A Linux Pro Shares His Job Search Secrets

George is a long-time Linux professional. He’s a big fan of Red Hat and was happy to share a few of his system admin job search secrets for the benefit of Dice readers.

red-hat-logo-0507 Now in his mid-fifties, George bought his first real computer in 1988, 5.25-inch floppies and all. Throughout the 1990s, he worked for various Mom and Pop computer stores. He switched to Red Hat 6 in 1998, and has worked for four different Fortune 500 companies and a string of smaller outfits. He currently has the title of Senior Linux Administrator and makes somewhere around $90,000.

George has worked his way up from building i386s and soldering circuit boards to working with EMC storage, VMWare and Red Hat. He’s certainly optimistic about a future with Linux.

Main Takeaways 

One of George’s best pieces of advice for the prospective Linux system admin is to absolutely know your technical topics. You’ll be asked hard questions about such things as Linux email, fiber-channel, logical volume manager and so on. Simply building a system in your basement isn’t enough to get a job, he notes, although it’s a great way to get started from scratch if that’s what you need to do. Today it’s difficult to find good, qualified people, so if you’re good, you’ll get calls from recruiters on a regular basis.

George also recommends that you study and pass the Red Hat exams. They’re tough and prove your knowledge. George spent over $3,000 of his own money to prepare for and take the RH133 exam (the consulting company he worked for wouldn’t pay for it). He was glad he did, because the next job he landed involved Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3 and 4 exclusively, at double his old rate. Without the certs, the job would have been out of reach.

In addition, George says that bash, vi, and self-confidence are very important. 

Lastly, George believes that if you really want a job, leave Ubuntu, Solaris, HP UX, and AIX at the door. There are positions for Ubuntu, but they’re few and far between. The real positions are SUSE and Red Hat, mostly Red Hat-based.

Being an in-demand senior Linux administrator requires a lot of commitment. The best way to get that well-paying job is to absolutely know the technical material. Get some reputable (tough, comprehensive) certifications, be well versed in bash and vi, then acquire the self-confidence to do the job.

George’s final words of wisdom: “Think, eat and sleep Red Hat”.

3 Responses to “A Linux Pro Shares His Job Search Secrets”

  1. jelabarre

    > Lastly, George believes that if you really want a job, leave Ubuntu, Solaris, HP UX,
    > and AIX at the door…

    I might agree on the Ubuntu part, but I think having experience in another Unix system *as well as* Linux shows you’re able to handle more diversity than your run-of-the-mill RedHat system. Having worked in AIX or Solaris shows you are much more flexible and able to work with something beyond the out-of-the-box configuration. Sure, these days I don’t think you’d find anybody outside of IBM running AIX, but as I said, the experience is good for expanding your view and flexibility.

  2. I run a lot of RHEL and Centos systems, and continue to stay skilled on Ubuntu/Debian. I don’t keep up with SuSE anymore, they may be popular in Europe, and some parts of the US, but on the west coast of the US at least, RHEL/Centos/Ubuntu are the ones to pay attention to in business. SuSE is an rpm-based distro, but just different enough to wonder why you’d bother with something you most likely cannot get resources to support. If you’re an rpm-based shop, RHEL/Centos is where you will find more people to support it, SuSE not so much.

    Ubuntu has shown as much innovation as RedHat, and is very popular with developers, more so than RedHat. RHEL/Centos is the number one pick for Java shops, but not necessarily for start-ups and cloud developers that are not bound to rpm-based systems. Don’t be surprised as Ubuntu continues to bring out newer releases that cater more and more to the business side. Staying only with RedHat is a huge mistake, you should know Debian-based distros as this side of Linux continues to innovate and make it easier and easier to build scalable systems for the cloud. It’s important to note too, that many of the newer distros spring from Debian, not RHEL.

    As to HP/UX, or AIX, they continue to persist, but they simply don’t have the innovation or software that Linux has.

  3. Rob Reilly


    Thanks for your comments on RHEL and Ubuntu.

    Everybody has their preferences. George has obviously found great success with RHEL and was enthusiastic in our conversations about finding jobs in that area.

    Your point is certainly valid that Ubuntu embodies innovation and is looking to the future.

    Then, there’s a nearly infinite number of other ‘distros’, serving every conceivable niche in the Linux computing ecosystem, emerging from RPM, Debian, and sometimes seemingly unknown origins.

    Why do people create all this stuff? It could be the money. It could be the fame. It might be to scratch a specific itch. I might be just because they can.

    Lot’s of people are having fun and/or making a good living in Linux, whatever the variety.

    It’s all good.

    Rob Reilly
    Dice Linux and mobile development community guide