Instructor Jason Cannon on what it takes to be a Linux pro


Last week, we shared thoughts from instructor Chris Bryant on earning Cisco certification. Today, we’ve got Jason Cannon, the instructor behind “Learn Linux in 5 Days and Level Up Your Career,” which boasts nearly 29,000 students. Jason’s 10 other courses explore various aspects of Linux programming in his same helpful style. He shared more tips for building a Linux career in our email Q&A.

How did you become a Linux expert and what advice do you have for those starting out?
I’ve used Linux on my personal computers since as early as 1995 or 1996 and started working with Linux professionally in 1999. I was immediately drawn to Linux. It was love at first sight for me. The Linux design and philosophy made total sense to me, and I wanted to learn everything I could about it. I started using Linux daily and set out to get a job using Linux. Since then I’ve used Linux in almost every type of situation imaginable: at large well-known corporations, at small privately owned companies, at a startup, at a security firm, at an airline, and at a university supporting researchers. I’ve run Linux on hardware, in virtual machines, in containers, and in the cloud. I’ve done so many things with Linux it’s hard to list them all. Along the way I’ve written a few books and taught a few courses on the subject. Do that for 17+ years, and you’re called an “expert.” 🙂

My advice to those who are starting out is to use your time wisely. I see so many people wasting precious time searching for free videos and reading random blog posts trying to cobble together their own Linux curriculum. The result is usually hours, days, or even months spent learning unrelated bits and pieces with no clear structure and no real progress to show for their work. I highly recommend taking a course that uses a logical and systematic approach so you learn things in an order that makes sense. This way you can build upon your knowledge.

Another common mistake is spending a lot of time trying to find the “perfect” Linux distribution and worrying about the choice. It’s way more important that you just start learning Linux. Linux is Linux at the core, and the concepts you learn when starting out apply to every Linux distribution. Pick one and get started!

Are there any traits that seem to set people up for success as Linux professionals?
In order to be successful as a Linux professional you have to be very good with details. Forgetting to use a comma or misplacing a colon in a configuration file can render a Linux system unusable. I don’t say that to scare anyone but just to highlight how import attention to detail is when you’re working with Linux.

Another trait of a good Linux professional is having the ability to troubleshoot problems, which takes logic and critical thinking skills. Many times you’ll be playing the role of technology detective. Troubleshooting also goes hand-in-hand with attention to detail. When a system experiences a problem, you’ll need to comb through logs and look at configuration files, sometimes one character at a time, until you spot the issue.

What’s the hardest part of learning Linux? Any advice for getting past this?
Letting go of preconceived notions and expecting Linux to act like Windows or Mac.

Where do you see this field growing in the next 1-5 years? What will professionals need to do to stay marketable in this field?
I don’t see the growth of Linux slowing any time soon. Its adoption has been steadily increasing, and it’s practically the de facto standard OS for new enterprise and web-based applications. My advice to professionals is to pick an aspect or use of Linux that interests them the most and make that their specialty. Just a few examples include cloud computing, containerization, networking, security, monitoring, automation, configuration management, scripting, programmable infrastructure, and DevOps.