Linux Foundation Instructor Michael Clarkson started his IT career on the front lines as a Level I tech, and slowly worked his way up to senior architect through years of trial by fire. When the boss asked him to get some new piece of technology working, he turned to man pages, documentation, and IRC for an education.
“Much of what I've learned in IT has come from being thrown into the fray and having to find the solutions,” Clarkson said. “I've always been the guy they call when the situation is really broken.”
Clarkson began teaching in 2011 for Red Hat, but his experience with Linux administration goes back to the mid 90s. He is a Red Hat Certified Architect, Level II and a Cloudera Certified Administrator in Apache Hadoop. He's also a content creator for O'Reilly Media, president of his own training and consulting firm, Flakjacket Inc., a regular contributor to the Enterprise Linux on Ravello blog series for Ravello Systems, and a professional public speaker on Linux, IT Security, OpenStack, and Cloud technologies.
Here, Clarkson tells us more about how he learned Linux and software development, his career path to becoming an expert on hypervisors, and his hobby as a stand-up comedian.
What courses do you teach at The Linux Foundation?
I teach mainly cloud and operations courses. Lately course topics have focused on OpenStack and enterprise automation tools.
How long have you been teaching?
I started instructing for Red Hat in 2011, Cloudera in 2012, and The Linux Foundation just this year.
How did you get started with Linux?
In 1993-94 I was up at Texas A&M - Corpus Christi with my father helping him with his Structures and Abstractions class. I was 15 at the time and the CS lab team took me under their wing as one of their own. One of guys handed me a floppy disk of one of the early iterations of Linux, either Slack or Debian, and I was hooked. In 1996 I moved over to Red Hat and have been predominantly a Red Hat/Fedora admin ever since.
How did you learn?
Beating my head against the wall. In all honesty I learned through years of trial by fire. New tech is adopted, boss buys it, you have to make it work, so you pray for a solid man page or docs and an active IRC channel for the product.
I think my favorite part about Linux and the broader Open Source community is there is no end to the learning and growth. Even when I teach intro classes I find myself learning new things and connecting new concepts just from a student asking something in a new way.
What is your area of expertise now?
Right now my primary areas of focus are the emerging cloud technologies such as OpenStack, Docker, and the various types of virtualization as well as enterprise operations management, which is where I've spent most of my career.
How did you develop that? What has your career path been?
It is a jagged road that brought me here. Much of what I've learned in IT has come from being thrown into the fray and having to find the solutions. I've always been the guy they call when the situation is really broken. Google, IRC, and a network of fellow professionals have fed my growth and kept me going.
What projects are you involved in currently? What are you working on?
Right now OpenStack is seeing most of my time, with Hadoop and CentOS rounding out my top three.
What are the hot button issues or latest trends in your area?
The biggest ones I see come from people trying to shoehorn the latest thing, whether that be Docker, OpenStack, etc., into problems they weren't meant to solve.
What technologies and skills do you see coming down the pike that Linux professionals should be prepared for?
Containers are the hottest thing I'm seeing right now. They have so many features and so much versatility I see them completely changing how we do things.
How do you address these in the courses you teach?
I find the best solution is education via example. Give students use cases for the product and a good list of things the product does not solve.
Anything else you'd like us to know about you?
When I'm not teaching I enjoy performing stand up comedy. This lends itself to teaching as some topics in Linux are admittedly dry.
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