The Road Less Traveled: Certifications Can Chart a Great Career in Linux and Open Source

computer desk

Taz Brown writes about the challenges of a career in IT and her goals of helping to increase diversity in the field and bring Linux to urban education.

The year is now 2018, and the world has changed tremendously in so many ways. One thing that's changed significantly is the way we learn and the way we demonstrate that knowledge. No longer is a college degree enough, particularly in the area of Information Technology (IT). Speak to two technologists about how they paved their way in the field, and you will get, oftentimes, completely different stories.

It's one of the things I like most about IT. You often can work with many different people with varying experiences, backgrounds and stories about how they came to enter the field, and one of the most common paths to IT is through certifications.

My path to IT could and would not have happened without certifications. First, my college degree was not in any tech or computer science concentration or track. I did not begin my career in IT, and therefore, gaining the knowledge I needed to enter the field began and continues with certifications. Now, this is not to say that I did not need to gain practical experience in order to be able to do the job, but had I only had practical experience and no certifications, I likely wouldn't have attracted the recruiters that I did.

I started with some CompTIA certifications like A+ and Network+, and Microsoft certs like the MCSA, focusing on Windows 7 and Windows Server. So after putting in 25–30 hours a week studying and practicing—and this was all with just a laptop, mind you—I obtained those certifications. But after getting those certifications, I wanted more—more knowledge and skills, that is. I was able to obtain a job in IT on the HelpDesk, and after a few years, and a few more certifications, I became a Systems Administrator.

So fast-forward ten years, and I am now a Sr. Linux Systems Engineer. I moved into the field of Linux about five years ago, because I saw a trend that I could not resist—a niche market. And, it has paid off, but with advancing my career came the need yet again to prove myself, and so I have been focused on the Red Hat track of certification for the last few years.

I have some Linux certifications, but the ones that have been the most important to me at this stage in my career are those from Red Hat. I currently possess the RHCSA (Red Hat Certified Systems Administrator), and for the last few months, I've been preparing to take and pass the RHCE (Red Hat Certified Engineer). My ultimate goal is to obtain the RHCA (Red Hat Certified Architect).