All About Jobs and Hiring in Linux Land

Well it’s been a busy month of October here in the Linux blogosphere, with no shortage of news to absorb, react to and fret about.

There’s been the ongoing Windows 8 secure boot saga, of course — which just last week gained the voice of the Free Software Foundation. There’s also been the long-awaited arrival of Ubuntu 11.10 “Oneiric Ocelot,” with all the associated angst about Unity and Linux desktops — a matter that hasn’t been helped any by word that Linux Mint is now developing a GNOME 3 edition of its own.

Then, too, there’s been’s plea for fundraising support — followed immediately by assurance from the Apache Software Foundation that everything’s A-OK.

And that’s not even mentioning the loss of our own Dennis Ritchie, following so soon as it did after that of Steve Jobs.

Linux Girl doesn’t know about you, dear readers, but she’s plumb tuckered out.

‘Where to Look, What to Learn’

Rather than delve into any of the aforementioned topics yet again, then, it seems a good time to look instead into a topic that’s surely close to all of our hearts. Jobs, that is — not the Apple variety, but the employment kind, with a focus on open source.

“Open source jobs: What’s hot, where to look, what to learn” was the title of a post that appeared on ITWorld last week, and it’s stirred up quite a little conversation of its own.

Penned by none other than Carla Schroder, the piece is filled with insights and useful gems that quickly drew the attention of Linux bloggers far and wide. In no time at all the conversation spread to LXer, to Tuxmachines and beyond.

Linux Girl was ready and waiting, Quick Quotes Quill in hand.

‘I Keep Learning Because It’s Fun’

“The most important thing is to find something you like doing even if only some of that can be applied to your career,” consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack told Linux Girl.

“I started playing with Linux at 17, but it was several years before I managed to get my first full time job as an Admin,” Mack explained. “After a decade of work I still have plenty of skills that ended up not being needed for my usual role as sysadmin — such as socket programming with TCP/UDP/RDS — but I keep learning because it’s fun, even if it doesn’t lead to me making more money.”

All in all, “if working with FOSS is just a job for you,” Mack cautioned, “then I doubt you are really cut out for life as either an admin or a programmer.”

‘Work Aplenty for Years to Come’

The hottest jobs are still in servers, blogger Robert Pogson told Linux Girl.

“I still only occasionally see familiarity with desktop GNU/Linux as a desirable skill,” he added. “Fortunately, the cloud and web applications are making GNU/Linux on the desktop more viable as the OS on the client becomes less relevant.”

The “huge rate of uptake of Android/Linux is really promoting FLOSS and putting applications on servers,” Pogson noted. “The result will be eventually more desktop GNU/Linux, but it will still be a few years.

“It’s all good,” he concluded. “More Android/Linux personal computers will be sold this year than Wintel ones. There’s work aplenty in FLOSS for years to come.”

‘Everyone Owns the Software’

Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project, agreed with many of the suggestions in Schroder’s post, but he advised against looking just for open source “jobs,” per se.

“Open source at its best allows for a sort of distributist approach to work,” Travers explained. “Everyone has the right to use the software for any purpose and to build solutions for their customers. Thus, in the classic distributist thought, everyone economically ‘owns’ the software,” though that’s distinct from owning copyrights to the software, he noted.

What that means for employment is that “in addition to looking for a ‘job,’ anyone with relevant skills can quickly, easily, and inexpensively go into business providing services around software,” he pointed out. “This is very different from the restrictive world of software end user license agreements and license fees.”

The boundary between employment and self-employment, then, “can be especially porous,” Travers said. “If you want to get hired, showing what you can do when you are self-employed is not a bad option. Similarly if you do get hired, you can always return to self-employment with the primary effort being rebuilding your business.

“That effort, while significant, is much smaller than it would be were this not an option,” he concluded.

‘Involuntary Entrepreneurship’

Indeed, “most developer jobs require current knowledge of non-open software,” asserted Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by “Tom” on the site.

The list of jobs varies over time, of course, “but it’s a safe bet to say that most jobs are not ‘open’ jobs,” she added.

That may improve over time, but “in the meantime, it looks like the most reliable way to get a job that uses open source exclusively is to create your own,” Hudson agreed. “The bad news is that, as in every previous recession, we’re seeing a lot of this ‘involuntary entrepreneurship.’ The good news is that this time the tools are freely available.”

‘Selling Low-Cost Refurbed Machines’

“There is an unconventional FOSS job for someone that has the will and REALLY knows their way around Linux, and that is refurbing,” Slashdot blogger hairyfeet pointed out.

“Over 100 million PCs are about to be EOLed, and I’m already starting to see the P4s and early duals piling up,” he added.

“With Windows, the cost of licenses make these machines destined for the dump, but Linux? If a guy could find the right distro and figure out how to keep the 6 month upgrades from killing the drivers (run your own repo maybe? that’s what Dell does), then one could make quite a good living selling low-cost refurbed machines,” hairyfeet suggested.

Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl's cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She's particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter.

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