Linux Jobs in 2013, a Q&A with Dice's Alice Hill

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The job market for Linux professionals this year is even better than it was in 2012. Ninety-three percent of hiring managers surveyed said they plan to hire at least one Linux pro in the next six months -- up from 89 percent last year, according to the 2013 Linux Jobs Report released last week by Dice and The Linux Foundation.  And 75 percent of Linux pros surveyed say at least one recruiter has called them in the last six months in an effort to find talent for positions that are getting harder to fill.

    Alice Hill, Dice Managing DirectorDespite the report's encouraging statistics, though, navigating the Linux job market can still be tricky. So we asked Dice Managing Director Alice Hill for more insight and advice on the real world of Linux careers. Here, she answers our questions about why Linux skills are in such high demand; how other technology careers compare; the future prospects for sysAdmins and DevOps; how to get a recruiter's attention; and how to land a job as a Linux beginner.
    Q: Why is the Linux job market so hot right now? It’s even better than last year, correct?

Alice Hill: In some ways, the demand for Linux professionals mirrors what’s happening in technology right now, with companies continuing to embrace open source, cloud development and data analysis and integration. But, I was really surprised that nine out of ten companies said they would be hiring Linux professionals in 2013.  Not, that there isn’t demand --  Linux is among the top 10 most requested skills on Dice, with more than 11,000 jobs posted on any given day –  it’s just such a high-level and an improvement from last year’s already strong reading when we did the same research.

    Q: How does the Linux job market compare with other tech industries? What are some of the other hot areas of hiring in tech?

Hill: Tech professionals who are close to the application are on hiring managers’ radars – software developers, programmers, mobile developers.  Data analysts are highly sought after.  By my personal count, about four out of five tech professionals will roll their eyes if you talk about big data, but harnessing information for business gains is all companies are trying to do – roll your eyes at the marketing, not the opportunity.

    Q: Rob Reilly recently speculated that the Linux system administrator job is on the decline, but it’s still in the highest demand in this survey.  Do you expect this to be a short-term trend? Or will demand for sysadmins continue to stay strong?

Hill: The system administrator position is the perfect example of an evolving, changing role in the tech department. The results were very clear in the survey and that dovetails with the demand we see from hiring managers and recruiters looking for sys admins on Dice.  Frankly, many customers believe this role will never totally go away and there is still solid demand.  Right now, the unemployment rate for network and system administrators is 4.3 percent, well below the national average of 7.8 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  So I would sum it up this way, there are still a lot of opportunities and the market is relatively good.  But, if a systems administrator is really concerned their position will become less important to their company – make a move today – no reason to wait around. 

    Q: DevOps is new to the survey this year. Why was this job description added to the survey and what does that say about the direction the Linux job market is headed?

Hill: DevOps was added to the survey because it’s part of the answer to those who say system administrators’ jobs will go away.  This role is a skill super-coupling that combines development and operations disciplines and we see strong demand for this talent.    

Basically, companies want their products to be the first one to the finish line and an agile environment should shrink development time and save money. It’s a tough role, because you have to combine excellence in two disciplines, keep open and clear communication, and thrive in a fast paced environment.  I did see a job posting the other day that asked for a DevOps Engineer, with at least ten years of experience.  Really?  The discipline hasn’t been around that long.  Companies can’t search for the purple squirrel, they have to keep an open mind and it’s a way for Linux systems administrators to think about their future.  

    Q: 75 percent of professionals surveyed are being hounded by recruiters. What if you’re not one of them, but you want to be? What can Linux professionals do to improve their prospects for getting hired or advancing their careers?

Hill: A big part of being found is putting your best self forward - definitely do a resume check.  Are you showing how you impacted your company or just listing your skill set? Does something as simple as your title make sense? There is a lot of help on Dice.com around resumes and you should post that resume, a lot of positions are never advertised.  That’s the behind the scenes recruiting, but you also need a professional online persona – contributing on sites like Stack Overflow, SourceForge or Github – sets you apart as someone who is passionate about their discipline. There are new recruiting tools, like Open Web, pulling that information together for hiring managers to get a complete picture of tech candidates. Finally, I know not every recruiter is the best at matching their position to a particular individual, but there is no reason not to be helpful if you can offer a referral.  

    Q: Hiring managers tend to favor prospects with more than three years of experience. What does the market look like for less experienced job seekers such as recent college graduates? What kinds of jobs can those who are new to Linux expect to land?

Hill: Most entry-level recruiting happens before a tech professional has left school and in large firms college recruiting can be a completely different set of human resources professionals, so new tech professionals should make sure they are sending their resume to the right group.   Part of early career management is sharing new ideas when an established background isn’t quite there. Companies are eager for a fresh view and new talent is capable of providing it – do that in an interview, not in an arrogant way, but in a way that shows engagement and interest in what the company is doing and are going to be able to contribute straight away.   Otherwise, think start-ups.  We see a very specific pattern, those who work at start-ups either tend to be new to the market or very experienced.  At the right shop,  tech professionals will get the wisdom of experience and the thrill of big contributions to a small company.