Next steps for a Linux/open source career

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One of SearchEnterpriseLinux.com's readers wrote in to discuss his concerns about his future in IT. Any advice from the ITKE community would be most appreciated. He's an engineer with a CCNA. He asks: "What should I do now? Should I expand my expertise in Linux? Should I study Linux security, networking or Linux aadmnistration? What certifications are the most marketable? I find myself unable to make a decision I want to do some creative and interesting work, but I am also worried about my future. Can you offer advice about good paths to take?"

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Hi JStafford,

Do you have a college degree? This actually would help you the most if you don’t have one. If you plan on working in Systems or Network Administration areas, a two-year degree is usually pretty good enough to get you started (just make sure you start working on that 4year as soon as you do get a job). However, for development positions, a four-year degree is almost mandatory to get your foot in the door.

Unfortunately, the jobs where you might like to work exclusively with Linux are few and far between. I remember someone giving me advice to specialize in one thing and do it really well. This advice was a bit off the mark. You can almost expect to never find a job where you will work with Open Source technology alone (Yes, I’d prefer to work with Open Source exclusively as well).

While, it’s certainly ok to specialize in one “area” (Admin, Development, etc), the days are going away where someone can simply say, “I’m a Windows Administrator” or “I’m an Oracle DBA” or “I’m a C++ Programmer.” It’s better to say I’m a systems administrator or a database administrator or even a programmer. Technologies will come and go. As such, certifications even in the best of cases (with the mild exception of vendor neutral ones like CompTIA — even those are suspect at times) can pigeon-hole a person as well.

Experience aside (which is the most powerful advantage anyone can ever hope to have especially for longevity in the market place), it’s better to have a degree with a few certificates than have a lot of certificates with no degree. Certificates generally enhance your work experience but they will almost never get your foot in the door.

Now, as far as what will be hot in the next year or so, the only answer I can give you is “Plastics young man” ;-) — in case you don’t know, this is a famous line in the movie, The Graduate. In other words, no one can really say. Also, if you feel that working in the technology field is your calling, don’t worry — you will find a way to do well if it is what you really love. Also, if something has worked in your favor and it contradicts what I’ve said here, please be so kind as to my ignore that portion of my advice.

HTH,

Harlin Seritt
Internet Villa: www.seritt.org

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