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The People Who Support Linux: Linux Skills Land Job for This Linux Lady

Deborah Wazir says Linux helped her land her current job.

She says she was first introduced to Linux in the late 90s in the form of a Knoppix Live CD that she glanced at and put away. Ten years later a recruiter refused to submit her resume for a position because it didn't specifically say she had Linux experience (even though she had 20+ years of Unix experience).

Deborah decided it was time to learn more. "I bought some Linux-based magazines with Live CD's of various distro's, bought a book on Ubuntu, borrowed an old laptop from my son, downloaded VMWare and Red Hat, and just started installing the OS. It was a lot of fun!"

"Once I had done enough work at home and become comfortable with installing and working with RHEL and Ubuntu, I added Linux experience to my resume. I was careful not to overstate my skill level, both on my resume and in interviews.  But the work I had done on my own, combined with past proven success with quickly coming up to speed with new technologies, definitely made it possible for me to get my current job."

Deborah plans to continue her Linux education into the new year. While she has taken advantage of Linux Foundation membership benefits, such as discount subscriptions to industry journals, she says this year she will likely use the discount for Linux training at The Linux Foundation. She adds, "In 2011, I plan to be more systematic in my self-directed Linux study.  At work we have a few hundred Red Hat servers, both physical and virtual. I would like to get a Red Hat certification before the end of the year.  So maybe I will switch my home PC to CentOS as I prepare for certification."  

Her favorite tool for her ongoing education? Linux Live CDs. "The Live CD's available for the various distro's have opened up the world of Linux for me. When I first started looking at open source software, I was always discouraged by the prospect of downloading the source code, resolving dependencies, compiling everything, and troubleshooting until it would finally work. I just didn't have the spare time to sustain that kind of effort, even though I understood programming.  Now, for example with Ubuntu, I can boot up and my wireless card in the laptop just works. And, I can really start enjoying using Linux immediately. This gives me the confidence to try more difficult things later on."

Deborah was generous enough to also share her more personal side with us, including her experiences being a women in IT.

"I've been working in engineering and IT since I was 18 years old, starting as an engineering co-op student with General Motors while getting my BSEE.  I spent two years after graduation working as a manufacturing engineer in a GM engine plant before switching to Unix sysadmin work, so I've been pretty much the only female in my classes and workgroups for almost all my career." She continues, "Once, an older guy I was working with said to me 'I've never worked with a lady engineer before!' and I replied 'Then we're even. I never have either!' We went on to have a really good working relationship."

"As a woman in the Linux community, I've had overwhelmingly positive experiences. When I started my blog (deborahwazir.com/blog) to write about the technical work I was doing, I worried that I would get harsh feedback from commentators. But I have received very positive remarks and one commentator even offered a solution to a problem I was wrestling with. I'm very encouraged and plan to write more frequently as a result."

She recommends Linuxchix, Ubuntu Women, and Systers, among others as supportive environments for women in FOSS and offers this final bit of advice to her community peers: "Don't hold back like I did. Linux is very easy to learn and people in the various forums have been overwhelmingly helpful. You don't have to spend much time in order to become a knowledgeable user, and you don't have to be a guru to be welcomed into the community. Similarly, when trying to prepare to get a job working with Linux, don't despair that there is so much to learn! Just jump in there."

Deborah is a Linux/Unix SysAdmin based inDetroit, Michigan.

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