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Linux Support Careers: What Does It Take?

written by: KateG•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 3/29/2009

If you want a job in the world of Open Source support the you are going to need a guide. This article can help to introduce you to the basics of becoming a support professional in the world of Linux.

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    What does it take to get a job as a Linux support professional? It is a question that many support professionals in other technology fields and college students ask themselves. Today we are going to answer that question by looking at what you have to do. We will examine actual guidelines from employers. Then we will talk a bit with a professional who is actually does this job. Finally after that we will take a look at some of the resources that can help you to get there. By the time you get to the end of this piece you will not only know what you have to do, you will have a good idea of where to start.

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    Job Guidelines

    The desired traits will vary from specific employer to employer, but having a look at what the job market wants will give you an idea of the direction in which you need to study and develop. The job listings are taken from jobs.linux.com or other Linux specific listings, in order to assure that they are Linux specific. Here is an example job listings qualifications section:

    *NIX Technical Support Representative

    • Familiarity with rpm based *nix distributions (RedHat, Fedora, CentOS, etc)
    • Familiarity with ports based Operating Systems (FreeBSD)
    • Configuration and troubleshooting of:
    • Apache
    • BIND
    • Exim
    • MySQL
    • OpenSSL
    • PostgreSQL
    • PureFTPd

    Graduate Linux Technical Support Professional

    "The candidate should be an enthusiastic, diligent individual with a good numerate degree from a respected university. They should have a very strong record of academic achievement in Math and Science subjects. A computer science degree is not prerequisite but a strong interest in computing is essential (we usually find people who play with Linux at home are a good fit for this job). Practical experience of databases, shell scripting, and networking (TCP/ IP, HTTP and other common Internet protocols) would be advantageous."

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    Interview with a Support Professional : Question 1

    How were you first introduced to Linux? And how did your career in Linux begin?

    I was first seriously introduced to Linux in 1997. I was working as a desktop support tech for the University of Kansas and my boss encouraged me to use it as my desktop so I would gain more familiarity with Unix systems in general.

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    Question 2

    What position do you hold now? What previous jobs that you have had prepared you best for this role, in your opinion?

    I currently own an Open Source Consulting business. Revolution Systems that helps companies with their Open Source needs, specializing in Django, PostgreSQL, and performance tuning/scaling of Open Source software. Previous jobs were as a Systems Administrator (Linux), Software Developer (Linux), and IT Manager.

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    Question 3

    What kind of education do you feel is most relevant to you role? Do you recommend any specific education programs and certifications for someone who aspires to your role?

    I'm mostly self-taught when it comes to Linux and Open Source. The RHCE and LPI certifications are good ways for someone to demonstrate a certain level of Linux knowledge. The best education is to get involved in the Open Source community online and to attend conferences like O'Reilly's Open Source Convention (OSCON).

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    Question 4

    How much do you feel that working on Open Source projects as a volunteer contributed to your career, or would have contributed? Would you recommend working on these projects for people who are interested in careers in Linux?

    Absolutely. 90+% of my current business is because of my work on various projects or connections from having worked on those projects.

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    Conclusion

    In the end the power to start a career in Linux depends on you. If you are willing to put in the time and the energy required, then you will be rewarded with the benefits of a career in a field where the sky is the limit.

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    Resources

    Here are links to information about the two certifications mentioned above in the interview. Both include the official site for the exam, a resource where you can get some more in-depth information and practice questions to give you an idea of how much work you would need to achieve the passing grade for the exam.

    RCHE (Red Hat Certified Engineer)

    LPI (Linux Professional Institute)