Linux Foundation Certified Engineer: Francisco Tsao


frantsao-300The Linux Foundation offers many resources for developers, users, and administrators of Linux systems, including its Linux Certification Program. This program is designed to give you a way to differentiate yourself in a competitive job market.

How well does the certification prepare you for the real world? To illustrate that, the Linux Foundation will be featuring some of those who have recently passed the certification examinations. These testimonials should serve to help you decide if either the Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator (LFCS) or the Linux Foundation Certified Engineer (LFCE) certification is right for you. In this feature, we talk with Francisco Tsao, who recently achieved LFCE certification.

How did you become interested in Linux and open source?

In 1998, I got bored by the MS-DOS/Windows world. I was studying Civil Engineering, but in the neighborhood of my school was the Faculty of Computer Science, and I had some friends there. I began hearing about GNU/Linux from them. I bought a new computer and spent a weekend installing Debian 2.0 and, after a week, I had a graphical interface running on the box. The same year, I joined GPUL the Coruña Linux Users Group, where I learned a lot about tech and Free Software philosophy. Richard Stallman’s “The Right To Read” changed my life definitely. I’m very proud of my LUG (one that is still very much alive). In fact, this year we hosted the Akademy!

What Linux Foundation course did you achieve certification in? Why did you select that particular course?

I achieved the Linux Foundation Certified Engineer (LFCE), but I didn’t follow a Linux Foundation course. As I usually do, I prepared myself looking at documentation on the Internet, making my own notes, and running a lot of tests with virtual machines. I aimed for the LFCE, because it was more challenging to me than the LFCS; plus, it was a perfect pretext to spend time diving into some technical areas for which I was not strong.

What other hobbies or projects are you involved in? Do you participate in any open source projects at this time?

My wife and friends usually say I’m sick, because when I arrive at home I leave my work laptop and then… I take up my personal laptop. Computers are my main hobby; I like testing and learning new technologies. But I never forget about the lessons learned from my alma mater, so I like reading about structural engineering and urban planning.

As far as open source/free software projects, I have been involved in the organization of hackmeetings with GPUL — the greatest one that I took part in was the GUADEC 2012. I also maintain some package translations for the Free Translation Project, as part of the Galician Team. And, these days I’m getting ready to become, in the near future, a Fedora maintainer.LF-small

Do you plan to take future Linux Foundation courses? If so, which ones?

Maybe I’ll take the OpenStack Administration Fundamentals. 2016 will certainly be the year of OpenStack.

In what ways do you think the certification will help you as a systems administrator in today’s market?

There is a lot of demand for Linux sysadmins in the market today. I think the LFCE helps distinguish sysadmin professionals from newbies. Because the LFCE exam is a fully practical exam (and not a multiple-choice one), having an LFCE certification in your CV guarantees to HR people that you are qualified.

What Linux distribution do you prefer and why?

I have been, for nearly 15 years, a Debian (sid) fanboy. I loved the quality of packages and the Debian Free Software Guidelines. But, when I began to work in the “corporate world,” I needed a change. So, now I use Fedora on my desktop systems, because it offers fresh software along with great stability. For my servers, I install CentOS and OpenBSD. However, these days I’m very excited with the release of OpenSUSE Leap. I think it will be a good choice for servers and cloud instances (I’m working with some experiments in that direction on SUSE Studio).

Are you currently working as a Linux systems administrator? If so, what role does Linux play?

Yes, currently I work as OS support for an important insurance company in Spain. I’m part of the team that administers the mission-critical systems of the company. I was hired three years ago because they needed GNU/Linux specialists to run the large Linux server farm.

Where do you see the Linux job market growing the most in the coming years?

I think the coming years will be the “real” adoption of (public/private) cloud technologies. And methodologies like Continuous Delivery and microservices architectures will improve the

internal processes of the companies, so containers infrastructure will be more and more important. Maybe it will be the end of pure sysadmins, as we will need more knowledge on the development and delivery processes.

What advice would you give those considering certification for their preparation?

Forget recipes, it’s not about memorization. Understand what are you doing by reading some books and documentation that give you a deep background of the tasks you’ll perform at the exam and in real life. Imagine real problems and try to solve them. Practice a lot, as the exam time is tight. And, remember you only will have the system documentation at the exam, so train with only the documentation you have with the operating system and not searching the Internet. Happy hacking!

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