December 22, 2014

IT Company Seeks Linux Talent, With or Without Certification

Glassdoor best places to work in 2015The Linux Foundation’s "2014 Enterprise End User Report" shows growing use of Linux for enterprise application development and deployment, yet another indicator of increased demand for Linux professionals.

It found Linux applications deployments have risen during the past four years, from 65 percent to 79 percent, while Windows deployment has fallen from 45 percent to 36 percent.

Seventy-five percent of enterprises reported that they use Linux as their primary cloud platform, while fewer than 24 percent use Windows and less than 2 percent in the survey use Unix to support the cloud.

In a Linux Foundation/Dice poll earlier this year, 77 percent of hiring managers ranked hiring Linux talent among their priorities for 2014, up from 70 percent the previous year.

At the same time, employers report difficulties in hiring the Linux pros they need. Cloud service company Peer 1 Hosting falls among them.

“We do particularly struggle with finding people with Linux skills,” says Samantha Burchett, talent acquisition specialist for Peer 1, who says the company has ongoing hiring needs for Linux pros.

At the moment, she's working on filling three positions in the United States and one in the UK for the company headquartered in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. The company was named one of the top 50 small and medium-size companies to work for in 2015 by Glassdoor in its annual Employee Choice Award program.

“We strive to make Peer 1 a fun and challenging place to work, where employees can grow, support one another and bring their whole selves to work,” Helen Ives, Peer 1’s vice president of people, says in a blog post.

The company likes to promote within, but that’s not always possible, Burchett said.

“We have our guys who are Level 1, entry level, then when they are where we need them to be when a role comes available, we will recruit them. However, recently we’ve found we needed to go externally for those people, because [the Level 1s] may not have been with us for a sufficient amount of time to have the abilities just yet,” she said.

“We are looking for Level 2 Linux people, people with experience for two or three years in [customer support].”

People in these positions help customers with any technical difficulties they encounter.

“It is more of the support piece rather than network installations and that side of it,” she said.

In the tight IT labor market – unemployment for IT pros is just 3 percent in the United States – and analyst firm Foote Partners predicts continued strong growth in pay premiums for Linux skills, the amount companies are willing to pay extra for them.

That means many companies don’t have the luxury of considering only certified candidates, John Reed, senior executive director for staffing firm Robert Half Technology.

That’s the position Peer1 is in, Burchett said.

“We don’t want to rule someone out just because they don’t have certification. We can deal with that later. It’s about having that knowledge and ability to work with the Linux system,” she said.

“While we’re really big on developing talent within, if people need certification, we will support them in doing that, reimburse them for costs, etc. We think it’s more about having that experience and that technical ability for these roles.”

Just as the Linux Foundation’s two new certification exams are performance-based, Peer1 evaluates candidates’ skills in real-life scenarios.

“It’s a troubleshooting test rather than questions and answers. We have them going through the system so we can see how they would go about things as if it was a live ticket. It will be based on a scenario perhaps we’ve had in the past, and they would be tested on how they would troubleshoot that and find a resolution,” she said.

“The main thing we’re looking for is the skills and experience.”

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