This feature first appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.
The technology industry is changing fast. The days of vendor lock-in and proprietary software being king are getting further and further behind us. Today, IT is all about interoperability and open source software. We are seeing this across the industry, from Microsoft's support for Linux on Azure, to the networking industry's embrace of software-defined networking.
These changes mean career paths are also evolving, with demand growing rapidly for open source skills. Open source software development has changed from a community endeavor carried out by volunteers to a development model embraced across the IT industry.
Companies up and down the technology stack are embracing collaborative development as a way to create more and better code, more quickly and affordably. This means they need qualified open source professionals to fill an expanding number of roles.
The 2016 Open Source Jobs Report, produced by The Linux Foundation and employment facilitator Dice, found that 65 percent of hiring managers are increasing their hiring of open source professionals more than other areas of their business. At the same time, 87 percent of these hiring managers said they have difficulty finding qualified open source talent to fill critical job roles.
These numbers represent a fantastic opportunity for anyone considering a career in open source technology, including those already experienced in proprietary technologies. There has been increasing demand for individuals with existing skills and experience to expand their expertise with knowledge of open source, as many of these technologies incorporate open source components.
Find a focus
As open source development is becoming prevalent in all areas of technology, it is important for new and aspiring open source professionals to consider where they want to place their focus. The Open Source Jobs Report found the most in-demand open source skills are in cloud technologies, including popular open source projects OpenStack and Cloud Foundry.
This, coupled with the fact that, according to The Cloud Market, more than nine out of 10 Amazon Web Services clouds are running Linux, means learning about open source cloud technologies is a great way to jump-start an open source career.
The next most in-demand open source skill identified by hiring managers in the Open Source Jobs Report is networking. While networking was one of the last technology industries to embrace open source, it is now one of the fastest growing areas. With technologies such as software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV) being rapidly adopted, more open source networking talent will increasingly be needed.
Cloud and networking technologies may offer the most in-demand open source jobs, but there are many other paths for those passionate about security, containers, and more. For those just getting started, who may be unsure about the best path for them, a great place to start is with a more general training course, such as the free Intro to Linux course offered on the edX platform.
Since so many open source technologies are based off of, or work directly with Linux, it is good to have a foundation in its operation. edX and The Linux Foundation offer a variety of other free courses, including cloud technologies and DevOps, which can be taken as follow-ons.
Once you have settled on an open source focus — whether cloud, networking, security, general Linux system administration or something else — the best way to set yourself up to be hired is to be able to demonstrate the required knowledge and abilities. Taking additional training courses that provide a certificate of completion is a great start, not only to actually acquiring the necessary skills, but being able to show them off.
What can set a candidate even further apart from competitors for an open source job, however, is formal certifications. A certification from a reputable organization clearly demonstrates to potential employers that a candidate has the skills necessary to be successful in the role being filled. The Open Source Jobs Report found 76 percent of open source professionals feel certifications are useful for their career.
Over half of hiring managers prioritize potential hires with formal open source training, and 44 percent stated that candidates with certifications are most likely to be hired. Hiring managers appreciate that certifications help them to stretch their resources by enabling them to spend less time confirming a candidate possesses necessary technical skills, and instead focus on if they are a good fit for the specific role.
It is important that certification exams not only test knowledge, but also performance. For open source software certifications, this means test takers should be asked to perform real-world functions in a realistic virtualized environment. This type of exam gives hiring managers confidence that the applicant truly has the necessary skills to fulfill the role.
Of course, this means that when preparing for a certification exam, aspiring certificants must not only read and study the technology they are pursuing, but have hands-on experience with it. Training courses that incorporate labs where real world tasks and problems are presented in a realistic environment are an ideal way to prepare for this.
The ecosystem for open source certifications has continued to grow in light of demand from both professionals and employers. Today, certifications are offered in Linux system administration, Linux engineering, specific Linux distributions such as Red Hat, OpenStack, and more.
This year alone, new certifications are expected to launch for Kubernetes, Node.js, and many other open source projects. As the range of available certifications expands, and the number of certification holders grows, it will become even more incumbent upon job seekers to obtain certifications to go after the most competitive roles.
The time is now
Open source is no longer the future — it is simply the way software is built and run today. The benefits companies and organizations are realizing from collaborative development are far too positive for this to change. We will only see open source continue to be the dominant means of creating and managing technology.
The opportunities for open source professionals are immense, and are only going to increase. Now is the time to take advantage of the many training and certification options available to secure a secure, lucrative career for today and tomorrow.
Note: The Linux Foundation offers a range of training and certification opportunities, in open source technologies ranging from Linux and the cloud to security and containers. Learn more about them at training.linuxfoundation.org.