Tuesday, July 21, 2015

My Linux Story

This post is inspired by opensource.com themed weeks. In January there was a theme of "Open Source Careers" for which I never got organized enough to write my story.  I recently found my draft and did not find it totally horrible.  I think the site is still running "My Story" articles and I thought of submitting it there, but to me it is not that exciting.

I am Technical Trainer and Consultant specializing in Open Source technologies. The majority of my career has centered around Linux operating system deployment, configuration, and interoperability. I mostly work with Red Hat products and their upstream and downstream projects. For the past two years I have also worked with Cloudera and projects related to the Apache Hadoop ecosystem. I also have a particular interest in security topics.

For over 15 years I have earned a living working exclusively with Open Source products but how did I get here?

In many ways it started before Linux existed. In college I had friends who were "admins" in the engineering computer lab. I did not do so well in my CS programming classes but as a hobby and to spend time with my friends, I learned a bit about newgroups, ftp sites, and Unix systems. As a data aide student intern, I realized I made a good translator between the astronomers and the C programmer computer support staff. I could read just enough code to identify the problem area and not enough to actually fix it.

Fast forward to the adult life of entry level jobs. My experience as a user landed me the opportunity learn system and network administration for a PC Helpcenter. This is where I learned about network operating system installation, configuration, and interolperability. When Linux hit the enterprise I jumped on the opportunity to learn, support, and teach Red Hat Linux, SuSE, Caldera, and Turbolinux- not all of which exist today.

Initially almost all of the students in any Linux Administration class were already sysadmins using other operating systems such as AIX, Solaris, HPUX, and NT. Now I have students who are new to system administration learning directly on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. There are a number of colleges teaching distributed computing using Linux including some using books I have contributed to as a reviewer. You do not need to learn other systems first anymore.

By the year 2000 I was working exclusively with Linux products. I earned a living teaching as an independent contractor with a variety of distribution delivery partners. I expanded my skills by finding ways to contribute to the upstream projects and I always encouraged students new to Linux to do the same.  I became a contributor to Fedora through the Docs project and as an Ambassador. I followed the infrastructure team but never found the consistent time to be a true contributor. I participated in test days, did some bug squashing and helped document packaging guidelines.

I still do not consider myself a "coder". I am not a C programmer or a Java developer. I can read just about anything and I have not survived the work of sysadmin without learning a fair amount of scripting. The Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) ideals have made it possible for me to excel even with the mental block against learning to code. I understand the logic, I can architect the psuedo-code, but I am not good at writing from scratch to correct completion. With FOSS, I can find scripts that are close to what I need and play around until I get what I need. I often do not ever have to get a full section of code written without a solid example on hand. Configuration management products such as Puppet, Chef, and Ansible and deployment products such as Spacewalk, Cobbler, and Ambari also help with automation without having to do the sometimes complex structural programming and error handling.

I love teaching. I love seeing the light bulb come on when a person figures out how something is supposed to work. I love figuring out how new products work and where they fit in the market. I love learning and I always learn something new when teaching. These days I do less daily administration and support tasks but more architect design. I also have spent more time testing products and writing instructions - for myself, for book reviews, for curriculum, and for conferences.

With new and emerging technologies such as Apache Hadoop, OpenStack, and Docker there is always more to learn.  I am still a Fedora Ambassador but over the past couple of years, I have not had (or made) the time to contribute to other subgroups.  I am actually looking for new, smaller project to get involved in next.  Probably something in the Hadoop ecosystem related to security. I am sure I can make contributions through testing, bug triage, and documentation.


1 comment:

Andrew Clayton said...

In case you're still thinking of submitting this (and you should)
here's a couple of small grammatical nits.

From the first line
"I am Technical Trainer and Consultant specializing"

Need an 'a' after 'I am'

from the first line in the fourth paragraph
"My experience as a user landed me the opportunity learn system and"

Need a 'to' after 'opportunity'