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spoovy 03-09-2010 02:06 PM

New career in linux admin?
 
Hi

Im an urban planner by profession, but have been dumped on my arse by the current recession, after 10 years in the profession. I have been out of work for 6 months now and have had a lot of time to think about new career directions.

I discovered linux last september, having had no real interest in computers before. I have hardly put it down since however, and have just finished my first LFS build. I'm currently getting stuck into BLFS and Slackware, so I would say i've picked it up pretty quickly. So now am wondering about the possibilities of turning it into a career - admin I suppose as I think programming is beyond me.

Is this realistic? I'm based in the UK, and I have no computer-related qualifications. I have a BA in planning, but nothing in maths or science above A level biology.

I have looked at the Red Hat training courses and it looks doable - with a lot of work obviously. So what do people think, is it possible, or would I be wasting my time to pursue it?

Thanks in advace.

Spoov

jamescondron 03-09-2010 02:30 PM

Well, strictly speaking anything is possible, though as someone in the UK who is also currently looking for a Linux job, realistically no; not without a much stronger background.

If you have the time to throw into it then good luck, but you'll need a lot of luck, though that could be my bitterness talking. 6months is probably nowhere near long enough, though, to start considering a career change, and I'll tell you why; take a look at all the different binaries and scripts in every directory in your $PATH. Realistically how many do you know of? And thats the simple stuff, there is a lot in such jobs that come from experience.

Stuff like spotting ARP priority management errors, or managing stupid sets of ACLs that your idiot predecessor set? Keeping control of the stuff that if you break at home it means a tinker and a quick search on a forum, but in a critical system needs an immediate fix?

See, the problem is these are usually things you can't teach to the level of instinct, you learn them as you need them and then keep refining them; which makes them hard for these courses to teach. Linux admins usually have years of tinkering behind them before considering these courses, or before going straight into a Linux job, as many of us did.

(Now imagine all of that as I tried to write it, and not as if it was written by a total tosser like it comes across)

bret381 03-09-2010 03:49 PM

I agree with jamescondron, it is doable, but 6 months in ANY field is not much to be The go to guy for whatever it is you are in. Would you expect to be Senior Planner after 6 months on the job? I am not an admin, so overlook me if you want, but I would say that an entry level administrator working under someone may be possible with a very low pay with a couple of certifications. And if you have the time to do all of this GREAT!! I wish I did. I would love to work on that myself, but don't have the time to devote to it nor the ability to take a huge pay cut. I'm definately not trying to tell you not to pursue it, just set realistic goals for yourself. You may end up working for an IT department as the help desk tech or something. Take it and work your way up. I just don't see you jumping right in as an admin, but with a few years with real world experience... who knows! :)

spoovy 03-09-2010 04:52 PM

Cheers guys. For the record bret I certainly wouldn't expect to get an admin job with my current experience I thought I had made that clear. I was thinking about in the future, after a year or so of sustained effort.

Yeah it took me 5 years from uni to get to senior planner, so if I could achieve a similar degree of seniority in any other career in the same amount of time (ie starting now) I would consider it a success. I also accept that I would have to take a massive pay cut from my previous position but I think that goes without saying.

I don't know anyone in the IT industry so it's a complete unknown to me really, though reading some industry bumf I had got the impression that unix/linux was growing pretty fast, and thought there might be an opportunity there. Doesn't sound too positive though from what you say james. :(

TB0ne 03-09-2010 07:16 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by spoovy (Post 3892101)
Cheers guys. For the record bret I certainly wouldn't expect to get an admin job with my current experience I thought I had made that clear. I was thinking about in the future, after a year or so of sustained effort.

Yeah it took me 5 years from uni to get to senior planner, so if I could achieve a similar degree of seniority in any other career in the same amount of time (ie starting now) I would consider it a success. I also accept that I would have to take a massive pay cut from my previous position but I think that goes without saying.

I don't know anyone in the IT industry so it's a complete unknown to me really, though reading some industry bumf I had got the impression that unix/linux was growing pretty fast, and thought there might be an opportunity there. Doesn't sound too positive though from what you say james. :(

Don't misunderstand James. I think I know what he's getting at (and please correct me if I'm wrong, James).

In your old profession, I'm sure you dealt with folks who had similar jobs. Some you had respect for, and knew that THEY knew what they were doing too. Some...probably not so much. Although on PAPER they were the same, in real life, they weren't. Same with IT. Some folks 'get it', and believe me, that's recognized VERY quickly. Some don't, even though they have been doing it for years. And there's alot about your old job that you just 'knew'...after stepping in it a few times. :) No book taught you that, but you learned it after you got on the job. This is no different.

Case in point; I work with two DBA's. One has been in it about 4 years, the other for over 20. The senior person couldn't find her ass with both hands, I don't think. Wondered one time how the SAN could be down, when she could ping the server...after all, she said, SAN is "Storage Area NETWORK". The newer one wound up being her boss, and she does a tremendous job.

IT work can suck mightily at times. Odd hours, in early, out late, nights, weekends, etc. Remember...off times are maintenance times. No one on the server at 3 AM? Perfect, your boss will say...time for you to move it to a different rack, and upgrade the disk. And oh, you'll have to have it back up by 5:30, so we can begin daily processing. And as the junior guy...guess who'll be getting the grunt-work of pulling cables under the floors, and dealing with the problem users?? :)

chrism01 03-09-2010 08:38 PM

If you've got the time to study (as it seems), then consider getting a Cert if you've got the money for the exam (ideally the course as well). The RedHat RHCT then RHCE certs are fairly well regarded by most people. With no prev experience it's all you've got to offer initially.
Note that these are hands on practicals against the clock with no docs avail apart from man pages... you need to know it well to pass.
Talk to the IT recruitment agencies (google them) for junior admin positions maybe if you get certified.
Maybe setup a website at a hosting company or at home that is publically accessible; incentive then to keep it working and looking good..

spoovy 03-10-2010 11:52 AM

I have nothing but time to study, but I don't have the money for courses and stuff, being jobless tends to rinse your savings pretty quickly.

I was hoping to learn enough from books to get me some kind of junior role. I'm starting to get the impression though that no matter how much i learnt in this way I would always be one of those guys who doesn't know enough, compared to the proper longtime computer nerd guys (no offence meant to any nerds :)

TB0ne 03-10-2010 12:16 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by spoovy (Post 3893132)
I have nothing but time to study, but I don't have the money for courses and stuff, being jobless tends to rinse your savings pretty quickly.

I was hoping to learn enough from books to get me some kind of junior role.

You probably can get a junior role somewhere, especially if you have someone who knows you, friend-of-a-friend, sort of thing. It's a tougher climb, but if you can demonstrate your knowledge, talk to other sysadmins, and have some legs to stand on, you've got a better chance.
Quote:

I'm starting to get the impression though that no matter how much i learnt in this way I would always be one of those guys who doesn't know enough, compared to the proper longtime computer nerd guys (no offence meant to any nerds :)
I disagree, and I don't think you're thinking this through, and giving up too easily. Think about it...when you got out of school, and went for your first job, you were in the same spot you are now. Lots of stuff from books, very little in the 'real world'. After you got there, you learned, and KEPT learning. This is no different.

I've been in IT since the mid-1980's. If you wrote down what I know, it would look impressive...but the same can be said for ANYONE who has been in it as long as I have. There's always more to learn, every day, no matter what. You are going to learn by doing, by exposure, and by making huge "Oh CRAP" sorts of mistakes that keep you at the office for days.

If you are going to be the lazy sort, who feels he'll hit a point where he knows 'enough' to get by...trust me, you'll be better off in another field, as IT already has loads of folks who 'know enough' to squeak by, and aren't interested in learning more. If you are the sort who feels he'll NEVER know enough, and always want to learn the next new trick, system, etc., you'll go far. There is NEVER an 'enough' point.

custangro 03-10-2010 12:38 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by TB0ne (Post 3893151)
You are going to learn by doing, by exposure, and by making huge "Oh CRAP" sorts of mistakes that keep you at the office for days.

Experience is the best teacher...

Like when I deleted the "bin" directory by accident...that was a fun Sunday night ;)

-C

spoovy 03-10-2010 12:53 PM

Thanks TBone, I am definately prepared to keep putting in the work, I had to in my old (current?) profession and would expect to again.

So many different opinions in one thread! I will get hold of a couple of IT recruitment people and see what they think. As long as its possible i'll give it a go, I was mainly worried that there would be some kind of insurmountable barrier (like a lack of a computing science degree).

Cheers all.

TB0ne 03-10-2010 01:01 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by custangro (Post 3893179)
Experience is the best teacher...

Like when I deleted the "bin" directory by accident...that was a fun Sunday night ;)

-C

Hehehe...:) I had similar 'fun'....accidentally did a "chmod -R 644" from /. That was entertaining too.

custangro 03-10-2010 02:48 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by TB0ne (Post 3893208)
Hehehe...:) I had similar 'fun'....accidentally did a "chmod -R 644" from /. That was entertaining too.


I've done "chmod 777 /" which isn't as bad...but it was fun trying to figure out what the heck was wrong ;)

-C

dunix 03-10-2010 03:11 PM

Experience is everything, but remember experience outside IT can be helpful when applied to IT. Having a degree in anything is a ++ (having a degree in CS would be more of a ++). Come up with ways to apply the knowledge you have from your previous career, to your new direction. Selling yourself as someone with world experience, but would still take a junior position, which usually means junior pay means more bang for the buck kinda thing.

This is from an American POV and have no clue of how hiring practices differ (if at all) in the UK.

spoovy 03-10-2010 06:06 PM

At the moment the hiring practice in the UK seems to be pretty much the same across all industries -

"Don't hire anyone".

Smartpatrol 03-10-2010 10:23 PM

...

custangro 03-10-2010 10:52 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Smartpatrol (Post 3893718)
From my experince its extremely hard to break into a pure Linux/Unix Admin job.

Yes, this is true :D

I started off...at...geek squad ha ha :D

Then I got a job as helpdesk at this small company. Then I got a job as a Jr. Network Administrator at another small place.

After that I got a job at a Medium size company as a Jr. Systems Adminsitrator.

I'm still at that same place but now I'm the Sr. Systems Adminstrator

But yes, mostly you have to work your way to the top

-C

spoovy 06-22-2011 02:36 PM

Just an update if anyone's interested.

Well I worked hard, learned a lot, got a couple of entry level MS certs, got an entry-level IT job, and eventually, this morning, I finally got to build my first linux server at work.

It can be done! :)

chrism01 06-22-2011 08:48 PM

Congratulations! :)

Well done for sticking at it.
www.linuxtopia.org has a long list of free-to-read books/manuals etc, covering most of the major distros; highly recommended.

TB0ne 06-23-2011 09:44 AM

Indeed, well done! Keep up the good work.

catkin 06-24-2011 04:50 AM

The biggest problem would be credibility in the eyes of potential employers and that's a real Catch 22 -- you can't get the job until you have "commercial experience" and you can't get the commercial experience until you get the job.

Time to start thinking creatively! One option (and a worthwhile one if you are the sort that likes to "give something back") would be to do sysadmin work as a volunteer for a charity or impecunious NGO. Unlike "real" employers they are not in a position to be picky. Ideally an organisation with a connection with planning to leverage your established skills and knowledge. The work would give valuable "real" experience and would hopefully get you networking amongst the geeks and establish your reputation. Talking to a lot of people would help; so would joining your local LUG.

Personally if I got a CV with no commercial experience but LFS six months after finding Linux, I would interview you -- more than usually hard but I would interview you. Enthusiasm is a valuable characteristic and the achievement itself is certainly non-trivial! Maybe I am very unusual but who knows? Worth a shot. If your CV also mentioned an active LUG role ... And sometimes being a "team player" and a "self starter", good company to work with is as important as technical skills -- back to professional networking and talking with as many people as you can.

EDIT: sorry, spoovy; I missed your update. Congratulations :)

PrinceCruise 06-24-2011 08:30 AM

Well done Spoovy :). Congrats.

resetreset 06-27-2011 01:25 AM

Good for Spoovy! Catkin, would you say it works the same way in India? i.e. can someone shift fields after working in a particular field for sometime?
By the way, Catkin, where do you work? (please tell me if I'm being too nosy). Could I throw a CV at you sometime?

rich_c 06-27-2011 04:13 AM

Congrats! And thanks for the encouraging update! I'm in the position at the moment where I'm wanting to move from what is pretty much an operator role to a more technically challenging Unix/Linux position. I'm hoping that having some reputation of being technically competent may grease the wheels somewhat...

catkin 06-27-2011 07:49 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by resetreset (Post 4396627)
Good for Spoovy! Catkin, would you say it works the same way in India? i.e. can someone shift fields after working in a particular field for sometime?
By the way, Catkin, where do you work? (please tell me if I'm being too nosy). Could I throw a CV at you sometime?

You could and you might well be welcome but we are a volunteer-based operation so don't actually pay money. Still interested?

TheIndependentAquarius 06-27-2011 07:52 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by catkin (Post 4396859)
You could and you might well be welcome but we are a volunteer-based operation so don't actually pay money. Still interested?

What kind of work this organization does? Anything in C/C++/Data structures?

catkin 06-27-2011 08:14 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Anisha Kaul (Post 4396860)
What kind of work this organization does? Anything in C/C++/Data structures?

Our approach is to use FOSS components rather than develop from scratch but inevitably some "glue programming" is used to integrate the components. So far that has not included C or C++ because we don't have those skills available and whatever we create has to be maintainable with locally available skills. To date we have used Apache, awk, bash, .cmd (!), GeoServer, MySQL, OOo Basic, PostgreSQL, rsync, Ruby and Xapian-Omega. We are just starting on an Internet-accessible web forms application which will probably introduce PHP and one of the content-management systems. So no -- no use case for C/C++ yet.

TheIndependentAquarius 06-27-2011 08:19 AM

I did guess that for some reason, thanks for the info.

resetreset 06-28-2011 10:10 AM

OK, I'll admit - that's a bit of a downer, catkin, but ....... OK, how do I get in touch with you?

szboardstretcher 06-28-2011 10:33 AM

This is totally realistic.

I had used computers all of my life, but after y2k realized that, for me, Windows was not the answer. So I began using Linux, hacking it together, breaking it apart, reading books and so on. Within a year of starting down that path, I felt confident in applying for jobs.

I got my foot in the door because someone had mistakenly picked my resume' over another more qualified individual. But once i got in the interview and explained how much I knew already and offered to fix any Linux system they put in front of me -- i got the job and I've worked as a sysadmin since.

catkin 06-28-2011 11:18 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by resetreset (Post 4398026)
OK, I'll admit - that's a bit of a downer, catkin, but ....... OK, how do I get in touch with you?

An LQ PM :)

spoovy 06-28-2011 01:10 PM

Thanks for all your comments everyone. I just wanted to get back to let people know that it is possible to completely change career in your 30's (or older). There are quite a few of these types of threads around the 'tinternet but you rarely get to find out how the stories end. So I hope my little tale might encourage other people to make the change.

Mind you, if you do go for it you need a stiff drink each month when you pick up your payslip! :)


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