Linux Academy student Jorge Aburto, Bilingual Linux Technical Analyst at cPanel, started his IT career with no Linux experience, and today he holds the RHCE certification! Check out his interview below to find out how he’s come so far in his career.
Hey Jorge! Thank you for taking the time to talk with me and share your journey to the RHCE. Let’s start by talking a little bit about your background and how you got into the Linux world!
I didn’t actually tinker, or mess with my first computer until I was in college. I got a rough start to that one LOL. It was a hand-me-down computer, so it required a lot of love and attention to keep it working for my school needs. That got me into realizing that this is what I actually like, I like figuring out issues and solving issues on systems. At that time it was a Windows system, so I got into that, and I did that for about 8-10 years, went from tinkering on my own computers, building my own computers, to helping other people, and then I started freelancing as an IT consultant. Then I hit a plateau where a lot of the issues that I would run into at small businesses with their Windows servers or things like that, it was me identifying the problem and then having to go to the vendor of that software… so like Windows or if they were using some other proprietary software. I didn’t really like that – that I wasn’t the one that could have the end resolution
I would keep hearing about Linux, but every time I would look into it, it would just look like hieroglyphics to me. Then I started going to a few meet and greets and Linux groups around town, and they told me to install Ubuntu or CentOS and said they could give me a guide on it and I could just do whatever I want, and if it breaks to just take off that mount and then reflash it and start all over again. That’s kind of how I got started in Linux, and I saw that it was a lot more open in the sense of there’s less restrictions than Windows. I like having the option of being able to fix issues myself. In a span of like 3 years, I have learned quite a bit thanks to the courses that y’all have!
That’s really cool! So once you started familiarizing yourself with Linux, how did you hear about Linux Academy?
It was just research on my own really. I was trying to see after the first six months of getting good at a web hosting position, I went into trying to find resources at how to learn more advanced topics on Linux, with the end result of me wanting to be a Systems Administrator at some point. I went through Youtube, there’s a great guy that teaches on there. His videos are a bit dated, so I don’t know if they’re still applicable. It’s a channel called Urban Penguin. That was my first intro into an actual outline on learning segments for the LPIC, but it wasn’t really holding my attention. I didn’t feel like it was for me. Then I went into Udemy, got a few courses there. That was a bit better, then I also tried EDX courses. But the biggest thing I found in the other ones that I kept using was that there was nothing to really keep me motivated to keep coming back. With Linux Academy, whenever I found out about it, it was through a random comment on somebody’s Udemy course that they were like, “This is almost exactly like the course in Linux Academy, except they give you all these resources to practice like they will give you cloud servers to test and everything,” and I was like “Ok let me go look at that.” I saw the course schedule, the outlines, the guides, the downloads, the labs, the servers… I thought “Oh, I could definitely make use of this.”
What was it like during your studies? What course did you start with on LA and how much time did you dedicate to studying?
The first one was the first test for the LPIC-1. I was thinking of taking the Linux Essentials, but I had already been using Linux for almost eight months at that point in the job I was in, so I thought if my financial impediments are going to be a bit of an issue, I might as well go for the ones that are going to look better on a resume than to start at the very beginning. So I went straight into the LPIC-1. I redid both of the courses twice, the first course for the LPIC and the second course for the second test of the LPIC-1, and mainly that’s how I like to make sure I’m retaining what I think I’m learning. I go through the whole course and then do the labs, quizzes, and practice on my own and have my own notes, and then once I feel ready just go through the course again and see if I get stuck on anything. If I breeze through it because I know the content, then I know I’m ready to take the test. I want to say it was a span of about five or six months to take both tests and get certified.
After the exams, I took a breather for a few weeks. After I got those certs, at the web hosting company I worked for, I got on certain people’s radar. They wanted to test me to see if I was ready to be promoted, then I got that position and had to get good at that position and catch up. Then I jumped into the RHCSA course.
Congratulations on the promotion! So, what was it like going into the RHCSA after taking the LPIC-1? Was the material harder to grasp, was there a bit of a learning curve?
I wouldn’t say it was harder, more so in the sense that I wouldn’t say I’m a glutton for punishment, but I just hadn’t been exposed to it. But once you look into it, you realize it’s written in a technical format and uses common sense, Once you learn the basics of how these commands work, you can pretty much understand it. When I first saw the commands it was like another language, but now that I know what they actually mean, it’s just learning a whole new language I’d say. But yeah, that test, in particular, took me about six or seven months, because of time constraints and because I knew that one would be a live test environment. Any objective that came up, any content that was covered in the Linux Academy course, and I was also using the Red Hat book from Michael Yang, anything that would come up in either the book or course, I would take the steps it said to take and then I would intentionally break or perform the wrong step every step of the way, like continuously go back over and over to then see what that error looks like. So if I were to skip that step during the test, I’d know what that error is pointing me to. It was a whole lot of trial and error, just forcibly making errors that I knew I was making, so then whenever I saw the error I knew to connect the dots.
That’s a really smart approach to take. So you passed the RHCSA, and then last month you passed the RHCE, congrats! You mentioned in your community accomplishment post that the number of things to be completed in the 3.5-hour exam is daunting. How did that exam go?
That one was uh… LOL… I went in the first time, I actually had to to do a retake, but that is the happiest feeling I’ve ever had for failing a test. I forgot one thing that is mentioned in the test description, that there’s a possibility that there will be objectives from the RHCSA in the RHCE during the test. I overlooked that bullet point, so I still got to see the whole test, and I saw all the questions that actually mattered for the RHCE, and I looked through all of them thinking I was gonna pass it, then I started the test and I couldn’t actually start because I got to a certain point (I can’t go into much detail) and there was something that came up where since that didn’t work, I couldn’t do 2/3 of the test. Then I just kept poking at it to try to figure out what I overlooked, and I figured it out with like 45 minutes left, and I just left. Told them I’d be back in about a week! I took it again and reviewed what would make sense to show up in the RHCE from the RHCSA, and that time I went in knowing I was gonna pass! Once I got the RHCSA, the same that thing happened that happened after the LPIC; the company I worked for wanted to see if I was ready to be promoted again.
You also mentioned in your post that the LA courses gave you a structured path to learn everything, practice labs, videos to view the outcome and process. Were there any other features that you found especially beneficial during your studies?
The course scheduling and the material being broken down into sections was nice. I could finish a section and then go back and review my notes while looking at the videos again to see if maybe I missed something. I used the study guides as well, but sometimes there’s a little bit more information that gets added into the videos themselves. But I cling onto it and make my own notes to research that and see what they meant, and just keep going from there to make sure I’m exposed to everything and not leaving anything behind. Oh, and the cloud servers! The only way I really learn is by practicing. I can read something multiple times, but until I actually see it and do it myself, it doesn’t really register long term.
I like the course schedule because I would get the emails to remind me like “Hey, you have all these videos you have to go through.” It was like I actually had somebody there telling me like “Dude, remember you’re trying to get these certs so you can expand your career”.
Is there anything that you wish you would have known when starting out?
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to get into Linux. You could start with zero experience with anything terminal related and it’s very forgiving, to say the least. You can learn at your own pace, or have a set goal in mind like I do, where you get the certifications. Initially, it was to be a Systems Admin, but now I want to get into DevOps!
Is that what’s next for you – digging into DevOps?
Yeah, because the same thing happened at this company, once I got the RHCE they said, “We don’t have any System Admin positions open, but we are looking for a Site Reliability Engineer, so go ahead and apply for that one and these are the things you need to know for that position.” One of the things is Puppet, so I’m almost done with that course now too!
That’s so exciting! What advice would you give to a new Linux Academy student?
Use everything that’s available. There’s a lot that’s available at this point. There’s been a lot more content rolled out than when I first started. The community, the study groups, flashcards, study guides, the course schedule if you need to have some sort of structured learning. For me, I can’t keep track of it myself. If I don’t get a reminder, I’ll put it off a little bit later and realize I lost a whole day and didn’t study what I needed to study. The big thing for me was the course scheduling, but there’s a lot of tools available to learn. You also have the servers, so access to a sandbox environment to practice with, that’s already taken care of for you. I mean, you have six servers you can play around with and if something really goes wrong, you just destroy it and then remake it. And within 15 minutes you’re back to being online with whatever you’re practicing, which I did a few times, so I know it’s about 15 minutes LOL.
Is there anything that you’d do differently looking back?
Yeah, I wouldn’t have waited so long between the RHCSA and the RHCE. Outside of that, every tool that is available through Linux Academy is actually beneficial. There are other learning platforms that I’ve used in the past where they will give you like practice tests or things like that, not for any certification just to see if you know the material, but I’m not a fan of that, because at what point are you actually learning and at what point are you just memorizing answers to questions.
Were there any hurdles or challenges you faced or overcame when you were studying?
Just the burnout. That is a real thing. If you’re constantly learning, like every time I started studying one of the courses for the certifications, all of my free available time outside of work was to practice and to study. So at work I was doing like ten, sometimes even twelve hours, of dealing with web hosting servers, issues and things like that. It was nonstop except for my lunch break, and then I’d get home and go to sleep and then go right back to work because after that long of a shift you really don’t want to do anything but eat and sleep. But yeah, the burnout comes because I didn’t actually de-stress at any point. I still just push through it, but I know eventually I’ll hit a hurdle with burnout during one of the courses and I’ll just pause the course schedule when I notice that I’m not actually learning at this point. I’m just going through the motions to get to the next point of the course. But yeah, step away from things every now and then to de-stress.
That’s some great advice. So what are your future goals, future plans?
Well, right now I really love the company where I’m working at. I’ve worked at quite a few companies, and with all of them it has always felt like you could be let go for any reason. Like, you’re in a position where it would cost less to replace you than to correct anything you’re falling short on. This is the first time I’ve been in a company where you actually feel like an individual and not a number. It wasn’t until I got that very last position I was promoted to, where I felt like they’re really motivating you and asking how you learned something and want you to share what you’re learning, and help your colleagues. They told me if I get the Puppet certification to apply for the SRE position (the Site Reliability Engineer position) and see what happens from there. That is a difficult position and a lot of responsibility. The position I’m in, I like it. It’s nice and all, but I didn’t get all these certs to not make use of them. And, so eventually I have to make the decision of there’s a lot of money I’m leaving on the table that I’m not attempting to get at this point. Like, I need to make use of this. Being happy is one thing, but financial stability is a far greater thing. All of these certs are investments, really, because they all cost money, so you can’t just take them and let them expire because they do have time frames on them.
Right, and you invest all that time learning and taking exams, and that’s a lot of time you’ve spent.
Yeah, at this point it’s been a year and a half of studying strictly for certs to extend my knowledge to try to get one of those positions.
You definitely don’t want to feel like you’ve wasted all of that time. Do you have any last pieces of advice or anything else you want to share with us?
Don’t get hung up on making mistakes. Mistakes are the best way I’ve learned thus far. Whether it be I intentionally broke something just to see how it would break, or if I thought I did something correctly and then it didn’t work, yeah that will stick with you, because then you see the error and you know exactly what it is. Really, that was my whole approach, to intentionally make mistakes during the courses through the exercises, because it’s better if you make the mistake in a test environment than to make that mistake in a production environment. Then there are real consequences. I was like “Let me learn all the ways to mess things up so I know not to do any of these in the future.”
But, yeah just keep posting in the community. That was one of my biggest motivations over any other learning services that are out there, is seeing those posts of people getting their certifications or in the study groups asking for help, or seeing that somebody else has the exact same problem that you ran into and seeing how they worked through it, it is actually motivating in the sense that it does feel like you’re not alone. Any of the other learning services I’ve used, it’s like there’s the course material and that’s it. You Google for help on things, Google is great for many things, but trying to learn in a structured course, you don’t really get that kind of result. The community has been one of my biggest motivations, and I got like five people into Linux Academy!
That’s awesome, Jorge! Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us, and best of luck on the Puppet certs and that SRE position you’re applying for!