.2 and HP UX 7.1.
It continues with me taking a C programming course, then diving deeply into MUD programming.
It goes along with Linux 0.99.4, which a collegue of mine showed to me running an MWM like window manager.
It sees me helping acquaintances compiling kernels for Slackware based distributions on their respective boxes.
It has to do with my second position as a firewall administrator of firewalls running on Solaris and later FreeBSD based machines.
It gets me to owning my own Solaris box along with a Linux box running several Linux distributions installed on top of each other.
It accompagnies me to a short stint as a system administrator at a research institute for distributed computing.
And now it sees me administer phone switches based on Linux and applications plugging into the phone switches and running on Linux too.

Start Searching (1)

excelblue (739986) | more than 2 years ago | (#41130849)

Put those Linux skills on your resume and start searching for a position that uses those skills.

At the end of the day, employers care about whether or not you can do the work and how good of a cultural fit you are. Skills are skills, whether or not you acquire them personally or professionally.

As far as positions go: you either build the systems or operate them. If it's the first, you're a developer. If it's the latter, you're a sysadmin.

Re:Start Searching (1)

bbelt16ag (744938) | more than 2 years ago | (#41130941)

I thought it was experience they were after? Thats what i see all over monster and career builder... if it was just skills i would be making 100k a year LOL

One data point (1)

Empiric (675968) | more than 2 years ago | (#41130853)

For me, a background C++ development on Windows along with doing sysadmin-type work outside the main project, was sufficient to get C++ on Linux development work at IBM.

If you can get yourself consulting work or work with a smaller company where you are their main "technical guy", you can often just specify what you're going to do--as my first "resume-able" work with Linux was. Getting approval for doing a client's entire internet presence (mail server, web server, firewall, NAT router) for "free" (outside of a cheap x86 box and my time, of course) was approved without difficulty.

Bioinformatics (4, Informative)

airuck (300354) | more than 2 years ago | (#41130857)

Bioinformatics has been very happily open source and Linux friendly for my entire career to date (14 years). Only the last two and a half of those 14 years have been whithin acedamia, but open source is an especially easy sell here.

Slackware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41130871)

Install a technical distribution that does not take your hand.
Slackware or Arch Linux comes to mind. Set up anything you can imagine, and play with it.
Learn its ins and outs.
Read many books on Linux, there are many available for free online.
Of the top of my head?
* SlackBook!
and maybe also the Debian book, but it contains a lot of "Debian-isms" which are not
as useful as a general Linux-learning book.
* Debian Books!

I have made money building networks for corporations, network firewalls and network routers
and also network fileservers, both scp, ftp and samba.

From there I have made money running lamp stacks and implementing web applications for companies.

These are not "freelancer jobs" that I have gotten from job postings, but jobs that I have gotten through
word of mouth. Getting a foot inside the door of a corporation so to speak.

Finally I have made money just using my brute force tactics from my Slackware days on Windows servers ;)

Also, learn to love free as in libre.

easiest way... (1)

Nick (109) | more than 2 years ago | (#41130877)

Easiest way is to get into the hosting industry for somewhat low pay (~$40k in the Chicago area). You get experience and exposure to other technologies and you can always get certs in the meantime. You may have to start off doing Level 1 Tech Support over the phone or DC stuff, rebooting and making cat5 cables to start, but this is a very common gateway to the IT industry.

Small Company (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41130881)

Go find a small company (Make sure they can actually pay you). Small companies are far more willing to let someone 'learn on the job'. I'm a linux sysadmin and either through being hired for the position, or being in a helpdesk position and having the server guy leave, I've managed to build up a good bit of resume experience. But before all that, I had linux (and computers in general) as my hobby. I played with them a lot. Ran into issues and learned how to fix them. Imagined cool projects and figured out how to make them happen.

Specifically for a company, they'll find most useful backups, samba, apache, mysql, php/ruby/whatever. That will take care of their website, their local fileshares, and their backups. That's a HUGE portion of what needs to be done. Get good at those couple things, be able to answer some questions or relate experiences about them. And you'll look like the smartest linux guy on the planet.

In summary, use linux, find a small company that sees you as a person and not a number, and relay to them how the linux skills you have will help them. Welcome to being a sysadmin.

As for sysadmin vs othertitlehere, If the goal is linux, then a sysadmin/sysengineer is kinda what you'll be in my experience. If the goal is anything else, you'll be that and happen to use linux and possibly be an help/annoyance to the local sysadmin. (There are lots of people who aren't sysadmins, who think they know some linux, who think they know how to manage a server better than you. Maybe their idea is actually better/faster/cheaper, but the sysadmin has an infrastructure to manage and not one box. It's a different beast.)

Got started early (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41130891)

The only version of Matlab that I access to at work was on an IBM RS/6000. I had absolutely no idea what X11 was but it seemed like the way to go. I had a 386/SX at the time with 4MB of memory and I knew that could not handle the data sets I wanted to use. I loaded slackware from floppy, compiled my kernel (1.2.13 or thereabouts) in 26 hours, and was up and running. Understanding the CLI and some system internals, plus eventually tinkering to the point that I wrote a simple device driver, gave me the knowledge and confidence to be able to handle more aggressive projects without windows.

With patience (1)

Bulldozer2003 (824009) | more than 2 years ago | (#41130903)

With patience and much forethought. I spent many years working with windows systems but always made sure those around me knew I knew Linux. People in the know recommended me for a network ops job where everyone else ran Linux. (or OS X [BSD]) Before that, it was never part of my work life. From there a began maintaining Linux servers and eventually moved on to an *nix admin position.

I'm a really good talker and I play the drums... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41130937)

So Ubuntu hired me! Now I spend my days talking about Ubuntu as much as I can. Sometimes I set weird flags in the launchpad bug report system to confuse the users. I spend my days not fixing anything for anybody and attracting more talkers like me so that the core programmers can go fuck off somewhere else. Best job ever!

I broke into it somewhat oddly (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 2 years ago | (#41130945)

I've been programming since I was 8. I started with BASIC on Apple IIs, then BASIC on Atari systems, then BASIC on a Timex Sinclair 1000, then assembly on a variety of platforms, then Pascal on Atari ST and then C...

So, I'd been programming a long time before I could even really think about the job market.

My first real job was something my HS career counselor pointed me at. It was a small business who'd had an HS kid handling all of their on-site computer needs. I ended up being hired by them at just barely above minimum wage. They got way more than they bargained for.

I ended up writing my own smal windowing system, my own b-tree indexer, and a variety of other things. I sped up some of the programs their accounting department ran by 20 times (and that only because it was still limited by the speed the printer could print at). I instituted a backup policy. I made their accounting programs produce output that Quattro Pro could read so they could use Quattro Pro to create reports. I added data entry verification (which was previously completely missing). All kinds of stuff.

Eventually, a very small consulting company who was looking for the cheapest possible people noticed me and hired me. Their idea was 'manufacturing software' like you would manufacture an automobile. It was kind of a silly idea, but it got me work that was very clearly programming.

I also ended up meeting programmers online on MUDs. And talking to them, I landed a consulting gig in OKC that I wouldn't have gotten. That got Oracle on my resume.

After that, things got a lot easier. When I got back from that gig, a business the previous consulting company had hired wanted me to work for them because they were impressed with me when I'd come on-site. And a different small start-up liked my resume....

I didn't really start being chiefly focused on Unix/Linux though until Amazon paid me to move to Seattle. And even now, one of the things people really value is that there is almost no widely used computing platform that I haven't touched and learned something about.

Re:I broke into it somewhat oddly (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131297)

I would like to add that I started working with Unix on University computers. And by the time I'd stopped hanging around there U of MN I had my own x86 system with a Unix on it. First it was SCO, then it was UnixWare, then Linux. Since about 1993, it's been the main platform I've used for just about anything on any of my own systems.

Stop asking for help and help yourself (0)

V!NCENT (1105021) | more than 2 years ago | (#41130949)

Let's see. So you want to get a job that has something to do with free software...

Well, why don't you work on a project, put that in a portfolio, showing that you can handle your own ass, without management, gratis.

Search for some awesome jobs, like at Valve (yes, no not the server component for Counter-strike), Fedora or AMD. Click that "Apply for a job-interview button" and continue with development, next to a sysadmin job, untill you get notified about a job interview?

It's so damn difficult these day to figure out what you want to do with your own life these days. Maybe Slashdot will decide what to do with your life, for you?

Yes, I'm being a complete asshole. Yes you should mod this down under "painfull truth no-one can handle", section 1: "extremely offensive" or section 2:"It's someone else's fault, not mine", but section 3: "flamebait trolls" sound appropriate.

Re:Stop asking for help and help yourself (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131167)

its true though - you want to be known for being able to do something, the only way to prove that is... to do it.

I got into Linux sysadmins when I was made redundant, a friend (who was similarly afflicted) opened a shop and he asked me if I would make him an ecommerce site to go with it (ok, he had a friend who had a shop too, and he had spent £10k on ecommerce software). So I said - "why not", got he software off him (turned out that was £10k spent of a slightly modified copy of osCommerce) and set about learning all about Linux admin and suchlike.

There is a lot of information out there on setting up, working with, installing, configuring, hardening and well, everything to do with Linux. 3 years of running the site later, I think I can say I'm a knowedgeable linux sysadmin (even though I'm a dev by trade). I also used this knowledge to set up internal dev systems - a wiki, bug tracking, svn, etc etc, on Linux servers at our Microsoft-only shop :)

As for the shop, it closed years ago, but I never had a single hack (plenty of attempts though, you get port sniffing many times a day), and downtime was only due to hardware failure (both fans and network cabling), but that was all informative. My Linux knowledge is still working for me though.

However, it still wasn't enough for Google, they didn't want to know - said my experience wasn't good enough, so don't think you'll get a job unless you already have a job doing it, or are lucky, or good at selling yourself.

Programming and Tinkering (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41130953)

I have inadvertently become a Linux HPC consultant as a side effect of my education in scientific computing. This is not a made up title -- I've done HPC consulting for a major Linux vendor for several years, working onsite and remotely on systems for Fortune 500 companies, major defense contractors, etc.

I've cleaned up a lot of messes made by inexpeirenced or careless Linux sysadmins. NB: I don't claim to be a fantastic sysadmin, I have so much still to learn, but repeat business says I'm at least better than most people on the market at what I do. The aforementioned messes indicate that, unfortunately, there are a LOT of bad Linux sysadmins out there, so 'better than most' is not such a heap of praise.

Here's what I think, in retrospect, is most important:

1) Dogfood. Do everything in Linux all the time on your own machines. This will force you to learn all kinds of stuff. I started in 1998, for example, running primarily Linux, with an 8-year foray into OSX-land.

2) Learn basic programming. You should be able to bang out a BASH or PERL script (or these days Python sometimes) to do what you need in a short period of time. BASH and PERL are especially useful for scripting sysadmin tasks. I'm sure others have their favorite languages, don't want to start a war here. I started with a partical CS degree in undergrad (C, C++, OO Design, basic operating systems stuff like memory paging, some basic Computer Engineering).

3) Find a mentor, watch more advanced Linux users. I've learned so much that way. Following NixCraft ( doesn't hurt, but it's not a substitute for the real thing.

4) Find another job where you can do Linux sysadmin as part of the job, and grow into it. A lot of smaller shops and University jobs would probably fit the bill here.

5) BE CAREFUL AND METHODICAL. Come up with a consistent way of doing things, and build caution into your habits. For instance, always double-check your userid and path before running anything destructive. If you do scripted for loops with BASH, run them with 'echo $COMMAND' the first time around rather than just '$COMMAND'.

6) Specialize. Linux sysadmins are not too hard to come by. Linux sysadmins that totally rock at $IMPORTANT_APPLICATION are in much higher demand. You still need to be a jack of all trades -- learn how to work Google carefully (i.e. using advanced search techniques, see and how to read manpages -- but you will land a job because you know $IMPORTANT_APPLICATION really well, and nobody else applying for the job does.

Those are the most important things I can think of now. Will reply more later as an AC here if I think of something else.

Re:Programming and Tinkering (1)

ultrasawblade (2105922) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131469)

One of the most useful "caution habits" I've picked up is to, if you are running as root (and needing to) and about to type in a potentially destructive command, start by typing a "#". Only when you are sure the command is correct, then remove the #.

Pretty good advice.

Certification (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41130959)

Red Hat offers certifications: []

Certification (1)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 2 years ago | (#41130961)

I got the LPI Linux certification, but only after I got a Linux job. I wouldn't recommend it, it was little more than a stupid cram of shell commands.

One certification which has a better reputation, though, is RHCE/RHCT.

The easiest way to get a Linux job is just to use it, develop in it, and then apply for a position in a company known to use it (which is almost everyone these days).

User Groups - Dev lists - Past Positions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41130973)

Speaking as a very young 20-something *nix Systems Administrator:

Join a user group in your local community. If there isn't one, start one.
Follow the development of what you find interesting, I follow numerous operating system mailinglists, and lambda the ultimate on a daily basis.

As for what an employer can verify:

Results. Be able to point to a string of past positions that you did X, Y, and Z. Work it into future contract/position agreements so that you can talk ( at least a little ) about what you did.

Re:User Groups - Dev lists - Past Positions (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131073)


Networking amongst like-minded people is great way to show the people who know about local Linux-related job openings that you're competent (or at least a good guy and teachable).

Just another tool in the box... (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 2 years ago | (#41130975)

I've spent 1/2 my 25+ year career as a "Unix" (you know what I mean) system administrator and the other 1/2 as a Unix system programmer, sometimes application programmer, all with a little (sigh) DOS/Windows thrown in. I've worked on just about every flavor of Unix running on PC class to Cray-2 hardware, usually several at any one time. For most of that time, there were no books on the topics, just man pages and the compiler. Linux is just another tool in my toolbox.

It seems almost universal that every prospective employer only sees the "other" half of my experience - We want a sysadmin, but you're a programmer. We want a programmer, but you're a sysadmin. I simply tell them I do both and I do both well. Resume and references speak for themselves.

I got my first jobs at my university doing LISP research and working in the CS office. First real job because employer liked my school experience (did more than just took classes). It was small company and I did both system programming/admin (on 8 different versions of Unix). Second job, I bumped into professor from school and got job as both Unix system admin/programmer at NASA Langley (super computing network) and another contractor as sysadmin (100+ Sun/SGI workstations); then The New York Times for a few years as Unix sysadmin; now defense contractor (can't say who) for 11 years, because of friend from very first job. Now I work on primarily Solaris, Linux and (sigh, still) Windows systems as a system/application programmer - in about 10 different programming languages - and sysadmin when needed.

All in all, you learn what you need to know and what interests you - sometimes the weirder the better. You never know where it will lead.
There is one definitive: I hate Windows, especially Windows 7 - or as I call it "Windows for Dummies".

I started the old fashioned way (1)

warpup (611775) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131005)

I started as a Solaris administrator. I converted from running Solaris with CDE as my main desktop to Debian with Fluxbox. At some point we needed a replacement for an old FTP server that had been running on IIS and I suggested a Linux based replacement on spare hardware. That was the toe in the door that led to a variety of servers running a variety of services on Linux.
Once we had Linux running in the environment I began to get Red Hat certifications. As I added each certification, Linux became even easier to sell as a solution since the company had a known skill set to run it.

Accidentally (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131009)

I'm not a Linux professional, per se. I fell into the role of Virtual Machine server guy. Some of the VMs are Linux. For many things, Linux is a better tool than windows to deal with VMWare problems, system monitoring and so on. So I use Linux as part of my paid work, and I notice that part is increasing. I guess I have to say that I'm slowly sinking into it, sort of like quicksand, but not as messy, at least not until you get into the configuration files.

by hook or by crook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41131031)

took some computer classes, joined/founded a LUG or two, took any (temp) position or otherwise had anything computer related, worked as a grunt in a small ISP that would hire talented but inexperienced people for no money, took experience and played up every scrap of linux related work on resume even if it was only 10% of the job, made job titles sounds more admin-y (odd unix positions had odd titles so they became "unix operator" if I didn't have root and "junior unix admin" if I did), begged/badgered local sysadmin firm into giving me a job with "unix admin" as the title even though it was a bad commute away and at miserable pay, worked hard, hard-balled them into giving me raises, eventually quit over pay and location, rinse lather repeat.

the oddest thing about "unix administration" is that so many positions which are not strictly speaking administration (essentially unix based application support) can pay as well or better than the generalist position, but then you are using only a small subset of your skills and becoming an SME in a product which then, in turn, requires you to keep working with that product.

it helps when the market is expanding and absorbing people who can spell l-i-n-u-x and not when it's contracting and wants to keep only a pool of seniors and the barriers to entry are high.

i tried hard to avoid hybrid unix-windows positions but it might be a good foot in the door if you then play down the windows part (i've found that having 'windows' on my resume lead to me getting offers of windows positions for which i was not interested or qualified so it does not, nor will it, exist there).

that's "a way" - not sure if it's the best way.

it's a bag of tricks (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131035)

"By 'Linux professional,' I mean anyone in a paid IT position who uses or administers Linux systems on a daily basis.

Being a "Linux Professional" (or as people tend to more often call me, "Linux Guru", damn them) is more about a broad and deep level of experience than it is about 'knowing linux'. For instance, you're going to know the inner workings of how many protocols work; you're going to know how to build your own Linux distro (more or less), and you're going to know how hardware behaves properly. There are many 'professionals' who don't know this, but if you're specializing you've got to know pretty much everything.

Think: RHCE or similar.

Over the past five years, I've developed an affection for Linux, and use it every day as a freelance IT consultant. I've built a breadth of somewhat intermediate skills, using several distros for everything from everyday desktop use, to building servers from scratch, to performing data recovery. I'm interested in taking my skills to the next level — and making a career out of it — but I'm not sure how best to appeal to prospective employers, or even what to specialize in

You'll become a generalist unless you become a "Postfix Administrator" or something like that. That's the most likely first step. You will pick up your specialty over the years, largely depending on which type of systems you're working on.

(I refuse to believe the only option is 'sysadmin,' though I'm certainly not opposed to that).

That's not the only option, but it's the main and first one you'll have to master. Being an architect or systems specialist (mail, dns, filesystems, whatever) is the next step up. It takes a while to get there, and usually requires either a specialized company dealing exclusively with something in that domain, a very large corporation, or contracting.

Specifically, I'm interested in what practical steps I can take to build meaningful skills that an employer can verify, and will find valuable.

This is sorta "LOL". You assume that your employer cares more than anything other than a stable work history and/or specifically applicable experience to what you will be doing on a day in and out basis. It is a rare IT manager who cares more about this, even. Being highly skilled and capable, in a field where your skillset is in demand, is entirely different than being employable doing said work.

So, what do you do, and how did you get there? How did you conquer the catch-22 of needing experience to get the position that gives you the experience to get the position?

You know the right people, or you luck out and get a job in the field right after school. Part of lucking out is knowing the right people.

Every single IT job I've gotten has either been due to the employer being desperate because they have someone vacating a crucial position or expansive growth they can't manage, or through a friend. I've also not gotten jobs through friends, after failing interviews (not enough experience in such-and-such technology or the snap-judgement IT Director not liking me, or any number of other things.)

Did you get certified, devour books and manpages, apprentice under an expert, some combination of the above, or something else entirely?"

Everyone is different in this regard. I personally got a 4 year degree and spent many, many long hours devouring man pages, chatting on technical IRC, experimenting/pushing my envelope, and reading in general. That's the easy part. The hardest part of all of it is breaking into a linux-oriented job, IMO. If you're not in the right market, you've got to get yourself to that market before any of your experience even matters. Knowing the right people is, IMO, key. Personally, it took approximately 5 years of constant trying, experimentation with what works, etc. to get my first 'linux' job - and that was primarily a FreeBSD job, at that. Now I'm working primarily with AIX (just several years later). There is no golden bullet, here, and you will probably find it almost impossible to find your 'ideal' job. (Mine would be doing systems engineering/administration/management in an academic/scientific setting. I've done it for a year so far, and would love to get back to doing it again.)

do a project where you use linux.. (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131055)

like some clustering combo with virtual servers that you could scale to work with n+34523 users. maybe open source it. it helps if you can find real users for the service, like if it's a game or does something useful digging up some info from some source.

and suddenly you would have experience you could use to score a gig, then another...

Find a small startup, co-op, or non-profit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41131057)

Jobs posted on Craigslist from these entities tend to want someone who can think and who can be taught, vs those who expect *every* admin to know Linux, Apache, *SQL, switches, storage, shell scripting and Jboss.

There are a lot of Linux startups that will be more than happy to teach you things like block level file systems and SAN administration, chef, puppet, cfengine, apache, Postgres, KVM, xen, iptables, nagios, cacti, bacula, clustering, perl, etc etc. when you get into that stuff, you're more than a "sysadmin". Eventually, you will be paid as one.

Also, I wouldnt worry about "multiple distros". They are all almost identica, or fit into 2 or 3 highly related categories. RHEL, Debian, Suse, and BSD.

The ore option would be a the position at a large company that is based on *nix, but doesn't need you to know the entire history of the world about it (VMware, IBM, Security firms, storage, software based networking, hosting, or *gasp* "cloud providers".

Good luck!

I just like configurabiliy, so I used it every day (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41131061)

And since I'm a naturally curious person, over time, I automatically became good at it.

“Everything is a file” and everything being scriptable just is vastly more powerful, since it means it's an ACTUAL computer, where you automate your work away. (As opposed to being an appliance like the iPad is, and Windows, OS X, KDE, Gnome, XFCE, etc try extremely hard to be.)

Nothing more.

It's simple (-1, Flamebait)

Joe U (443617) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131107)


You take a mainframe or UNIX admin and lobotomize until you're ready for Linux.

It's on a scale:
Mainframe -> UNIX -> VAX -> Other big name variants (HP/UX, Solaris) -> Windows Servers/Linux Servers -> Windows Desktop -> Android/Linux Desktop -> Pancakes Mmmm Pancakes -> MacOS -> iOS

With patience and practice (4, Interesting)

JoeCommodore (567479) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131113)

I started with Linux use early 2000s, went through a couple years of labor and frustration installing, re-installing troubleshooting, etc. until it became my primary OS. One of the best things UI did was grab one of those fat Linux Bibles and read it cover to cover (the one I read was the Red Hat Linux 8 bible) - not all of it will stick, some will be not useful now, and largely it makes a great sleep aid, but it will give you a general picture of how things work in Linux.

From there start setting up a test system where you can try out the more serious stuff like setting up a web server, FTP, shell, ssh, etc. Maybe try out LTSP, etc. Once you get to the point where you can confidently do something useful (business wise) then see about migrating it to work. Show your boss you could do x with Linux, faster cheaper and without licenses, and that you can write out what to do if it crashes and your not there. Once you get the chance, make it work and also show it to your peers. Once things are rolling on Linux, you've become the Linux professional. Now you're there, you have to keep up on all that stuff - and there's always more to learn.

Started as a hobby when I was a teenager (1)

root_42 (103434) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131125)

The first computer our family had was a 286 12MHz running DOS 3.3 and Windows 2.11. Then came some 486SX, which I upgraded to have a double speed CD-ROM. Here in Germany dial up and downloads were very expensive, so the CD-ROM became my means to get my first Linux distribution. It was a magazine cover CD-ROM containing a DOS-bootable archive with Linux (something around Linux 1.0ish, I forgot), running the UMSDOS file system, ca. 20 MBytes. That was 1994. I played around with it for some time, until I bought my first Slackware, then my first SuSE distribution. So far this was still a hobby. I started to get paid for this as a student in 12th grade, by administering a small ISDN dial up router/server, which also hosted a Hylafax server, a Squid proxy (serving ~10 people over 64kbit ISDN), and an Email-Server. I had not enough clue about TCP/IP at that time, and I had to learn a lot the hard way.

Then I started my studies (computer science) in 1999. By 2000 I had removed Windows from my machine completely, only installing it a bit later in VMWare, for using it once in a blue moon. I wrote all my papers under Linux, did all my programming homework on it etc etc. After I graduated, I became a grad-student and did my research and all the work at the institute also under Linux (now Debian). At home I switched to Ubuntu after a few years more with OpenSuSE. Then, I got to know OS X, and switched to that for my desktop at the lab / work, and having the Debian PC be the number cruncher. Shortly before leaving university, I bought a Mac for home as well, since keeping up my Linux box was too much work at that point. Now I work for a company that makes behavioral finance software, and again I work under Debian, feeling at ease. At home, I still use and love my Mac, using MacPorts for all the good Unixy stuff, and having an OpenWRT router for toying (sometimes) and soon, hopefully, also a Raspberry Pi.

So, this year marks my 18th anniversary using Linux, and I still like it. I know that whenever I have to do CS / coding / computer work, I will always want some kind of UNIX-like system. Be it Linux, OS X, BSD or some other OS with a bash. :)

Interesting reading other peoples responses.. mine (1)

Pengo (28814) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131133)

About 15 years ago i just started installing it and using it for various tasks. In a smaller company this is a very easy thing to get away with, and I've spent most of my career in Small/Medium businesses. Many of which were in startup mode and saving money was an easy sale. What makes you a professional is when you've started to break things, or see things fall apart and you can fix it.

The hardest part about Linux (or at least was) is that you'd have to cash the checks you were writing, no blaming microsoft or Oracle when you put Linux on the line.

Any chance that you have to get an organization to invest in Linux is a sign that they are interested in investing in their own employees, namely you.

If they aren't interested in trying Linux/Open Source, it's probably trust issues with turnover or having been burnt by someone in the past that just didn't know what they were doing. If you do jump into that game, start with something small and low-key, maybe a simple PHP app or a file server. Ease into other services and build up your toolbox. You will panic the first time the disk fills up, or the server is unresponsive and you have to mount the disk in single user mode for a repair. Things happen, but lucky for you google is your friend.

The best way to become a professional in my experience is to jump in and Just do it ! :)

Best of luck.

sysadmin jobs (1)

ageisp0lis (2679663) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131135)

tried Linux around 1999-00 after hanging out on IRC and hearing about it. played with Red Hat, Slackware, even Mandrake. Left it alone for a few years and came back. Now I'm strictly into Debian. I recently got certified RHCSA, LPIC-1 and Novell CLA. If anyone wants to give me a job let me know.

Take the sysadmin job (4, Interesting)

penguinbrat (711309) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131155)

It's the 'foot in the door' - once your on this side of it, it's up to what you do with it.. Once your in, script your job to make life easier for you, while also doing everything 100% with out failure (assuming your scripts aren't full of bugs) - you will get promoted into another position - or simply ensure that you keep your job. If you don't get promoted, jump jobs - its basically ALL experience that gets you the higher end positions, nothing else, certs help with the bigger companies, smaller ones (where I prefer) want experience more than anything. Jumping jobs, ensures you get the varied experience. Multiple steady jobs as a sys admin, could land you the Sr Sys Admin in a smaller company.

Also, don't stop with just installing systems on new hardware, thats easy - try to get your hands on the 'old' stuff that barely works, and I'm talking Pentiums - nothing in the last decade. back when I was a teenager, my mom was given around a dozen plus systems for a project she was working on, she tasked me with seeing what worked and what could be done with them. I was able to get around 7 systems fully working, only some had no drives. Between them all, I got into networking (obviously), diskless nodes, DNS, various services, the kernel/modules/configurations, etc.., etc.. Because the amount of resources I had to work with was very limited, I had to really do my homework to get everything going AND usable. A few years later, my first 'good' job I scored because I knew what some strange boot codes from LILO were when simply no one else did, and I could get the critical systems going again (I was contract initially) - I only knew that info from the countless issues I ran into on that old hardware, and getting it all working.

When it comes to your employer verifying that you can walk the walk, and not just talk the talk - it's done one of two ways, and sometimes both - they will either verify from word of mouth (previous employer/references) or during your 30 day/3month 'probation' period.

Not much do it. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41131177)

Just get use to sucking dicks and taking it up the ass and you'll be a Linsux professional in no time, neckbeard.

How I started (1)

br00tus (528477) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131181)

You want to know how people started so I'll tell you. In the early 1980s I got a 300 baud modem. I began calling Bulletin Boards Systems. One of them was a board with a private section which I gained access to after chatting with the sysop. It had "codez" that I could make free phone calls with.

I got busy in the mid-1980s, but in 1989 I began calling BBS's again. I started calling boards with h/p sections, or totally h/p boards. One one of them I mentioned the dialup to a local university, and what I saw on the various menus I could get to. Someone responded to my post (this person later became the CTO of a company whose worth was in the billions). He gave me the hostname, and a username and password of a SunOS box at the university. I logged in. It was the first Unix I ever logged into.

Anyhow, fast forward to early 1996. I have hacked the account of someone who runs a local ISP, who I dislike. I am reading through his e-mail and various files. One thing I see is his Usenet spool of the local tech job postings. I start reading it, and see an ad for a company. The company is a new ISP which is about to expand from extremely small to slightly bigger. It sounds so small and poor I think I might have a shot. I log back into my legitimate systems, and send an e-mail to the ad placer and say I'm interested in a job. I say I know Unix well (true) and that I complete my college and have a computer science degree (not true). When I meet him, his wife's friend is there, and I happen to know his wife's friend, so that was luck for me as well. So I get hired. The main box is a Linux pre-1 which got upgraded to Linux 1.X on the first week of work. We also purchase a used Sparcstation IPX at a good price.

And it's gone on from there. The most I ever made as a Unix sysadmin was over $90k a year. Although adjusted for inflation, the highest I got in an adjusted for inflation sense is $110k.

Unix administration was really hot in the ISP and dot-com go-go days. Not so much any more. Of course there's jobs out there. People are trying to do more "in the cloud" nowadays so that lessens work to some extent. There really wasn't as much good turnkey web hosting and managed colo and the like in the mid-1990s as there is now, so a lot more people had to roll their own. Or shared virtual servers. I have been doing different stuff in IT lately, I have never even worked with some of the "newer" stuff like blade servers. Not that blade servers are that new any more.

Also be prepared to be chained to your cell phone 24/7 and getting calls at 3AM if there's an outage, even when you're not on the on-call rotation. And then have office gossips and nosybodies complaining you're not in the office at 10AM after you took that two hour call, which almost no one will know about. Or having to deal with old, out of warranty, broken servers that have trouble backing up and keeping their data, with no good recovery plan, which no one cares about until they go down - then the bosses will all crowd your desk every five minutes frantically asking you for a time estimate of when everything will be back to normal. Of course other IT jobs, like development, have a different kind of pressure. In some ways system administration is more preferable, as you can only keep servers up 24 hours a day - developers usually have a mountain of desired features piled on top of their workload.

Also... (1)

br00tus (528477) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131353)

"I'm interested in what practical steps I can take to build meaningful skills that an employer can verify, and will find valuable."

I have been on many interviews for Unix sysadmin jobs, and have conducted many, many interviews for Unix sysadmin positions over the years.

People fall under a Gaussian distribution on an interview. A few people know almost nothing (we try to screen them out with phone interviews), a few people knock every question out of the park, and most people are in that big chunk in the middle of the bell curve.

The middle people, where most people are - you're not really sure about. You can tell they kind of know it, but they struggle on a lot of answers. It's hard to distinguish one middle person from another. They can tell you at a basic level what RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 are, but if you ask for more detail they start coming up short. Or maybe they get 0 and 1 mixed up, or don't know what 10 is, or whatever.

Can you explain in detail what a sticky bit is? And how it would work if someone throws different scenarios at you? Or how inode permissions on a directory work given different scenarios? How well can you explain what an inode is? Can you explain in detail a Linux machine booting up? From the reset pin being activated on the processor, to how it gets to BIOS at FFFF:0000h and beyond that? Is the processor running in protected or real mode when that happens? Do you know what kind of electrical signal is sent to that reset pin to boot the system? Can you walk through the bootup in detail up to the init state, and past that?

If you can give good, full answers to questions like these right now, with enough door knocking, you'll definitely get a job. People who know their shit are always in short supply. If you go on an interview, do you miss any questions? Why did you miss them? If you give a full, complete, lucid answer to every technical question on an interview, and do not have an abnormal personality, it would amaze me if you were not hired somewhere over time. A lot of positions are open over time because they can't find people with the knowledge and skills needed to work for a certainly salary in certain conditions.

A little bit of networking helps as well, if you're out there at various tech things, and casually mention you just interviewed for a Linux sysadmin job somewhere, people will know you're looking, and that helps as well.

Re:Also... (2)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131505)

"Can you explain in detail what a sticky bit is? And how it would work if someone throws different scenarios at you? Or how inode permissions on a directory work given different scenarios? How well can you explain what an inode is? Can you explain in detail a Linux machine booting up? From the reset pin being activated on the processor, to how it gets to BIOS at FFFF:0000h and beyond that? Is the processor running in protected or real mode when that happens? Do you know what kind of electrical signal is sent to that reset pin to boot the system? Can you walk through the bootup in detail up to the init state, and past that?"

I have been involved with Linux for more than 15 years and have written device drivers as well as having rolled my own distributions on numerous occasions. Your questions are absurd. Nobody cares if the reset is active high or low, and how it gets to the BIOS address at FFFF:0000, nor does it matter that the processor is in real mode at that time, especially since you are assuming an x86 architecture when Linux supports more than 30 processor architectures. Unless you are hiring someone to work on the Linux boot code for an x86 system and/or design a motherboard for same your questions are ridiculous and you are missing out on highly qualified help.

I was the only one who had any exposure to Linux! (4, Interesting)

Paracelcus (151056) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131183)

So after the plastic mannequins posing as managers discovered that "Lye-nux" was in use by some enterprise that they read about in some shiny trade publication and was therefor "sexy", I was anointed "project leader" to build and configure a mail server and a separate file server.

I used retired machines (lots to choose from), (if I remember correctly) a Slackware 6 CD, and did what they wanted, when I was called into a meeting and asked how much I would need to buy the equipment and software I told them that it was done and ready to begin testing whenever they wanted.

This really pissed them off, (not to have to spend huge sums of money) they felt cheated somehow and after I had successfully demonstrated that the setups I created worked reliably management decided to scrap "Lye-nux" and spend $500,000 on high end Sun equipment instead!

Re:I was the only one who had any exposure to Linu (1)

remindserfer (2715909) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131521)

Very interesting. perhaps

Power = budget * underlings

is true.

Embedded software engineering (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41131193)

Learn C language and find a project which uses Linux for embedded devices.
You'll not only be able to use Linux and enjoy all its userland features, but also you'll get a possibility to see how well organised codebase it has by writing device drivers for it. Also creating your own file system images can be a lot of fun too.
There are some trainings available from free electrons which provide nice introduction to embedded development for Linux once you know C (and basic command line tools).
Way more interesting than sysadmining.

Curiosity and Diversity, and Google. (1)

bytor4232 (304582) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131195)

Your most important asset is curiosity. Without that, you won't get very far. You also need a very diverse set of skills. That's pretty much how I got to where I am now, and I've been a Linux IT professional since 1998. Knowing your hardware, ability to build and deploy stable server systems with the right Linux distribution, and finally learning how Linux works and why. Just installing Ubuntu is not enough, you need to objectively pick the right tool for the right job. Some days its CentOS, other days its Ubuntu. Some days some animal entirely set apart from either. Jack of all trades, master of none. Running through a few builds of LFS will teach you far more than any distro will any day.

And if I have to be completely honest, being a search engine power user. Without being able to effectively use a search engine, and you'd be surprise how many people can't, you won't get very far at all.

By force, like most sys admins I'd imagine (1)

supremebob (574732) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131221)

I started my career as a Windows NT and AIX admin, but my customers and clients decided to switch to x86 servers running Red Hat Linux to cut their software license costs.

My boss at the time asked me if I heard of Linux. I said that I did, so he declared me an "expert" to our clients and had me building servers with it a few days later.

Fortunately, Linux and AIX are somewhat similar so the learning curve wasn't all that steep.

Re:By force, like most sys admins I'd imagine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41131319)

This actually happened:

Me: Linux doesn't have the feature you want.

Client: Show me the configuration.

Me: This is Linux. Which file do you want to see?

Client: Type "smit".

Me: Uh, that is an AIX utility. This is Linux.

Client: You told me that Linux and AIX are similar.

You would expect most technical jobs to be like (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41131229)

that. However there's a large number of Windows trolls. People who are proud of never having used a console before. People who design a whole company infrastructure around Excel sheets and VBA. People who think they know everything about computers, yet struggle to do even the simplest tasks. They are similar to PHP trolls, which are people who think they know PHP, but neither know PHP to some useful level, nor anything else.

Again, as some people said, the typical route is to just get a unixoid system and work with it. You will usually outperform your peers easily, depending on your job. In some companies that will gain you some respect and bring you further. In good companies this will allow you to keep using your machine.
I wouldn't consider myself a Linux professional. I'm an engineer. And as an engineer I need tools that work and tools that work efficiently. Unixoid systems just happen to fulfill that role, and Linux just happens to be among the best unixoid systems out there at the current time. As long as Microsoft still doesn't understand Unix I doubt they will ever bring out anything that can be considered to be a useful tool. From what I have seen, Powershell is no more than a crude joke.

However keep in mind that companies are not there to solve problems or find solutions or to earn money. Their main purpose is to maintain their internal structure. If you don't believe this is true, _please_ show me an exception.

Funny (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131259)

The funny thing is that all the IT guys who don't know Linux tend to smash it. All the IT guys who know Linux will sell it like no tomorrow. So I don't know how to get a job being a Linux admin but put it on your resume and the good IT guys will notice it and want to talk. The worst thing you can see on an IT resume is the absence of Linux, it just screams stay back.

Start from the bottom (1)

slacktheplanet (303034) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131313)

Assuming you do not have experience working in an enterprise environment, do not be afraid to take a job at the bottom of the totem pole. Learn all you can from each position that you take, but do not get too comfortable if your ultimate goal is upward mobility.

If the money isn't what you'd hoped for, just think of it as an education expense. For every year you spend learning from others on the job, you are gaining a year of education as well as experience.

At 19 I started off working in the IT department at my university. From there I moved to an ISP doing tech support-with some Linux work on the side and then to another support role doing more SQL stuff than I wanted. By the time I felt I was ready for a job as a full time Linux administrator, I had 8 years experience in not only Linux, but also other IT areas (SQL, Windows, Networking, Storage, Management).

I would also suggest that you go on every interview you can. Interviewing is a valuable skill that really only comes with practice.

Old geezer here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41131325)

When I started it was as an operator at school. No UNIX/Linux in sight (about 1974). I actually helped unload the largest computer the school had from the delivery truck (a whole room full of processors+memory+I/O controllers and disks - 80MB per disk, 8 disks. a whopping 128k of 36bit word memory)

First job out of school was what is now called embedded applications developer just because I happened to be able to program the PDP-8/11 in assembler. From Operator/Developer I became the system administrator of the company data processing center. All that meant was that I got called when the system wouldn't boot, or wouldn't do what they thought it should. It also meant I babysat any vendor maintenance personnel. Oh and I got to design/implement the backup strategy. This job also taught me the value of written documentation (got mentored while writing specifications/contract).

The first UNIX system was V6, where I learned the basics. But it was not a production system. Taking vendor administration classes (it was a VAX) gave an understanding of the basics. I then got my own UNIX System Vr2 based system (a 2MB Motorola 68020 system), which gave me the basics of modern UNIX.

My next job was adminstrator/developer for HPUX system (I was more familiar with UNIX than anyone else there), generating documentation frameworks that saved a bundle (docs were sent to another site for formatting/typing - I just used nroff to eliminate a weeks delay in turning it over to the customer). Making backups was still the primary administration task.

The next job (well, skipping another short VAX cluster admin job) was developing applications on a Sun workstation, and extending that to a workstation cluster (all 5 of them).

The big job came next - UNIX workstation admin for a supercomputer center. That allowed me to move into large system admin (Crays, SGI clusters, security admin, IBM systems...) which lasted 11 years. Tasks here expanded from basic administration to security, user administration, support, and above all, document, document, document. I saved a job by telling a director "no, I don't remember, but I have it written in this..." and handed him what was a systems operation manual.

The key in all of the jobs is learning the background. Without that background (math, CS, administration, security, documentation) none of the jobs after school would have occurred as I would not have been able to quickly translate job requirements into tasks. Both for personal tasks, and organizational tasks.

Old geezer here too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41131367)

Forgot to mention - the Sun workstations got replaced by Linux under my recommendation. I wanted UNIX, but purchasing would not buy them, so I told them PCs with Linux could be secured. PCs with windows could not. From there it just ballooned.

There's no standard way (1)

Smallpond (221300) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131331)

As an ex hardware guy I don't have any software degree or certifications. I used to buy Redhat releases on floppy back when I had dial-up and install them on my second PC. Learned all about networking, DNS, DHCP, etc. from howtos - which were always out-of-date even then. Anyway, last two jobs have been increasingly Linux and now I'm a full-time kernel hacker. The best source of information for what I work on now is the mailing lists and LWN. Buy a subscription.

Computer magazine with RH6.2 (1)

equex (747231) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131351)

Started out on Amiga, loved the CLI. Used to write fancy startup.s scripts and all sorts of glorius 90s eyecandy. Tried Red Hat 6.2 back in the days, didn't work very well. Went to computer engineering classes, learned Solaris. Got pretty familiar with Linux development trough DJGPP and all that. Cygwin, etc. Years went, tried version 4 or 5 of Ubuntu. Went to more school, learned Mandriva/Mandrake. Using different Ubuntu distros at home. Was at 8.10 when I got 'professional'. Work used Windows XP workstations, but all the development servers was Linux, so Putty was the numero uno app. Company had custom quickstart-guide to Linux for the inexperienced and we had posters of shell commands on the walls, Also, the bash buffers on all the different servers had like 2 years worth of command history, so it didn't take long to learn to run most of the park. Nitty gritty details were left to the respective admins ofcourse.It was harder to memorize what was running on all the servers than to actually perform the work needed on them :D Now I have tried about every major distro, even quite a few lesser known. Arch, LFS, DSL, Puppy, Manjaro. Even experimenting with building custom Linux now. The whole linux development pipeline is just lovely. I usually mouth off at the desktop situation, but actually working with Linux is bliss.

Linux is too hard (0)

codepunk (167897) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131407)

Linux is too hard, stick with Windows administration.

Honestly though you need to know both the system and I don't mean using a Desktop no enterprise environment loads one. In addition you had better be able to program, you can be a admin without being a programmer but you cannot be a great one. Linux / Unix greatest strength is in the ability to automate the hell out of everything. If you cannot program you cannot maximize the use of the platform.

Re:Linux is too hard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41131591)

Linux is too hard, stick with Windows administration.

A joke, right? Windows is in no way "easier". It may be, for someone who knows windows well already and haven't really looked at linux. But - linux professional or windows professional - you have to be way above someone who merely knows how to (re)install the system and use the desktop on a daily basis. And then windows isn't "easier", because there is a lot to learn there too.

For me, windows is hard and linux easy. Perhaps because I haven't used windows myself since version 3.11, but linux since 1997. . .

Explore Linux in every aspect (1)

Nemosoft Unv. (16776) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131411)

I installed Linux first back in 1993; the Uni I was attending had some Unix boxes and I liked it so much I tried out Linux myself (slackware, on floppies no less).

Anyway, there are a couple of things that I think make you a professional:

  • Know the system in and out, and a bit beyond that. Don't just shove in a Ubuntu/Debian/Slackware/Redhat CD and hit "graphic install". For example, know how the installer works, figure out the boot loader works, what /sbin/mount does and what to do when you end up with a read-only root file system.
  • Explore other areas: I've written kernel modules in the past (I'm also a programmer); learn about networking, IP, DNS, which wires in a CAT5 cable are used for 100Base-T, know what a USB vender/product ID is.
  • Install software from source. Much more ... ehm... entertaining at times.
  • Eat your own dogfood; that is, install a system that you dare experimenting with. If it blows up in your face, you have just learned a lot (and just restore from backup (you do have backups, don't you?))
  • Use it every day yourself; try different versions.

And the most important aspect of being a professional, in my opinion: admit it when you don't know something, or made a mistake. It sounds much better to tell your customer "I don't know how to do that, but I'll figure it out" than to say "Sure, no problem" and come back 2 weeks later empty-handed. Also, "Oops, I'll fix that right away" works much better than "Nah, you must have seen it wrong" or "It's a glitch".

How'd I do it? (2)

honestmonkey (819408) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131461)

By asking questions on Slashdot, of course. Yeesh.

Learn the Unix philosophy (1)

sco08y (615665) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131463)

(I'm coming at this from a developer's perspective, so a sysadmin perspective may be different.)

To be sure, Linux isn't the only Unix, and you can do this to an extent on Windows. (Much more if you install Python or Ruby on Windows.)

But Linux tends to have the state of the art in Unix tools, from the various scripting languages to the various development tools and languages. And because they're so good, it does encourage this idea that things should fit into a larger system, that you're not making "apps" or huge "enterprise" systems that are big fugly stovepipes. Instead, these are tools that do specific jobs, and someone else can make another tool that complements it, and so forth.

The contrast, I think, is with the IDE mentality where all the messy details are hidden from you. It's fine to use an IDE but if you're using it because you can't figure out how make or a linker works, you're a very junior developer. You're still using training wheels.

And it gives you a clear path to get rid of the training wheels. You don't have to ditch the IDE entirely. Instead, if you're using Eclipse, figure out how to write your own build script. Learn how to use your source control management without the IDE. Learn how to use grep and find instead of the tools in the IDE. These are all things you can do one at a time, so it's manageable and achievable. Pick up a shell (or even stick with a language like python) and start scripting some annoying tasks.

And that's how I'd really try to sell yourself: not necessarily as being a Linux guy, but being someone who understands how things work and is more versatile.

Get a job (2)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131503)

A "freelance IT consultant" is a guy who plays WoW 24/7 with breaks to answer the door for pizza deliveries or go fix friend's computers in exchange for chee-toes. Get a job. Somewhere. Anywhere. Be a server admin at a company. Yes, that means you'll likely have to do windows. When the time comes for a big server expense, honestly and impartially present Windows vs Linux. I.e. For an email upgrade, a Linux server with Outlook enabled email (no changes on the desktop) and spam filter, vs MS Exchange with a commercial spam filter. $20,000 + $2000 per year for one, and $0 for the other, with no changes to the desktops, and poof, you are now a Linux admin. Do that for a year after the change, get your coworkers skilled up, then look for a job with more admin work. You want to be a Linux professional, but don't know what you want to do with it. That's strange to me. That's like saying "I want to use a screwdriver for a living, but don't know what I want to do with it." Plumber, framer, electrician are all vastly different and all use screwdrivers regularly. Decide what you want to do, the more specific the better, then read all the openings for that job and see what they are looking for. Then do it. It may take 20 years, but it's not hard. Well, it was for me because I gave up on mine. There was only one job on the planet that did exactly what I wanted, and it has low turnover, so the only reliable way for me to get that one job would have been murder, which wasn't a career path I wanted.

OS/2 Warp, Actually... (1)

Vrallis (33290) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131507)

Back when I was in high school and using Win 3.1.1 on top of DOS 5, I came across a new copy of OS/2 Warp at a local computer shop, heavily discounted. I used it through my first year of college, where I got more and more into using Unix-related software under OS/2, thanks to the great porting work done by the community. I was regularly using vi, Apache, Perl, etc all directly under OS/2.

In school I used everything from DEC Unix (DEC OSF/1 on Alphas) to HP-UX on HPPA RISC boxes to, eventually, Linux, mostly in my on-campus job working at a research institute. That drove me to switch to Linux personally.

After dropping out of college due to money, I made my way quickly up the food chain at my first 'real' job. We had a mix of HP-UX and SCO in house, and no proper networking (10b2 all using "example" IPs out of the manuals--which were not private-space IPs). I modernized us and slowly introduced Linux into the mix. At the same time our primary software vendor (who I later went on to work for) started adopting Linux as well. We eventually displaced all of our HP-UX boxes and infiltrated the SCO install base with more and more Linux systems. Later on, when I went to work for that vendor, we got almost all of the installed SCO base replaced with Linux as well.

Long story short, using FOSS under OS/2 opened the door for me, while using it at work sealed the deal.

Just started using it at work (1)

bindir (63128) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131523)

Me and a few friends started an IT consulting business in 1999, prior to that we were using Linux at home (I liked slackware, they liked redhat). After we had the business going, we set up all-in-one machines for companies that ran Linux. These machines did SMB filesharing, squid caching (most clients shared a 56k dial-up for internet at the time), pop & imap email. They all ran slimmed down installs of Slackware.

Fast forward to now, and I've parted ways with the company I founded to work in IT at a shop that's a mix of Linux and Windows (zimbra mail server, linux dns and etc servers). I still run Linux at home and carry an Android powered phone (SGS3).

None of us had formal schooling, we just hacked together the OS the best we could to make it work (OMG apache+mod_ssl+php+rewrite compiling by hand I don't miss those ./configure lines). We used it for everything and learned it via hands on using manpages and talking to other Unix professionals at the time (that turned their noses up at us because they were using HP/UX, AIX, Solaris, FreeBSD)

Do random stuff (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41131527)

Seriously. Pick projects that you think would be useful in a work environment. Do them as a hobby evenings and weekends. Write a short 1-2 page summary (typeset w/ groff or LaTeX). Put them up on a website as PDFs. Communication skills are as important as technical skills. Expect to take a day or more to do a good write up of a week's worth of work. Make sure your presentation focuses on a management perspective. That is, when and why, not how, though a few hows are probably good if readable by completely non-technical people.

I got laid off in '91 and spent 4 months learning Unix admin on a Sun 3/60 I bought just before I was laid off. Then I spent a month learning lex & yacc because I thought it might be useful someday. I got lucky. I got a 6 month contract gig. My first assignment was expected to take 2 months. With lex & yacc it took 2 weeks. They thought I walked on water. I stayed there 3 years and only left because they were having a layoff and I didn't want to endure the misery. Funny part was they had a layoff at my new gig the day after I got there. I just found a piece I wrote summarizing the state of the computing environment at that job.

Note: I did this in a 3 ring binder, but never used it because except for the first job I've gotten a job because someone I knew came looking for me. So the binder wasn't needed.

Have Fun!

Used linux from the mid-90's and evolved with it. (1)

Ramley (1168049) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131577)

In the early 90's (1993 or so) I started a small ISP in the midwest (playing out of my house) which grew fairly quickly. After about a year, I brought on partners, and hired employees, as well as found office space.

I had a couple of high school and college age guys who came by to help us out, and play with our large amount of bandwidth. They convinced us (1995/1996) to try Linux (Slackware, I believe) for our DNS and mail. After many attempts to show us how stable, and great it was. Eventually, we began to use it in production, and it was terrific for so many reasons.

Eventually I had to learn command-line, and how it all worked, and I spend much time learning the 'right' way to do things. Joe (the text editor) became a good friend.

From there, we eventually sold the ISP, and I went to work for the company that purchased us. I've been heavily involved in Linux administration and development ever since.

We have a saying in the NOC (2)

musixman (1713146) | more than 2 years ago | (#41131579)

If a new hire has a degree or certification.... "We won't hold that against you.". You can't pick the majority of skills via any courses or degree's its basically trial by fire. Expect not to know stuft, always be humble & don't be afraid to ask for help.
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