[SATLUG] RE: Becoming a Linux Engineer

Tweeks tweeksjunk2 at theweeks.org
Thu Aug 21 01:33:54 CDT 2008

On Tuesday 19 August 2008 10:41:02 am K. Reginald Buckner wrote:
> I was orginally going for Red Hat RHCT/RHCE but i stopped for 2 reasons.
>  a) Fedora: I have a hard time getting Red Hat Enterprise Desktop and was
> using Fedora & to help get practice.
> I cannot upgrade to fedora 8 or 9 because of issues very time I burn a disc
> it has too many errors.
> b) I started to see how good Suse Linux was and equal to Red Hat in so many
> ways and exceed in others.
> Now here it what I am wondering . Can somebody tell me what skills you
> would look for from a Linux Engineer?

What type of postion?  
For example.. a kernel generalist (one of Red Hat's positions) requires 
several years of Linux kernel dev experience, and general across the board 
Linux knowledge (+ strong C++ programming, revision control  and package 

While a Linux "Sys Admin".. I would probably want at least 1-3 years of pro 
sys-admin experience.. Maybe some cert like an RHCE and scripting experience 
and specific expereince in severla daemons (http, sendmail, bind, dhcp, etc) 
and of course some kind of scripting/programming knowledge and experience 
(bash, perl, python, etc), as well as production package management skills.

If I were looking for a web admin, I would want to see 1-3 years of apache 
experience... plus maybe some scripting, PHP and MySQL knowledge.. Plus some 
DNS and Sendmail/Postfix theory/knowledge.  

Now if it were a NAS/SAN/storage Linux engineer, I would want to see some 
basic sys-admin skills, plus some hard core hardware & theory knowledge and 
experience on SCSI, RAID, NAS & SAN technologies, and either some 
fibrechannel or iSCSI experience, plus full software RAID (mdadm), LVM2 and 
big-journal filesystem experience.. Maybe some special cert like the RHCA 
stuff that shows some GFS training.

As you can see.. experience in the area of expertise for the position is 
critical.  Certs are good for entry level positions.. a kind of starting 
point to prove that your worth something without a ton of experience... 
however... I've also seen some terrible sys-admins who could still take and 
pass the RHCE.. so just having a cert and nothing else is not a shoe in 

First.. I tell people that certification is one leg of a three 
legged "professional stool".  The first one I look at is usually experience 
(for obvious reasons).  When interviewing.. I'll drill'em hard in the areas 
that they call themselves "experts" in.  I usually find people consider 
themselves smarter than they really are when talking about professional grade 
skill sets.  Younger folks usually make this error more than the old timers.   
(i.e. the more you know, the dumber you feel.. ;)

After experience.. if they're younger (20 somethings).. I like to see either 
some related education (BS in CS,EE,ET etc) OR at LEAST a relevant industry 
cert.  But a 4 year BS degree is always better than "just another cert"   
candidate.  A real degree shwos that that can a) really learn, and b) stic 
kwith something to the end.  They'll also have more exposure to professional 
requirements like finance, economice, formal business writing, etc. nice.

Industry certs just show that you care enough to put some well rounded polish 
on your qualifications and that you can generally tackle most of the 
technology issues that might come up in most Linux engineer (lower e) type 

Also.. most HR people put more merit in certs than do hard core IT 
professionals.  Mainly because few HR folks can truly drill a candidate 
themselves and separate the wheat from the chaff.. so a cert is an easy check 
box they can quickly use to get your resume to someone's desk.  However... if 
a cert is all you have.. a good technical manager will see through that.  
Technical hiring managers want to see proven track records, cool/technical 
projects worked to completion, self starting stories, and how you learned 
from large catastrophic mistakes. :)  That's the stuff that I look for.

That being said.. After experience.. and/or Education.. the RHCE /is/ one of 
the better Linux/IT industry certs (IMHO).  But when you ask, "what skills 
you would look for from a Linux Engineer?".. that's an almost useless 
question.  The job dictates the required skills.  Yeah an RHCE cert shows 
that you do know some useful stuff, but it's no guarantee by itself.  As any 
dairy farmer will tell you, to have a a good milking stool, you need at least 
two solid legs.  Three's better, but not needed:
	(see here for the visual I'm working with)

While a cert alone is rather like a 5th tete.. Not that useful.  hehe.. ;)
(sorry for the farming analogies.. probably not that communicative for a San 
Antonio IT-sector discussion.. ;)

p.s. if you're studying for the RHCE.. then use CentOS 5.. Not Fedora.. CentOS 
5 is the closest thing to the real thing.. Fedora's just a pain with lost 
of "quirks" that you won't see on RHEL5.  

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