There’s really only one job description: Problem Solver.
Sometimes that problem is, “I need to host a website that can scale as demand expands and contracts.”
Sometimes the problem is, “People want good coffee but aren’t interested in making it themselves at home.”
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the tools we use to solve problems, we can forget that we’re more than expertise in a tool. In the tech world, it’s easy to define ourselves by the tools we’re good at using. I’m a Linux guy. I eat, sleep, breathe Linux. And while it’s sometimes important to stress our proficiency with a particular tool, when that’s all we are, we’re limiting ourselves.
My son in law is a builder. He solves the problem of “people need buildings.” I think he’s pretty good with a hammer. But he doesn’t advertise himself as a hammer guy. See, the thing is, people want a building. Maybe someone good with a hammer is the ideal person to make that building. It seems like a really important skill. But he’s a builder, not a hammer guy.
In IT, Linux is a really great hammer. In fact, I think everyone should be proficient with Linux, because it’s the Swiss Army Knife of the Internet. Whether you want to build a website, create an app, move to the cloud, deploy a database, or mine Bitcoin, Linux will likely be part of the smartest way to implement those things. It’s ubiquitous. It’s powerful. It’s free. But Linux is just a tool, and we need to stop thinking about “Linux jobs” and start thinking about problems we can solve with our shiny Linux hammer.
I’ve had many jobs over the years. I’ve been a school administrator, manager of a university database department (Microsoft SQL!), writer, teacher, bus driver, help desk worker, and system administrator. In every one of those jobs, my Linux skills were invaluable. When I was a bus driver, my IT skills meant I was working for the company’s owner on their computers after work. Because I could solve their computer problems. It’s OK to focus on job opportunities that you can do because of your tools, but don’t go looking for a “hammer job”, look for a job that needs stuff pounded in, and come in fully prepared with your tools.
I know most of this seems like semantics. But it’s more than that. When we let our specialties define who we are and what we can do, we’re not only limiting ourselves, but we’re robbing our potential employers of our true worth. Does a background in Linux help you in a job focused entirely on Microsoft products? Yes! Because you’re uniquely skilled to advise places that Linux and Open Source may or may not benefit an infrastructure.
If my son in law were hired to install a deck onto someone’s home, when the materials arrived, he’d know what to do with all those deck screws. Even though he might be a hammer guy. He knows darn well a hammer isn’t the way to go with a box a deck screws. He’s gonna grab the impact driver and build a glorious deck. Even though he’s a hammer guy.
For me, Linux has been an incredible hammer. I’ve used it in all my jobs, even if that use is to know what not to do. I created a course that follows the Linux Essentials exam objectives from the Linux Professional Institute (LPI). If you take my course, it will prepare you to take the Linux Essentials exam. But… honestly I’m not convinced people should actually take the exam. I’d much rather they watch my course, and use that Linux knowledge to build their own set of tools. The course is free, and it requires no Linux experience or understanding at all.
So please, check out my course, and go look for some nails that need a good pounding.