Linux Careers – The Future
Linux careers offers plenty of possibilities. At the time of this article, a simple search of ‘Linux’ on Indeed.com yields nearly 72,000 jobs with 52,000 of them being recently posted. Clearly, Linux is a space where a good, solid long term career is possible. But there are some things you should know before you decide to make the leap.
Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with two long time Linux system administrators. These pros have been in the trenches for many years and shared their expertise with me. I then took their thoughts and added it to my list of “career truths” that I was already aware of and decided to share the details here.
Who should consider Linux IT as a career?
So if you’re thinking Linux IT is a good match for you, consider the following:
- Do you enjoy learning new things? Linux IT is constantly evolving filled with wonderful discoveries and new technologies. But this isn’t a career path where you only learn about one thing and that’s it. The learning never ends.
- Are you well suited to troubleshooting? This is a key asset that I think escapes many newcomers entering any IT field. Not everything works like it should and despite your best efforts, you may be spending a significant amount of time troubleshooting why a server is crashing or one of your scripts isn’t running as it should.
- Can you do your job effectively even when stressed? This is one thing I’d love to see more Human Resource Managers (HR) ask new recruits. While there are exceptions, many areas of Linux IT is high stress. If your job involves critical data availability and/or working with stubborn end users who refuse to recognize best practices, you’re going to be stressed at times. You may need to be the type of person who can keep it together and persevere through some high stress situations.
If you can answer yes to all of the above and also have an aptitude for technology, then Linux IT may be a career path worth pursuing.
Preparing for your first Linux IT job
When you’re fresh out of College, the first temptation is to immediately start racking up various Linux and networking certifications. On the surface, this is fine. However you must pursue honing your Linux skills first.
This means learning basic Linux commands and functions to the point where you can utilize tools like sed, grep, cron, and awk. Master these, perhaps even learn a bit of shell scripting while you’re at it.
Being able to automate basic administrator tasks is actually very important and will demonstrate you’re the right person for a potential job. During your introduction to these tools, bundle this with a “Linux server” that you’re managing. I would start with this set of Linux tutorials.
Some newbies looking to pursue this career path may be tempted to immediately jump into advanced networking, visualization and container management. I advice each of those individuals to start with the links above first, master them and then move onto more advanced Linux tools and technologies.
Once you have a solid handle on your skills, I recommend making a name for yourself before seeking out your first Linux IT job. There are three common approaches to this.
- Volunteer for a local non-profit. Whether this is something as remedial as teaching people how to use computers at first, it may soon turn into your managing their data stores and other server needs. Many of these opportunities evolve into the volunteer handling a variety of duties. Linux IT is no different.
- Apply for an IT help desk position. Sometimes this means working for a local ISP or perhaps a web hosting company. Even if neither of these seem to compliment your Linux career goals on the surface, it shows future employers that you’re able to handle difficult challenges when needed. Plus, it’s not uncommon for people to be recruited for better paying Linux IT jobs from these entry level positions. I’ve personally seen it happen many times. As long as your skills are up to par, you’re in a far better position when an IT position in the same company opens up than the new kid fresh out of school is.
- Network at industry events. I’ve had younger people tell me this approach to job hunting is dated and my reply is that the hiring managers at these events would disagree. Hone your skills, make up business cards listing your skills and contact information. Then begin introducing yourself to any booth or person at Linux industry events who you happen upon. I had a ten plus year consulting job that I got taking this approach. It works.
Building your Linux career: IT job interviews
Depending on the Linux IT job type you’re seeking, odds are you’re going to be interviewed by both HR managers and IT division managers. The former is more easily fooled by an exaggerated resume than the latter.
Choosing your first Linux IT job
It’s at this point you have to decide what next steps will make the most sense for you. As a general rule, this usually is broken up into the following segments.
Location of the job. Is there a commute? Since it’s highly unlikely anyone is going to hire a junior admin to work remotely, figuring out whether to commute or relocating is the best option.
Career path direction. Is the company you’re interested in working for going to make continued learning available to you? Do they pay for certs, conferences, and training? Not all of them do and if one of them does, this needs to be something to consider as it’s a tangible asset that will advance your career. As a junior administrator, I’d go so far as to suggest that a company that pays a smaller salary but pays for continued education is the better choice when starting out.
Company culture. When you’re given a tour of the place, do you get the sense that everyone is reasonably content with being there? As cliché as this must sound, I can’t impress upon your enough how important this is. As a junior administrator, you’re going to be seeking out help and mentorship from some of these individuals. If they hate being there, odds are so will you.
Can you do the job asked of you? Remember what I said about being honest about your skills? Once hired, you’re expected to accomplish tasks that match the skills you’ve claimed to possess. Honing your skills and being in a workplace that encourages continued learning is going to present you with a very attractive Linux IT career.
Ever-evolving Linux IT
Remember what I said about your career evolving over time? That you may start out doing one thing only to shift gears and go another way? This is true when you’re starting out as a junior administrator. You may start off simply managing data stores only to move into DevOps one day. You may even feel like the skills you learn today won’t apply to your career later on if you decide to get into something a bit different.
Don’t worry, your skills are legacy assets that will only serve you as you progress through the IT ranks. By building up your basic Linux skills first, starting off in the trenches at a low level IT job, you’re learning secondary skills that will transform you into a more effective Linux IT employee.
Facebook, Google, Amazon, NASA, Tesla, even Microsoft. Linux is the operating system acting as the backbone for the world’s most powerful and innovative companies. Looking for a future proof technical skill? It’s hard to go wrong with Linux.
Enroll with us for Linux courses to gain the foundational Linux skills you need to pursue more advanced education and certification. Choose between two options, depending on your experience level. Unsure about which course is right for you? Its time you stopped and trained with us…