Q&A: Why Linux Experts Are In Demand

We interviewed Jim Zemlin, Executive Director at The Linux Foundation, to get his take on the Linux Jobs Report recently compiled by the Foundation and Dice.

Can you provide some details on what’s driving the need for Linux expertise?

Jim Zemlin
Jim Zemlin

Linux is experiencing major growth across industries. In consumer electronics, it’s used to run TVs, Android phones and tablets, your washer, dryer and refrigerator. Even your crock pot. In the enterprise, Linux is the foundation for cloud computing and is powering data centers that run Facebook, Google, Amazon, Netflix and more. It’s also helping to address the world’s most complex and interesting problems, from work on the human genome to the CERN supercollider.

As a result, companies need developers and SysAdmins who know how to build and/or manage Linux systems. There’s hardly any technology job today that doesn’t touch Linux in some way.

What kind of Linux skills are in the most demand?

The Linux Jobs Report shows that the areas of expertise that hiring managers are most aggressively seeking include systems administration (58 percent), Linux application development (45 percent) and systems architecture/engineering (45 percent). This definitely echoes what we hear from members. As cloud computing and Big Data continue to put new pressures on the enterprise, companies need experienced or certified Linux pros who can manage these systems intelligently and be a strategist in their companies as much as day-to-day operator.

What’s the sweet spot in terms of experience?

LinuxThe report shows hiring managers are mostly looking for professionals with three to five years of experience. We think that’s accurate. We also think college graduates are another sweet spot if those graduates have proactively sought training opportunities. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are one example — easily accessible and free. When employers see that initiative, they know the candidate would be a good fit for working on Linux. That’s not to exclude mid- to senior-level Linux pros, though. The report shows there is still demand for people at that level who bring deep expertise to their jobs.

Are companies willing to train candidates when they can’t find the precise skill set they’re looking for?

About one-third of hiring managers surveyed for the Linux Jobs Report said they would seek Linux training for existing talent if they could not find the skill set externally. There is an opportunity here for professionals already in their current jobs. Employers are willing to pay for training, and employees can take advantage of this.

If tech professionals want to learn Linux, where can they go?

There are a variety of Linux learning opportunities, from technical, professional training like what we offer at Linux Foundation to events, free webinars and MOOCs, as I mentioned before. Also, with Linux, professionals can get involved and start contributing to the community any time, which is a training in and of itself.

What makes a candidate attractive? Does it go beyond Linux skills alone?

Passion for technology; desire to work on something bigger than any one company; wicked smart; collaborative; and likes to have a lot of fun.


6 Responses to “Q&A: Why Linux Experts Are In Demand”

  1. I got a self-employment question here to the Dice staff that’s related to the article:

    Is there a market for self-employment to revamp home workstations to run Linux instead of Windows? Has that already been tried? Are workstations for home use setups obsolete?

    I see businesses like Geek squad and EasyTech at well-known electronic and business supply stores and was wondering if anyone has ever setup a home business to do the same thing except configuring workstations with Linux?

    The thought of putting a sign out front of my home (comparable to a Home for Sale sign) to advertise the home business keeps haunting me, plus creating a website for to advertise for this as well.


    • Unca Alby

      I’d be very cautious of hanging a shingle outside my home. That can run you afoul of local regulations concerning where and how signage can be placed, especially in residential areas.

      It can be crazy complicated: I’ve seen some businesses, even in business areas, park their truck on the street, fully painted with their name and phone of course, just to advertise their business and circumvent some onerous sign rules.

      But a web-site is a very good and safe way to advertise. You can get a domain for $10/year, and with a little shopping, you can find very inexpensive web hosting, many with all sorts of built-in web-building and advertising tools included.

      The hook you need is the fact that many people are still using Windows XP, which is going off of support April 2014. That means no more security updates. Microsoft is abandoning them completely.

      Put together a Linux system with as much XP look and feel as possible, and I think you may get plenty of customers.

      • Here’s THE problem:

        The younger generation already has portable devices to hit the internet at a whim. Why would they need a workstation … if their portable devices can be used in place of a workstation? No workstation anyway = no demand to have these Linux services.

        That is precisely what keeps me from going any further with this.

        Is that accurate what I’m thinking, Unca Alby (and others that care to respond)?

        • Unca Alby

          Apologies for the delay, I’m only just now discovering this comment. Since it asks for a response, here it is.

          My take on portable devices is that they’re great when you need a portable device. You can check email, stock prices, play “Angry Birds” etc. You can even make and receive phone calls.

          If you think you’re going to sit down as a professional programmer and write code on one, you’re crazy.

          You need a full-sized keyboard, and TWO monitors (some people are getting three). Whenever you’re working on code, you need as much screen real estate as possible, to show your code, somebody else’s code, the manual to look up something, an Internet window to look up something else, etc.

          No way to do that on a phone. Too small.

          Not to mention a lot of the goodies you use on your smart phone was developed on Linux.

          Bottom line: no, your thinking is not accurate. Linux is well worth pursuing.

  2. BigZeke

    Another thing worth mentioning here is that the mobile devices have to connect to something. What’s running most of those backend services? Linux or Unix. You’re going to need personnel to run those servers and to program the games to the servers, from workstations, as Unca Alby said.