How to enter the IT world?



  • I love Linux and networks. I want to enter the IT world and have studied a lot on my own. What would be the best way to enter the linux world as a career, making 80k or more? I am going into App Academy to become a full stack web developer, but I would rather go the Linux route. How do I gain experience and work on real projects without going the Red Hat Cert route? Is the Red Hat route a great way to go? Or is there better ways?



  • This will be an epic amount of responses so, brace yourself 🙂 First of all, welcome to the MangoLassi community!



  • First thing that I would recommend, and I can't possibly stress this enough, is get involved in a community online like MangoLassi. There is a wealth of knowledge here already, and a lot of people that are just interested in learning along with you. So if you have a question... ask it here because often there is tons to be learned that goes far beyond simply "answering what was asked."

    Also, look at what other people are talking about. Get involved in their conversations. Try to answer their questions. Building a reputation for being able to answer, or at least provide insight or how to ask probing questions, in a technical IT community like this will go a really long way. Both for showing your skills and building reputation, but also for giving you a kind of experience that you can't get anywhere else. Even just see what other people are interested in, struggling with and how we work through answers, or what answers are out there. There is tons to be learned.

    And post projects, too. Pick some cool project that you are interested in. This might be something trivial and "consumer" like you want to build a Plex Server on Raspberry Pi. Post it here with pics and full "how to" details. Post questions when you get stuck. Post before you start for additional ideas. Take feedback and upgrade the process. Or go for something a bit more intense. Build a production database server and put it to use in your home.

    Using a community can be an amazing way to both learn and to demonstrate what you can do and, more than anything else, demonstrate commitment by continuing to be involved. Things like community involvement can be a huge component in a resume - it's like an online portfolio and because it grows over time it is very good because it is effectively indisputable evidence of your activity over time.



  • Check out SAM's Guide to Linux System Administration which is totally free and right here in the community. It's a work in progress guide to, hopefully, the entire field of Linux System Administration. It should cover basically the same kinds of materials as the major certifications but as a living document, more up to date, eventually more cross-platform and done in such a way that you can go to each of the individual topics and ask questions, get updates, and really be involved in the learning to the betterment of everyone.

    Subscribe to the master table of contents (the page linked) to get alerted of new topics or updates.



  • Certs are not bad, but they are useless alone. I like certs a lot (I have to, I write them) and I have over 150 of them (mostly from the late 1990s) but I haven't put them on my resume for a very long time. Instead, I see certs as a tool for education.

    The Linux world has several certs, most of which are bad and essentially useless (like the Linux+.) Red Hat has the only really useful certs in the field. The RHCE is decent, but covers a lot of questionable material (way too much focus on desktop GUI, printing and crap like that that no Linux Admin has ever used.) But the RHCE is widely respected and will "shore up" a resume as long as the other pieces are there.

    More important is the process of getting the RHCE. Go through the process of the RHCE learning by building a home lab and doing everything yourself, for real. You will learn a ton and what you learn will be more useful than what you are certified on.



  • @scottalanmiller So do the work it takes to get the RCHE, but don't worry about getting the cert if I can do everything it requires.



  • There are three large, general areas that are the ways to get experience without having a job in a specific field. This works for getting into IT as well as for shifting between IT roles that do not naturally lead from one into another.

    Lab: Whether you build your own lab, have a lab at some job or get access to someone's lab you can build Linux systems and environments to get true hands on, soup to nuts systems. Don't just build a demo unit and scrap it, build interconnected systems that you maintain and manage just like in a real business.

    Intern: Find a shop that will have you do work and intern with them. This gets you a professional reference and is the same on a resume as normal work experience.

    Volunteer: It's generally easy to find an organization that cannot afford IT and would love to have someone come in and handle things for them. This requires the most of you, as you have no support network, but also can be the most rewarding.



  • @deathofasellout said in How to enter the IT world?:

    @scottalanmiller So do the work it takes to get the RCHE, but don't worry about getting the cert if I can do everything it requires.

    Get the cert, too, once you've done the work to learn the material. But don't approach the process with the goal of getting a cert but rather with the goal of using the cert process to push you to learn things that you would not have chosen to learn on your own.



  • You will likely want to work with a couple different distros to have a good "picture" of what Linux is about, but you definitely want to focus on CentOS (aka RHEL) for the bulk of your learning. This is still where most of the jobs are, where the highest paying jobs are and what people expect you to know even when working on other systems.

    CentOS 7 is the current release. Focus on that to start. And don't use the GUI, make it all text based. If you do anything through the GUI, consider it something that you don't know how to do because when you get into a Linux job, there will never be a GUI.



  • Using a Linux based desktop or laptop environment is essentially useless for learning Linux Administration. There is basically zero overlap in tasks or skills. However, there is a tiny benefit to using Linux on a desktop as your every day machine. It certainly does not hurt and there is something about having "Linux close at hand" all of the time. I use a Linux laptop for all of my work these days. Having a really slick terminal at my finger tips all of the time is nicer than having to work with PuTTY on Windows and things like file transfers are easier.

    I use Ubuntu 16.10 on my Asus RoG laptop and it works great. Administering my CentOS 7 fleet from Ubuntu works out perfectly. SSH Keys, VPN tunnels and other remote access tools are equal or better from Linux to Linux than from Windows to Linux. Mac to Linux is closer to Linux to Linux, but not quite as good.



  • Be sure to work towards a variety of Linux experience.... you can try installing directly to bare metal hardware but be aware that this is "never" how it is done in production except for desktops, but knowing how it works is useful. Consider doing some on non-AMD64 hardware, using an ARM system like a Raspberry Pi is a cheap and easy way to do this. Be sure to do 99% of your learning on enterprise virtualization with ESXi, Xen, Hyper-V or KVM. Maybe learn more than one, or all. And be sure to play with Linux on at least a few cloud providers. Vultr and Digital Ocean are perfect for early learning. Linode is a bit more advanced (and performant.) AWS, Softlayer and Azure are more "enterprise", especially AWS.



  • Once you are doing projects at home, the sky is the limit. Some ideas:

    • Database server at home to support other services.
    • Home website, just something simple but maybe on WordPress, PHP, LAMP
    • Wiki for home use, use it to document absolutely everything
    • Install a Jump Box for security and management
    • Install SAMBA for file sharing with Windows and Mac
    • Install NFS for file sharing with UNIX
    • Install a logging system (ELK, Graylog)
    • Install monitoring (Zabbix, Zenoss, Nagios)
    • Install a multimedia streaming server for the house
    • Install a PBX in your house and make your own VoIP system
    • Install your own Minecraft server
    • Make a backup system and protect all of these machines
    • Make a load balancer and make systems able to fail over
    • Make a database cluster to make it HA
    • Make a Linux based Active Directory replacement
    • Work with SSH Keys and scripting across the server fleet
    • Create your own email system like Zimbra
    • Create your own chat system like RocketChat or OpenFire
    • Make a local repo for speeding up updates while reducing bandwidth
    • Make a web cache / proxy like Squid
    • Build your own firewall (Smoothwall, VyOS)
    • Build an asset management system
    • Build DHCP Server
    • Build dual DNS servers
    • Work with DRBD
    • Try scale out storage like CEPH or Gluster
    • Install NextCloud or similar sync storage

    And the list just goes on and on.



  • As someone who works in the IT world and is generally surrounded by people who aren't very good at their jobs, the "how can I enter the field making $80k" bit is pretty off-putting. I totally understand wanting to make a living wage, but when you lead off with that, I feel like "you know what, I can find someone who is totally new at this with no practical work experience for way less than $80k." Maybe I'm making a judgement that I shouldn't be from not much text, but I'm not so sure I'm wrong.



  • Oh, and definitely look at something like NextCloud, as well. Very useful for home, something that you can actually use effectively.



  • @ryanov said in How to enter the IT world?:

    As someone who works in the IT world and is generally surrounded by people who aren't very good at their jobs, the "how can I enter the field making $80k" bit is pretty off-putting. I totally understand wanting to make a living wage, but when you lead off with that, I feel like "you know what, I can find someone who is totally new at this with no practical work experience for way less than $80k." Maybe I'm making a judgement that I shouldn't be from not much text, but I'm not so sure I'm wrong.

    Interesting. Perhaps I read to little into that. I wouldn't expect the OP to make $80K day one with no experience, but in following some, most or all of Scott's recommendations and getting several years of experience, $80K shouldn't be undoable. Top that by living in places like NYC or LA, that would be a living wage. 😃



  • @Dashrender said in How to enter the IT world?:

    Top that by living in places like NYC or LA, that would be a living wage. 😃

    SF in the OP's case. I happen to know. So $80K is not high at all in that market. It's very reasonable.



  • @scottalanmiller The number aside, someone asking "how can I go from basically no experience to entering this career" and has a salary number in mind in practically his opening sentence, I'm personally going to draw a conclusion. I've been interviewing people pretty much continuously since July, and since I don't need another useless co-worker, I'm on the lookout for red flags, and this one is a red flag to me (as are people who apply for jobs they're clearly not qualified, or who list work experience that is clearly not worth the salary they're asking for). I can't imagine I'm the only person on earth interviewing that would draw that conclusion, especially when the primary question is how to learn the field.



  • @ryanov said in How to enter the IT world?:

    @scottalanmiller The number aside, someone asking "how can I go from basically no experience to entering this career" and has a salary number in mind in practically his opening sentence, I'm personally going to draw a conclusion. I've been interviewing people pretty much continuously since July, and since I don't need another useless co-worker, I'm on the lookout for red flags, and this one is a red flag to me (as are people who apply for jobs they're clearly not qualified, or who list work experience that is clearly not worth the salary they're asking for). I can't imagine I'm the only person on earth interviewing that would draw that conclusion, especially when the primary question is how to learn the field.

    Agreed, saying "I want to enter field X and make Y dollars" is extremely off-putting. If an entry level candidate mentioned any salary number before an offer was tendered, there would be no offer. Get some actual experience before you start throwing numbers around.



  • But he wasn't interviewing for a job.. I was stating a goal. He stated a two part goal, work in Linux and make 80K. He could have just as easily said he wanted to work in Linux and make $300K. Well to earn that much working in Linux would be severely limiting career choices. Granted the 80K is pretty middle of the road for a Linux admin, so he basically (to me) was saying that he didn't want to do anything overly hard, he just wants to be a Linux Admin.



  • A bit of background that you guys are missing that I happen to know is that the OP is a senior in another field (unrelated to IT) and is currently working. So he has a specific goal of working his knowledge and experience up to a certain level before making the jump over from one to the other. He can stay in his current job until such time as his experience, knowledge and certs get him to the level that he needs in the new one. So while it may be off-putting (and I think that this is misleading because the number sounds high to those outside of his market, but those are entry level numbers more or less) it's an important part of the equation. He can't give up his current career until his IT one reaches a level where he can afford to make the jump - so gaging what he needs to do to get to that point is critical. It's not like a teenager trying to figure out the fastest path to work up to an eventually career level, it's an adult looking at how to get to a transition threshold.



  • @Dashrender said in How to enter the IT world?:

    But he wasn't interviewing for a job.. I was stating a goal. He stated a two part goal, work in Linux and make 80K. He could have just as easily said he wanted to work in Linux and make $300K. Well to earn that much working in Linux would be severely limiting career choices. Granted the 80K is pretty middle of the road for a Linux admin, so he basically (to me) was saying that he didn't want to do anything overly hard, he just wants to be a Linux Admin.

    Exactly. And he is in a market and hangs out with experienced $300K Linux Admins, so knows that $80K, where he is, is not exactly "entry level" but is a junior pay rate for sure.

    And while he doesn't have IT experience, he's working on both an IT and a software engineering background plus has a ton of experience in another field that has some degree of relevance because of soft skills to the job. So brings a lot to the table than an equally technically ready Linux Admin at say 18 years old would not have.



  • @scottalanmiller said in How to enter the IT world?:

    @Dashrender said in How to enter the IT world?:

    But he wasn't interviewing for a job.. I was stating a goal. He stated a two part goal, work in Linux and make 80K. He could have just as easily said he wanted to work in Linux and make $300K. Well to earn that much working in Linux would be severely limiting career choices. Granted the 80K is pretty middle of the road for a Linux admin, so he basically (to me) was saying that he didn't want to do anything overly hard, he just wants to be a Linux Admin.

    Exactly. And he is in a market and hangs out with experienced $300K Linux Admins, so knows that $80K, where he is, is not exactly "entry level" but is a junior pay rate for sure.

    And while he doesn't have IT experience, he's working on both an IT and a software engineering background plus has a ton of experience in another field that has some degree of relevance because of soft skills to the job. So brings a lot to the table than an equally technically ready Linux Admin at say 18 years old would not have.

    All that stuff should have been specified. The OP reads like an entry level / teenager wrote it. Nothing there to indicate any experience in any field.



  • What does the background matter? He basically opened with it. So maybe he shouldn't open with something like that, and that's my advice about entering the field. I haven't seen anything so far that tells me I'm definitely wrong. I hear that and think "I'd tell this guy to stick to business school." (Haven't seen anything else that tells me that I've guessed wrong there either).



  • see @deathofasellout ... joining a community like this is great. you've successfully got them riled up with your first post. good luck 🙂