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Ask the Experts: How to Get Paid to Work on Linux

Looking for a job? If so, you're certainly not alone. Millions of people continue to be on the hunt.

But it's looking like there is some light at the end of the tunnel, at least in the industry in which we all work and play. According to Dice.com, a career website for IT and engineering professionals, job postings on its site are up 40 percent year-over-year. What's better? Dice.com says that postings asking for Linux knowledge are up 47 percent over last year, while Windows-related postings are only up 40 percent.

The demand for Linux talent clearly continues to rise.

Intel's Linux and Open Source Technologist Dirk Hohndel says it's "because the number of Linux-based projects is rapidly increasing all over this industry. More and more devices and systems and services are built based on Linux, and therefore, more and more manufacturers and vendors are looking for Linux talent."

But how do you land one of these killer gigs and get paid to do what you love, or get the promotion you've been after since the recession hit? Stephen O'Grady, founder at developer-focused industry analyst firm Red Monk, says, "Be visible. Visibility stems from contribution quality, project commit rights, and so on. The surest way to get noticed is to be differentiated."

Hohndel and O'Grady are among the experts we talked to this week about the Linux job market and how to land a job in one of the fastest growing areas of computing: Linux. This is the first in a new series titled "Ask the Experts." Each month we will poll industry experts on topics that the Linux.com community has expressed an interest in knowing more about. We hope that by getting comments direct from the expert sources, we can bring valuable, usable information direct to you.

This month's Expert Panel includes:


Jerry Cooperstein, Linux Training Program Manager
The Linux Foundation
http://training.linuxfoundation.org

Dirk Hohndel, Chief Linux and Open Source Technologist
Intel
http://software.intel.com/sites/oss/

Stephen O'Grady, Founder/Analyst
Red Monk
http://redmonk.com/sogrady/

Tom Silver, Senior Vice President of North America
Dice.com
http://www.dice.com/

Jason Wies, Chief Executive Officer
JobThread Network
http://jobs.linux.com

Jim Zemlin, the executive director at The Linux Foundation, often talks about how code is the new resume. It doesn't just matter where you've worked or what product you've helped to develop. Code lives. Products expire. In other words, if you want to illustrate your expertise to a potential employer, participate in the open source software community. Your work is done in the public and is constantly being reviewed by your peers.

When we talked to Jason Wies, CEO of JobThread Network (Linux.com Jobs Board partner), he emphasized these points: "Having contributed to open source projects is a plus and should be listed on your resume. Note specifically what you contributed to each project. More important than what's on your resume though is what comes up in Google results. Having mailing list postings on relevant topics and a solid commit history on Github can demonstrate your skills more than a resume ever could."

Intel's Hohndel confirms the importance of participation and contribution, explaining that is how Intel finds its Linux talent. "Our best way to find new people is through outreach from our existing employees, interactions at Linux events, and reaching out to individuals who are doing great work in various open source communities," he says. "Show that you have relevant experience. You should include references to patches that Linus pulled, projects that you have participated in, and conferences that you have spoken at as tangible proof of your contributions. There are a large number of people who have used Linux - it's people who have successfully participated in open source projects who stand out."

But code and community aren't the be-all and end-all, according to Dice.com's Senior Vice President of North America Tom Silver. He adds that "Tech professionals should demonstrate how they've helped the business with their Linux or open source knowledge." Based on my own conversations with students of The Linux Foundation's training program, I agree with Tom. Employers today are looking for Linux champions who can demonstrate and sell internally the value of Linux to the business.

Linux experience has become such a sought-after skill among employers that Linux Foundation member Deborah Wazir recently shared with us that a recruiter refused to submit her resume for a position because Linux experience was not represented on it.

These stories are becoming more and more common. 

JobThread's Wies adds: "IT workers always need to keep up with the latest technologies.  However, you should be careful not to spread yourself too thin when it comes to your career skills. Having a wide range of knowledge is always looked on well by employers, but being an expert in one technology is even more valuable. By picking a niche you love and focusing on it, you'll become a recognized expert and a go-to candidate for jobs requiring that skill.  Niche specialists are harder to find and therefore jobs requiring vast knowledge of a specific topic pay better."

If your'e not already involved in an open source software project or have rock star-quality code ready to show off, all of our experts agree that professional development is the key to landing the best jobs in today's market.

Silver from Dice advises to "Keep learning and be flexible. Experience counts. If a technology professional is particularly interested in an emerging area, they should look for opportunities to join projects that give them a learning experience within their own firm."

The Linux Foundation's Training Program Manager Jerry Cooperstein says it in very direct terms: "Get strong in Linux. If you are not already moving in that direction, you will need to soon."

He adds: "If you you want a long career, perhaps the only thing you can count on is things will change. What makes our Linux training opportunities so attractive is that you can learn more of the foundations and architectures of the operating system and open source methods in general, rather than just learn how to use a few things."

Jerry also provides some insight into what areas within Linux are in the highest demand and where job seekers might be interested in focusing.

"The largest demand is in the field of embedded Linux development. We have a class dedicated to this purpose, which concentrates onquestions such as how to build tool chains, root filesystems, and adapt to the many board variants that exist." 

"Our two kernel-level classes (LF320: Kernel Internals and Debugging and LF331: Developing Linux Device Drivers) are also in high demand and concentrate on accelerating attendees ability to write both functional and high quality code, with a solid foundation on kernel architecture, methods and sub-systems. We have also seen an uptick in demand for LF262: Developing with Git, as more and more projects are moving to git for version control and distributed development."

Professional development is important, but Wies at JobThread reminds us of the importance of getting out of the house or away from the office to network. This is still a key to landing your next job.

"Over 60 percent of jobs are filled by referrals and are never posted publicly," says Jason of JobThread. "When you're in the market for a job, let your collegues and friends know you're available and what type of job you're looking for. Attend conferences and networking events, and let your online IT contacts know you're available as well. If you've got a niche technology you're an expert in, use that knowledge to brand yourself with your contacts so that the next time someone is hiring for that skill you're the first name on their list."

Code, Linux training, networking and a stellar resume count. Focus here and you could get paid doing what you love very soon. Share your tips in our comments section. And, thank you to our Expert Panel!




 

 

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  • Mordae Said:

    Yes, yes, be a good sheep and get employed. Work on open source projects to have "good resume" or CV, "My Life" as if the life was only about the work for someone. I mean, do you seriously believe that Linux and people around it need to bend to fit current thoroughly screwed up way of things? Shouldn't it be the other way? Doing things because you intuitively feel that they are good? Doing things for fun? Shouldn't "employers" change and allow for people to have more freedom and fun? Oh wait, companies are little dictatorships, they don't work for people, I forgot. Yours disgusted, hacker

  • online training for linux Said:

    Useful information shared..I am very happy to read this article. Thanks for giving us nice info. Fantastic walk-through. I appreciate this post.

  • VPatel Said:

    I am new to linux but i been getting hands on Ubuntu and i am pretty much into it .there are so many different linux distro out there, I am wondering which distro is best to learn for getting job or employer look for in candidate to hire. Thanks in advance!!!!!


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