by Guest Writer Dedoimedo
Twenty years plus since being created, Linux remains a terrifying word in the global lexicon. Probably not as bad as it was for farmers watching cars take over the countryside in the early decades of the 20th century, but close. It's an operating system all right, but one that does not warm the cockles of your heart. It's the bastion of nerdy and geeky and difficult, and you are better off leaving it alone, to its bearded users. Which makes me think, why is the beard a status of sagacity in our society? Throw in a smoking pipe, and you have a PhD in trustworthiness. That's how it works. And yet, even though Linux is an obvious choice among the people of science, academy and industry, the popular desire to emulate the prototype intellectual status is in low demand. For most folks, the hardship of becoming a Linux user outweighs the benefits. (Image credit: Wikipedia.org)
Because of this phenomenon, if you happen to burrow your face into the job-seeking networks, you will see the string Linux featuring tall and mighty. There's quite a bit of demand for Linux system administrators and engineers, global recession and all notwithstanding. True, you will find a wealth of other occupations, professions and skill being hawked to the lowest bidder, but Linux is sort of a star.
A Day in Life
Now, let's expand on a day in life of Average Joe. He seeks employment, and he wishes to become a borg in that honey-tasting entity called the hi-tech industry, where productivity is measured in the number of presentations one makes and in the size of one's CC mailing list. Joe has a lot of opportunities before him: He may become a data center technician, a first level help desk operator going through a new headset every few months, or a system administrator fixing broken mail clients while racing the SLA graphs to the finish line. Or he may become a project manager. Some might choose electrical engineering or physics or math, in case they struggle with code, or even become fully fledged developers.
Encompassing it all, there's one thing that everyone should sort of consider, and that's the ecosystem. Does it have Linux in it? Or better yet, does Joe bring Linux along?
I am absolutely certain that most people do not think about Linux when they apply for a job, but it is probably the first thing they should be doing. For purely selfish reasons. Money.
The maverick, slightly outcast, unpopular status of Linux is what makes it, perversely, the popular and most 'in' commodity in the industry right now. It's sort of a metric by which people measure the quality of the ecosystem. When you say Linux, it's like the beard and the smoking pipe. There's a certain aura about it that makes a lesser man skip a beat. Nothing major, but the rumor and fear make for a very glamorous reputation.
Linux is the rogue of the operating system gang.
Ask anyone what operating system they use, they will most likely answer Windows. When you hear someone say Linux, you automatically assume they are much more skilled that your average user. You can try this exercise yourself. Call your ISP support and tell them you use Linux. You will be forwarded to would-be expert support, and no one will argue with your claims. I have been using this trick for years, which is why I have the personal emails of my ISP specialist staff, since no one dares dispute the Linux weirdo.
Linux as a Strategy: AKA The Minority Report
It gets better. Knowing Linux brings in a whole lot of assumptions along. The fact you know Linux means you know Windows, too! Doesn't have to be, but everyone will think that. They know you are above average in your troubleshooting skills. They know you have your unique ways of working out problems and searching for software, and that gives you an instant advantage. Linx saves time when it comes to job interviews. It's like when you drive a Lamborghini, you don't need to invest that much time impressing the other gender. Which is why you should know Linux. Even if you never get to use it.
Linux is the strategic minority luxury weapon of the industry, and it will remain so for many more years, as long as Microsoft remains the dominant player in the home market, and as long as its rivals maintain the operating system ambiguity as their marketing pitch. Because both OSX and Android have their roots in UNIX and Linux, respectively, but woe the user who voices that out loud. Oh, did you spot that joke? Have their roots? Hee hee.
This is where you come in. When you plan your future employment, you need to consider the market saturation. You need to try to wedge yourself into the premium tier, because that's where decent pay and prestige are. Of course, you can go about it the conventional way, slaving your way through annual assessment reviews, or you could leapfrog a few years by becoming well versed in the secrets of Linux.
A Medal of Binary Honor
If you apply for a job wearing a Linux badge on your shirt, you will have cleared away quite a few obstacles without having had to even prove yourself. Sure, this sleight of hand will work up to a certain level. For example, if you end up being unlucky of having me as your interviewer, you'd better be able to demonstrate your skills, but for most employers, Linux still remains a synonym for professional respect. Not at home no, but in the office, yes. The beard and the pipe trick.
If you are coming to work in a company that is using Linux, you know you have just been handed an unexpected bonus. Again, it's never black and white. Companies will use the best, i.e. cheapest tools they can find to get the job done. The fact someone uses Linux might just be a side effect of brute computational power or support cost they can afford. However, regardless of how Linux came to be in this or that company, the beautiful and inevitable side effect is that there is going to be a different mindset there. People will be more inclined to listen to new, radical ideas, to discuss non-mainstream software, to implement automation and command-line solutions, to try to conform to global practices and standards. Linux begets diversity. And you want that wherever you go to work. The alternative is a boring, monotone place that kills innovation. As preposterous as it sounds, Linux is a great indicator of the vitality and colorfulness of a workplace, when it comes to its human factor. Philosophically, you may ask, is it the human nature that affects software, or vice versa? It does not matter, because you reap benefits anyway.
Now come the crucial questions:
- How does one become skilled in Linux?,
- Where do you learn it?, and,
- How do you overcome the fear of this geeky system that tolerates no noobiness?
If you are reading this article, you are most likely on the far, far end of the spectrum, so the message is quite irrelevant for you, but if you have friends facing tough job-seeking dilemmas, you might want to encourage them to read this.
Let's Get Linuxy
Learning Linux is often an informal process. People start dabbling in this or that distribution, get hooked and begin their distro-hopping journey. After a while, they settle on the most comfortable distro that meets their needs, and that's it. But you can do more, so much more.
Take your distribution, to an extreme. Choose any which subcomponent, and try to master it, completely. The definition might sound abstract, but Linux was created with self-learning as its chief ingredient. Hence those man and info pages. Now, I do not suggest you send panicking newbies down that lane, but for aspiring enthusiasts, this is your portal to knowledge. You will find yourself in a sea of definitions and tools, each taking you their own way.
Still, some formality can go a long way. Even if your job description never takes you down the path of pure system administration, qualifying for a diploma or a certification of some sort can prove that you're capable of working through a process, if needed, give your wild Linux beasts its corral and nosebag. For example, you might want to consider the distribution-independent LPI certifications. Novell, RedHat and Ubuntu also offer their own qualification programs. I can vouch for these myself, as a customer. While they really mean absolutely nothing in my actual daily work, they do add to that beard-and-pipe image ever so slightly. They were also useful in my job seeking phase, as they allow companies to more easily filter the applicants. When one says, I know Linux, it's really hard to quantify this. However, when you go by an industry standard or a well-accepted criterion, you save time and confusion and potential misinterpretation.
But a nice, glossy paper is meaningless without actual knowledge. It's nice to have a framework to help you define your Linux glory roadmap, but you still need actual hands-on experience. This is where Linux really shines. It is possible, conceivable to have a semi-professional Linux environment in one's home. It's virtually impossible, for a variety of reasons, to get the same quality of results using Microsoft Windows or other operating systems. Take a couple of laptops, a few desktops, a dozen virtual machines, and you can create an extremely elaborate Linux test setup, all for free. This is your proving ground, and here you learn skills. Some GUI at first, then more and more scripting and automation. As your knowledge builds, so does your understanding of how things need to be done. When it comes being practical, Linxu has this other advantage: it is intuitively efficient. You will learn how to do things the right way, all on your own, because the architecture of the system will force you.
After several months or years, you will find yourself immersed in a beautiful, fruitful world called Linux, and you will have gained yourself a wealth of knowledge that has nothing to do with Linux itself. You will have learned about hardware, networking, firewalls, services, and other useful ideas, all because trying Linux made you study them. Now, when you seek employment, even as a Microsoft specialist, you will have a solid, confident wall of knowledge to back your claims, and maybe you will get that next pay rise that sooner. Just as some would tell you any man ought to go through a military service because it builds character, I say, you ought to dip your hand in Linux, because it will build your career. Even if you never use it at work.
Be selfish, think of yourself, think of money. Use Linux.
Igor Ljubuncic aka Dedoimedo is the guy behind dedoimedo.com. He makes a living out of his very hobby - Linux, and holds a bunch of certifications that make a nice pile in the bottom drawer.
Hello, Dedoimedo here, a man who makes a living fiddling with Linux. Approximately nine years ago, I had my first chance encounter with Linux, and since, we've been together, quite happy. Like most chance things, Linux comes into people's lives in random, strange ways, and trying to define them with a mathematical formula probably misses the point. Which is why we are here, to talk about Linux, and how it makes sense to have it in your life. No fanboyism, no religion, just pure and simple logic.