Turning a Hobby into a Career

Posted on December 18, 2018 by MollisonNorwoodMollisonNorwood

Linux Academy student Christof P., a Linux system engineer, landed a Linux engineer role after working in an Oracle role for 20 years! Find out more about his journey and why he made this transition below.

Hey, Christof! Thanks for taking the time to share your story with the LA community. Tell us a bit about your journey leading up to finding Linux Academy.

I started playing with computers very early on before I was 10 years old. In the beginning, I was only playing games, but after some time I was also doing some basic programming on it. Actually, I was very lucky that my dad was interested in computers too — he bought a new computer every few years, so I could keep learning to work with these new systems.

I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in IT, and I just rolled into the job of Oracle development, which I was doing for the last 20 years. A family member told me about a job in the company where he was working, and I took the job because I was just happy I got a job. I was just coming from school, so I didn’t really think about what I wanted to do professionally, so, for me, I was just happy I could start in IT. I did that for about 20 years, 19 years and a bit, and I was working in IT all the time. I was on the road a lot. After a while, you get used to it, but the new job I took is an internal job — I do internal IT — so I always can drive to the same location. I don’t have to commute so far to that location, then the next, because with consultancy, you never know where you’re going to be placed. My last project was actually for the European Council. I was there for five years, and it was a very big step for me to switch to another position because it’s a completely different world.

A few years before I started working, around 1996, I actually started playing with Linux when it was not so known yet by the public, because I like tinkering with stuff on the computer, like operating systems and stuff like that. I kept using Linux when I was working as an Oracle consultant, but not on the job. When I got home, I started playing with Linux — it was only more for server things, like setting up a network, setting up file servers, or things like that. Not on a desktop, because back then, in my opinion, Linux was not ready for a desktop — it was very, very, very basic still. I kept using Linux during all these years, and in 2015 I was planning to buy a new desktop and was wondering what the state of Linux was on the desktop at that time. So, I downloaded the latest version of Ubuntu or something, and I installed it and was very surprised it was a nice operating system to work with and not the things I was used to working with in the old days. That was actually what gave a bit of spark to me to really start working with Linux on the desktop — I also threw Windows out — so I was really convinced it was something I could work with as a daily driver.

So, I did a dive a bit deeper into Linux than I did before, and because I started playing with Linux so much, my current job seemed more and more boring to me because I was getting more and more interested in new technology about Linux and noticing problems with the Oracle world — (e.g.,) tools we use are tools we used 10 years ago, so the tools are really old and you don’t learn a lot of new things anymore. I actually started wondering if it wouldn’t be possible to do Linux professionally.

The transition from Oracle to Linux was a very big transition for me. As both roles had nothing to do with each other, it’s like a completely different world. I was using Linux for a long time already at home, but I didn’t know the knowledge I gathered over more than 20 years was actually taking me so far already. When I was playing around a bit, I was actually doing professional things on a very small scale without knowing it, because I didn’t know what tools were used in the professional world. So, I still learned a lot, so I don’t say I knew a lot about Linux yet, but I still learned a lot taking the LPIC-1 course on Linux Academy. Afterward, I saw I already had a good foundation to build on.

You mentioned in your community post that you heard about Linux Academy through Jupiter Broadcasting. How did that come about?

At the end of 2015, I discovered podcasting as a way to kill time when driving to and from work. I was sick of listening to the radio all the time — always the same music and games on the radio — I was kind of getting bored! I discovered podcasting and, after a while, I also discovered the Jupiter Broadcasting Network. While listening to that with Chris Fisher, I heard him announce Linux Academy was a sponsor. I heard him repeat it every show, and I thought, “I have to take a look at it because maybe it’s a good opportunity to learn more about Linux.” I didn’t really have the intention of getting a Linux job at that time, actually, but it was fun to me, and I learned a lot from the podcasting scene. Right now, I’m listening to almost 10 different podcasts to kill time — my current job isn’t so close to home, it’s a bit closer, but there are big traffic jams.

What made you choose Linux Academy over other learning platforms?

When I logged on to Linux Academy for the first time, I hadn’t used another platform, but I used to use the O’Reilly Safari Groups. But a while after I used Linux Academy, I started using Pluralsight too because my employer gave me an account. After a while, when I was comparing it to the other two platforms, I got the impression that on the other two platforms you’re more like just a customer paying for a service and that’s it. You have no feeling, and there’s no face to the company. With Linux Academy, it’s completely the opposite — every week there’s more YouTube videos and the boss giving a weekly update. There’s a face to Linux Academy — it’s more of a personal approach instead of a business approach. So many services don’t even announce new courses — and at Linux Academy, new courses are launched all the time, and the problem is I don’t have enough time.

A very interesting thing is the price is stable. I got the service in 2016, and I contacted Linux Academy because I saw the next billing period and my price stayed the same. I got an email saying it’s a lifetime price, and I’m thinking, “Okay, I’m never quitting this subscription.”

What certifications have you gotten, and what was it like during your studies?

The certs I got are the Linux Essentials (got that first) and the LPIC-1. I only got two Linux certs. Concerning the time it took, actually, for me I wasn’t advancing so fast. It was more because I didn’t have a lot of time. But I was very passionate to learn new stuff. I couldn’t really consider it as studying or it being hard to study for something, and I didn’t have an end goal and didn’t have to complete my certs at a certain time. I just enjoyed the experience of learning new stuff as I moved on in the course material.

The way I studied was actually by taking notes all the time. I was just stopping and starting the course all the time to finish my notes. So, when I did 30 minutes, it was sometimes only 10 minutes of the course — I wasn’t advancing so fast, but it didn’t matter.

I would study 30 mins to an hour a day — most of the time it was just after lunch at work, so in the morning I was looking forward to lunch so I could start and learn a bit. The last project I was doing wasn’t so busy anymore and luckily it gave me time to learn new things.

The first cert I took was the Linux Essentials — it was on a computer and it wasn’t that difficult actually. The two other exams were LPIC-1 101 and LPIC-1 102 — which I did later that year — and were a bit more difficult. I did both exams at a conference. I enjoyed going to these open source conferences. Those two exams — and I didn’t expect it — were paper-based. We came into the room, and there were only papers and pencils, and I thought, “Oh no, that reminds me too much of school.” I reserved my place for taking the two exams on the same day. I won’t do that again — two exams on the same day is a bit too much. Luckily, I passed both exams. I’m living in Belgium, and I went to Germany to do the exams. I only live 60 kilometers from the German border — that’s why I go to conferences in Germany because they’re a bit more interesting than in Belgium, I think. Germany is more like a Linux country, and Belgium is more like a Microsoft country.

I think you get, like, 90 minutes for a certification exam, and I took the maximum time. I was sitting until the last person. The problem was you could choose between languages, and all the other students chose German, but Dutch wasn’t available, so I had to choose English. I understand English, but it’s always a bit slower than your own language to understand. There are always little things in those questions, like words being turned around in a certain way, and the answer can be pretty difficult to find. So I won’t do it again. I will take other exams, but not two in one day and not at a conference.

Were there any Linux Academy features you found especially beneficial during your studies?

I put them in order of importance to me. The most important thing was the last section of each exam: the final quiz. I noticed that on other platforms, like Pluralsight, you only have the course itself. They send you a link to another website, or sometimes you don’t have a test to see if you know all the course material. The problem is that you could do all the course material, but do you really know it? I was paying for the exam out of my own pocket. It wasn’t so much because it was at a conference, but you want to know that you know your stuff. The second thing was the study guide. It was a very good thing to review all the knowledge. I noticed in the study guide there were extra things that weren’t mentioned in the course. The third thing was flash cards. In my opinion, they were very useful because there was no need to log in to Linux Academy from my computer. I could open the app from my mobile phone and study flashcards that way.

Is there anything you wish you would have known when you started your journey?

I wish I had known about Linux Academy earlier. Before I knew about Linux Academy, I thought it was too expensive for me to pay for courses — especially for exam preps, because I was coming from the Oracle world, and back then there wasn’t anything like Linux Academy. To take official prep courses, you pay 2,000-3,ooo euros. I was surprised there was a solution I myself could pay without having to consult a company to pay it for me.

Looking back, is there anything you’d do differently?

Try to get a Linux job much sooner. I always thought it was much harder to jump to a Linux job, but afterward, I noticed that by using services like Linux Academy, it’s possible.

What advice would you give to a new Linux Academy student?

Something I noticed actually after I got the job is, if you want to get a Linux job, just show the employer during the interview that you’re prepared to learn new things. I personally think the best proof to learn new things is to get a certification. I think it’a great way to show the employer you’ve already invested a lot of time in learning new stuff about Linux and you are prepared to learn a lot more when they ask you to. Also, take the time to play a lot with Linux at home. I think it also contributed to me getting hired. When the employer was talking in my interview, he started talking about technologies, and I could respond with what I used at home. I think when you can say things like that — that you’re familiar with a technology or a tool, even at a small scale — it’s a very positive thing to be able to tell at a job interview.

What’s next for you?

First, I want to get up to speed with the basic things they’re doing at the new job, because they’re expecting that from me. After that, I want to specialize myself a bit in MySQL, because I have a database background, and that’s one of the reasons they hired me. And just become a valuable asset of the team. Another thing they’re implementing is Azure, so Linux Academy will come in handy! I already took Azure Concepts, but that’s only introductory. I plan on taking Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions exam prep — not sure if I’m going to take the exam yet. When I gain all the knowledge that’s needed for my current job, I want to do the things I personally like to learn about. I already got the LPIC-1 exam. I was planning to do the LPIC-2 exam before I got the job, so that’s put on hold now, but I also think the SysOp Guide to Scripting on Linux Academy is a bit interesting, and the last course I’d like to take is the Certified Ethical Hacker course, which is very new. It seems like a cool course, and it’s for my free time! I hope to take the Red Hat Certified Administrator exam — I’m not sure if I’ll be able to, but I already took the course. When I finished the course, just before I finished, I gave my resignation to my other employer — otherwise, they would have paid me to take the exam.

At least you’ve already taken the course, so you have that knowledge!

That’s why I take notes, too, so I can use them to put in my own Wiki system and search for things. Otherwise, it’s not very useful to take the course when you don’t take many notes.

Do you have any suggestions for Linux Academy, or are there any courses you would like to see?

I suggested networking courses a while back. But they mentioned you’re not doing that anytime soon and I understand — it’s a completely new branch you have to hire people for. It may be easy to hire new people, but you have to start up a completely new branch in Linux Academy to do things like that. Something else I’m missing is more database things, like MySQL. I think there are videos, but not a dedicated course to that.

Any final thoughts you’d like to share?

Doing things you like is more important than the money. Now I’m chasing my dreams and, finally, I could do it! At this point, I don’t even consider my job to be work — it was something I was doing as my hobby for the last 20 years. It makes a big difference.

Thank you for telling us about your journey, Christof! We are so proud to have you as part of the Linux Academy family, and best of luck in the new job!

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