Monday, December 1, 2008

Punto Informatico article about Linux Jobs

Punto Informatico Interview with Brent and Lukas about Linux Jobs

Migrating abroad sometimes is the only solution when your skills can’t be spent in your country or you just simply aim at a better income and benefits, this is expecially true for Open Source experts, we’ve got a double interview with Brent Marinaccio [http://www.hotlinuxjobs.com/] and Lukas Chaplin [http://www.linux-lancers.com/], managers of two Linux-oriented job agencies, the former in the USA the latter in Europe pointing out pros and cons along with useful tips:

PI: What’s the current market share of *nix jobs? What’s its growth rate and what does affect it the most?

BM: I can not tell you the exact market share of Linux jobs in the United States, however, I can tell you that it has had explosive growth over the last 5 years. Probably nearing growth rates of 20-30%+ on an annual basis. As far as what affects that growth, at the moment the focus is heavily on the economy.
Overall, a downturn in the economy might assist Linux and open source software continue its growth against other platforms based on value. But, if the number of overall IT jobs does reduce here in the United States, Linux positions will be affected, but to a lesser degree than other areas of technology.

LC: The growth rate for Linux/Open source jobs is literally exploding in Europe. Yet one must distinguish between companies using open source software and companies developing open source software, the latter still being too few for my taste. This high acceptance, evolving from the good work all the people within the community are doing to spread the word about Open source in general, is probably the main carrier for the success.

PI: Could you name top three cities and companies for a Unix geek to work in?

BM: Instead of cities, I will provide you with areas. The area that has the most Linux jobs here is the United States is Silicon Valley. I am sure that is not a big surprise. Another area of the country that produces a decent amount of Linux and open source positions is the Pacific Northwest. Thus, Seattle and Portland are doing quite a bit of work in the Linux area. Lastly, Boston is by far the biggest area of open source development on the east coast of the United States. On the company side, there are a multitude of companies and sectors that are utilizing Linux. As far as the biggest employers of Linux engineers by numbers, the large players are IBM, Intel, Red Hat, Novell and Oracle. But, that changes as nearly every large technology company is gaining a strong presence in Linux with the obvious exception of Microsoft. But, they too have been increasing the number of Linux professionals they employ.

LC: It’s hard to answer that question without mentioning other places. For example Scandinavia in general is job wise very attractive for Open source developers as well. But so is Dublin and Munich. I can’t answer the question “name the top companies” because it’s a subjective topic. What I might consider to be the best, others may consider bad. My advice for candidates that are looking for top companies to work for is to first reflect on what is important to each of them and then search the company according to one’s own goals.

PI: Is telecommuting a better or worse solution than in-site employment according to your experience and customers?

BM: I am a big believer in telecommuting in building the best engineering staff. Open source engineers just tend to be scattered about, and that is the beauty of it. At the same time, I understand companies request for having someone on-site in particular situations. If a company is in the architecture stage, then it is probably best to have people huddle around the whiteboard. But, in a lot of instances, the work can be done off-site just as efficiently as it can be done on-site. Companies here in the U.S. still have a hard time realizing that, but they are allowing more and more flexibility as time goes on.

LC: Most developers claim a home office workplace is the best for them. They are happier, code better and I share this point of view strongly. But I’ve also heard from some of our candidates, that they need the business environment to be able to work efficiently and wouldn’t be happy with a home office.

PI: What features make the Linux job market in your area different?

BM: OK. Well, there is not as much adoption in government here as opposed to Europe. But, it is slowly happening. It is primarily in educational institutions if anything. But, we deal primarily with the private sector. So, there are many migration jobs there, but probably not much different than you see in other parts of the world. We may see more intriguing positions in start-ups as opposed to other areas of the globe based on the amount of VC funding we have available here.

LC: Europe has very welcoming attitude towards open source. This open up the market on a wide scale for lots of different and interesting types of jobs within the open source job market. There are also a lot of companies developing open source software based in Europe, which makes being here more exciting from the point of view of a developer.

PI: What skills are best achieved in terms of chances to find employment? What are paid the most?

BM: We do a fair amount of work in the Linux kernel area. There is still a severe supply shortage here in the United States with the demand that exists from corporations. We also spend time in the application space. That is very much a growing area with all the work that is being done in the mobile area in addition to the traditional work that continues. Another area that has experienced significant growth is large scale application work being done in PHP. Lastly, Ruby on Rails is being utilized by a lot of smaller/VC funded companies. Thus, there has been growth in that area as well. As far as pay rates, all of these areas have seen decent growth (10-20%+) in base salaries over the last couple of years.

LC: Kernel / near hardware developers are still really good paid jobs. When it comes to skills, I find the combination of them always more interesting than just the single one. A C/C++ developer with knowledge of assembly applying for a driver developer job is more likely to get hired than a maybe even better C/C++ developer without that knowledge applying for the same job.

PI: Is the market really dead for some skills or they can kick back like e.g. the eternal issue of Cobol mantainance[http://www.ddj.com/architect/210602491]?

BM: We only operate in the open source space, so I can not answer on some legacy based code that is out there. As far as open source based languages, most of them have had continued growth over the years. Some have experienced more dramatic growth, but they are all growing for the most part.

LC: I don’t think languages really “die” they just get used more, then less again, and then they have their 5 minutes in the spotlight and then they are back again in the background. Take Smalltalk for instance. I guess most people forgot about Smalltalk but it is a very high demanded skill by several companies, since their whole applications are being developed in it and will be for the next 10 years. The complete display system of the German train company was developed under Linux using Smalltalk as the main programming language [http://www.cincomsmalltalk.com/files/jarober/nfrStS2007andVendorReports.pdf]
and every single train, bus, or subway station display unit uses those applications on a daily base.

PI: Are certifications worth their money? If yes which ones?

BM: Yes, they are worth their money in certain circumstances. I highly encourage people to get a certification when they do not have the body of work over the years that will help them gain employment. So, the inexperienced folks get the biggest “bang for their buck” when speaking about certifications. But, even if you are an experience individual, a certification is not going to hurt you in your search for employment. The certifications that companies are most interested in in the system administration area are the Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) [http://www.redhat.com/training/rhce/courses/] and the Novell Certified Linux Engineer (NCLE) [http://www.novell.com/training/certinfo/cle/].
The main reason for the success of these two is their “hands-on” component. Outside of the system administration area, we see companies interested in Zend Certified Engineers (ZCE) [http://zend.com/certification/] for PHP professionals and MySQL certification [http://www.mysql.com/certification].

LC: In general I’d say they are worth their money. Since most developers or Administrators already have the knowledge, it’s a good reference to prove swiftly their future companies that one understands his work deeply. The LPIC [http://www.lpi.org/eng/certification] is very appreciated and we believe it is the best generic certificate available. It does not cover only one system - looking at it from a point of view of dealing with an operating system that has various distributions, it makes a lot of sense.

PI: What’s the most common mistake in compiling a CV or in a job interview?

BM: In regards to the CV, please leave off the objective. Unless you have a detailed objective that is going to really tell me something, then leave it off. This is a common mistake made in the United States. In addition to the objective, provide solid detail about your work at each company without the CV being too long. In addition to the duties at each position, make a list of accomplishments that you achieved that went above and beyond the scope of the position. In regards to job interview mistakes, there are a whole host of them. But, a critical factor is to make sure you, the candidate, interview the company as much as they interview you. You want to be yourself and make sure that there is a good fit. Do not try to be someone in the interview that you are not. Ultimately, it will not be a happy ending if they end up liking the person who is not really like you.

LC: The biggest mistake candidates make so far is that they leave out most of their skills they know, even the ones, they use most frequently. The second biggest mistake they make is that they leave out details about their work, for example additional projects they’ve been working on.

PI: What are ongoing trends and your expectations for the short/long range future?

BM: The trends here in the United States is that open source software continues to gain momentum in the marketplace. So, the future is bright in the long term. The only hiccup that could be faced in the short term is the effects of a downturn in the economy. Those have yet to play out, so we are not sure what is going to happen. But, at the moment, there is still far more demand than supply for open source professionals in the U.S., so outlook is strong.

LC: I’ve been observing a stronger demand for open source embedded systems and believe, this sector is permanently underestimated and that a lot of things will occur in the future regarding it.



Author: Fabrizio Bartoloni
Source: Punto Informatico
Licence: Creative Commons licence

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