System Admin Getting Ready

Preparing Yourself for the Linux Admin Market

by mike on 01/09/2010

There are a lot of IT professionals who are trying to make their resume look better by taking Linux Administration classes. In fact, 80% of the people taking classes from us are Windows administrators who are trying to protect themselves from losing their job or who are out of work trying to find a job, as the jobs they see available are looking for Linux skills. So, I thought I would provide some tips that may help those in this situation in regards to what to do to prepare yourself for these new job opportunities.

Develop Real Skills
I know going in for an interview can be taxing, stressful and downright difficult. I also know that requirements for jobs are usually way out of line for any human. You know the list, be certified in everything and have 20 years experience in all programing languages and be 21 years old. Let’s face it, most organizations looking for skilled administrators are asking too much. But, even though that is the case, what can you do to best demonstrate your yourself and give yourself a chance at the job.

My interaction with companies has shown that ultimately they are all looking for one thing that they do not talk about in the interview. They are looking for someone who can manage an apache web server, set up a DNS server, create backup scripts that work automatically, create quotas so user resources are guaranteed, clean up the queue on a Postfix mail server, monitor servers on the network for failures…in other words, they are looking for people who can do stuff! I know that sounds too simple, but think about your last interview….. talking about certifications, experience, last job assignment, etc.

What companies want is someone who will walk into the interview and say:

“I can build you a Samba server … today, that will save your company thousands of dollars over the next 5 years.”

“I can build a Postfix Mail server … today, that will replace your Microsoft Exchange server and you can get rid of the license fees.”
“I can create an iptables firewall that protects your data center from intrusion and monitor your internal network for intrusion 24/7 … and I can do that this afternoon.”
“I can set up a monitoring solution … today, that will alert you if your database is down.”

Today’s interview is too focused on information and not application of real skills. Separate yourself by developing skills in specific areas that you can actually do.

Companies are looking for real skills from confident administrators who can get the job done, today! Ultimately, companies do not care if you read a book, took a class, or got a certification…they care about getting a job done. My impression, is that many people looking for careers in Linux administration are too focused on book learning, classes, and certifications and are not enough focused on real life abilities. There is nothing wrong with books, classes, certifications….however, what separates you from everyone else is your actual skill level … what you can do today.

This has big implications for how to prepare for a career in Linux administration. This means that you need to have your hands on the keyboard and actually work on a live server. This means that you need to be able to be competent in specific skills that you can demonstrate. Don’t try to develop skills in 1000 topics, rather develop skills in specific areas do that you can exhibit those skills, today. It is unrealistic to think you are going to know how to do everything.

So how do you develop real skills? I would suggest that in your preparation you:

  • Focus on Skills Not Theory
  • Use Training Integrated with Labs
  • Work on Live Servers

Linux Administration opportunities are on the rise and will continue to be needed for many years to come. Prepare yourself for these opportunities by developing real skills that you can perform on real servers…today.

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