Would it surprise you to discover that Linux administrative and support employees have created barriers to entry for others with similar talents? What if I told you that a difficult job climate has emerged because of your Linux buddies? Would you believe it?
Get a grip because that’s something with which you may have to deal if you attempt to change jobs or enter the market. Recruiters tell me that “Linux guys” take job offers from predominantly Microsoft shops, go through training and within an average of three months leave their employers hanging. That means having Linux credentials could work against you. Technologists with Linux on their resumes might find something akin to age or gender discrimination when they start applying for work.
That’s a shame, because plenty of excellent technologists suffer from the antics of a few. I personally don’t care what platform on which someone employs me to work. I’ll optimize Active Directory and safeguard an Exchange Server when asked. If that’s what the company uses, then that’s what I’ll give them.
I also know plenty of people with the same feelings. In fact, one of the more ardent Linux trained system administrators I know works in an all Microsoft shop. He also gets a fair share of assignments doing technical reviews for Linux books in spite of his day job.
I also know the leader of one of the larger Linux User Groups in the US who spends his days working in a Microsoft shop. He doesn’t go off in a rage if someone won’t listen to one of his proposed solutions using Linux instead of Microsoft. I like him because he’s a diplomat and doesn’t endanger others.
I know you don’t want to hear this but the warnings from publications like “Information Week” about this issue fall closer to home than you may want to admit. Aside from creating barriers to entry for job candidates, IT managers have started shunning Linux and Open Source solutions because of the people issues. So, Linux and open source adoption may suffer as well.
While the mention of Linux is starting to make the hair rise on the necks of many recruiters and IT managers, Open Solaris fanatics have similar problems. In its attempt to retake their market from Red Hat, Sun has spawned a new breed of crazy people too. Hiring managers in turn have started losing their objectivity toward Sun. I’m starting to see migrations from Sun to Microsoft I never thought possible.
What’s the Problem?
The lack of a pragmatic approach to the job market and clear thinking lies at the core of this issue. Windows fanatics appear to get away with their pranks because Microsoft dominates the market. That makes them invisible to managers already enamored with Microsoft’s usability. The same managers will turn a blind eye to the technical advantages of Linux, for example, because of an unwitting perception of Linux fanatics who color the water for everyone.
Define a Pragmatic Approach
In ordinary use, pragmatism refers to behavior, which sets aside an ideal to achieve some specific current or urgent need. If you ever studied Maslow’s scale of needs, then you understand the approach. Advocating free software, while an admirable endeavor, doesn’t usually pay the bills, feed the kids or get you to work in a new automobile. In the common sense survival hierarchy, fanatic ideals fall way short of the basics required of people meeting their primary responsibilities.
Throughout history, vocal minorities have brought about societal change. But what about the rest of the people? While the masses may benefit from the sacrifices of a few brave men and/or women in the long run, those same masses are often quite busily engaged in seeing that their children have something to eat and a roof other their heads.
Fanatics in the IT Industry
For some reason, it doesn’t seem logical to me that an operating system should generate religious fervor. History shows us otherwise. It shows us that people using different computer systems for some reason engage in irrational behavior toward each other as if a holy war actually existed.
Regardless of the history it still makes no sense to me. When someone I’m paid to support needs me to fix their email account what difference does it make if they use Outlook or Evolution? In business process engineering terms, where’s the value add from a preference for Linux, Mac OS X, Solaris or Windows? The client wants his or her email to work; it’s a closed issue.
Fanatics are characterized by excessive enthusiasm for and intense devotion to a cause or idea and are often motivated irrationally. And while quite eloquent at times, fanatics in the IT industry are unnecessary when you think about the other issues on this planet such as starvation, HIV, war mongering, etc. at this time.
In other words, while you may have the means to wreak havoc on the commercial market, your reforms may not benefit mankind as a whole. In fact, the masses probably could care less about your arguments and positions about free versus proprietary software regardless of which side of the fence you’re on.
Potential for a Failed Experiment
While I do not personally believe Linux will go away, I said the same thing about Netware once. When IBM controlled 90% of the PC hardware market, no one believed they would ever lose that business completely. But they have. If Linux fanatics continue to muddy the waters for recruiters and hiring managers, the grand experiment could fail like others before it.
The Linux project demonstrated to the world that a global collaboration of computer engineers and technologists could create a highly functional operating system for free. The concept of collaboration and community has since spread into other industries and has given a lift to countries otherwise bereft of computer resources.
So regardless of the success or failure of the Linux operating system, we have gained from its rich heritage. That in itself could wind up as the legacy of Linux. Who really knows? Are Local Area networks the historical legacy of Netware or a computer in every home the legacy of the IBM PC Company? The possibility exists.
Time for Ordinary Pragmatism in the Job Market
I began this little essay asking a question. Would it surprise you to discover that Linux administrative and support employees had started creating barriers to entry for others with similar talents? It surprises me because I had not realized the degree to which Linux fanatics had infected the market for jobs. But, they have infected the market and you should feel concern if you chose a Linux career path.
As for me, I consider myself a technologist. I’m dazzled by Linux. Does that mean I’ll demand that people only use Linux and shun other operating systems or development environments? No. The only people I’m shunning these days simply don’t know how to keep their mouths shut and their obsessive opinions to themselves.