Though he eventually built a career as a Linux System Engineer, Jean-Roch Rossi started Linux administration as a hobby and a help-desk job in college.
He switched to Mandrake Linux because his Windows machine kept crashing and built his Linux skills by tinkering on his home computer. As he learned more, he took a series of sysadmin jobs that were progressively more advanced. He's now a Linux Foundation Certified Engineer and is looking for his next career opportunity.
Here, he tells us more about his career, why he took the LFCE exam, what he thought of it, and offers advice to anyone who's thinking about becoming a certified system administrator.
Linux.com: First, can you tell me a little about yourself? Where do you live and work? What do you do?
Jean-Roch Rossi: I am french and I live in France, near Strasbourg in a cute city where some houses look like they've escaped from Grimm's fairy tales. I used to work as a Linux System Engineer, but actually I am searching for a position.
How long have you used Linux?
Rossi: I have used Linux for 16 years. In the beginning it was just for me at home, just a "hobby.”
My first install of Linux was in 1999, it was Mandrake 6.0 with a 2.2 kernel, I chose this distro because the shell was with color while the Red Hat console was only white on black. At that moment I didn't know it was possible to configure it.
At that moment I was student in biochemistry and living on campus. As the network in my room was connected to the university's network, internet was awesome. When nobody was connected, for example at 3 a.m., the speed could reach 500 Kb/s, which was huge compared to the 4 Kb/s modem speed there was in my parent's home. So with this amazing bandwidth I spent a lot of time on the internet... mainly during the night.
Unfortunately my Windows9x was crashing very often, at least once per day (per night), when it was not because of bug it was a virus. As a biology student, I couldn't understand how a machine could be so unreliable...
Then I heard about Linux from a friend of my father who was fixing issues on our PC at home.
So I decided to completely move out the Windows98 and replace it with Linux, but it was more difficult than expected. I was just a simple user with basic knowledge of PCs and in 1999 Linux for desktop was already nice but not as easy as today. To make my Savage4 video card work (simply working, even without 3D stuff) I had to install and configure all the Xfree86 manually, it was hard but very informative. And quite often the only way to install software was by compiling it.
How did you get to where you are today and how did you get started doing system administration?
Rossi: Thanks to all the difficulties I had in order to use Linux at home I gained some good skills on Linux and IT in general. In 2002 I had my first job with computers, it was a kind of help-desk position for a language center at the university. One year later I started to install and administrate a web server (running on Trustix Linux 2.1 with Apache 1.3 and MySQL 4) at this center. It was used by more than 2,000 students every year. My boss was very satisfied with my work, at that moment I understood this was my way and I left my studies – a master in pharmacology that I have never finished.
In the beginning it was difficult to find a job as my experience was small and I had no diplomas in IT. But little by little with experience I got better ones. I also passed LPIC (Linux Professional Institute Certification) in 2006 and it helped me a lot to show I have knowledge in Linux administration.
Why did you decide to get certified by the Linux Foundation?
Rossi: This was by chance. From time to time I read news about Open Source and linux.com was talking about this new certification. It was the right moment as I had free time. The price was good. And I like the fact it is a real practical exam on a real system. On top of that I guess a certification from the Linux Foundation should be nice on a CV.
What, if anything, did you do to prepare for the exam?
Rossi: For the LFCS, I have just done it without any preparation, but for LFCE I had to learn just Squid and Postfix, as I never had to work on it. I took some documents and how-to's from the internet. I set up a virtual machine with CentOS and tried to install all the services needed by the exam. Once I was feeling confident, I tried to install all the services from the beginning within two hours. It took me more than four hours but as the exam is not asking to do everything, I was feeling ready anyway.
What did you think of the exam?
Rossi: It was fun and at the same time a little stressful. Even if my internet connection was not bad, it was having several lags, even at one moment I thought I lost the session. But nothing is perfect... and I like a lot the fact it can be done at the moment and the place I decide. I did the exam in the kitchen, not to be disturbed, between 1:00 and 3:00 a.m. when there is less traffic. Except that is was adding some "spice," the lags were not such a big problem in the end.
The best way to test IT skills is by checking in a real environment, which is the case of LFCE.
I already have done the LPIC, the questionnaire was quite difficult as you needed to know by heart many command options. Getting LPIC certification was making me feel confident about my knowledge but not completely about my skills.
Did anything surprise you, or stand out about the exam?
Rossi: No. Maybe because the information from the Linux Foundation website was clear and useful.
Do you have any advice for anyone considering taking the exam to get certified?
Rossi: Even for a skilled Linux Engineer, it is good to create a sandbox virtual machine and play (train) on all topics of the exam. It can help avoid a situation when you know you have done exactly what the question asks, but two years ago and you forgot this magic option...
What are you hoping to do with the certification, now that you have it?
Rossi: This is one more argument to say "yes, I have the skills for a Linux System Engineer position"
Anything else you’d like to add?
Rossi: I like to be on computer at 3 a.m., but no, I am not a vampire. ;-)
Interesting in Linux Foundation training and certification? Visit Linux Foundation Training for more information.