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Old 04-22-2010
sideburn sideburn is offline
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Path to Linux / Unix Systems Administrator

Hello!

I have seen similar questions asked about how to become a system administrator. Most would say experience is more important than just getting a certificate and even a degree. However, I haven't found a good information how to build experience from a newbie to entry-level systems administrator. Do you have a recommendation of books, websites, articles and learning materials that would guide a newbie toward path to linux / unix systems administrator?

I have read FreeBSD handbook and used FreeBSD as my first "unix" experience. Then I switched to Ubuntu for my main home desktop usage. I am starting to look into OpenSolaris and Solaris docs (Solaris 10 System Administration Collection at docs.sun.com). I am even tempted to attempt to study RHCE exam but wondering if it will help me gain experience (not just to earn the certificate itself). I guess I am wandering aimlessly not sure what steps to take. However, I know I fell in love with unix / bsd / linux. :-)

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
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Old 04-22-2010
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pludi pludi is offline Forum Advisor  
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Definition of "experience":
Quote:
1 a : direct observation of or participation in events as a basis of knowledge b : the fact or state of having been affected by or gained knowledge through direct observation or participation
2 a : practical knowledge, skill, or practice derived from direct observation of or participation in events or in a particular activity b : the length of such participation <has 10 years' experience in the job>
3 a : the conscious events that make up an individual life b : the events that make up the conscious past of a community or nation or humankind generally
4 : something personally encountered, undergone, or lived through
5 : the act or process of directly perceiving events or reality
So it's not really something gained from a book. Instead, get yourself a virtual/dedicated root server, and host you own webpage. Or chat server. Build yourself a home server, intentionally break it, and then get it working again. Experiment. Maybe ask the administrators at your day job if they can show you some tricks.
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Old 04-22-2010
Celtic_Monkey Celtic_Monkey is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pludi
So it's not really something gained from a book. Instead, get yourself a virtual/dedicated root server, and host you own webpage. Or chat server. Build yourself a home server, intentionally break it, and then get it working again. Experiment. Maybe ask the administrators at your day job if they can show you some tricks.
+1 Hands On - it's the only way to learn it.
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Old 04-22-2010
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Find a mentor

It's been my experience that Unix admins tend to be fairly independent and like to figure things out for themselves. That being said, a good mentor can be a huge benefit. Do you know a Unix admin that has a rep for being a guru?
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Old 04-22-2010
rhfrommn rhfrommn is offline Forum Advisor  
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One comment I'd have is that a large fraction of the admins I know had an experience in their career where they got thrown in way over their head and they had to learn under pressure. One of my mentors worked at a large bank, and 1 month after becoming a Unix admin the senior admin quit so he ended up in charge of hundreds of workstations and servers by himself.

In my case, 1 year after getting into Unix I was hired to be the middle person of a 3 admin team for a fairly small company. There was supposed to be a very experienced admin hired for the senior position. The day I showed up they told me the senior guy got another job offer and wouldn't be joining the company. So day 1 I ended up in charge of the entire Unix environment for a new company I'd never worked at before! Not long after that, due to layoffs I ended up the only person between both Unix and Storage teams, doing the work that was handled by a team of 6 about a year earlier. It was tons of work and stress having to come up to speed that fast and handle everything on my own. But for the long range career outlook it was great. I had experience and knowledge I never would have gotten working under a more senior admin again.

So, I guess the practical advice for you is to find a way to work on Unix, even if you think it's beyond what you can do. If you truly love it and have the talent and smarts it takes you'll manage to get by and learn more than you ever could reading books. Find a part time or entry level Unix job, or volunteer at the church/school/charity of your choice to work on their Linux or Unix systems, or somthing like that. Find a way to get real world experience even if it seems intimidating at first.

Good luck.
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Old 04-22-2010
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@pludi & Celtic_Monkey: Thanks for giving me some ideas...what about lab workbooks that would give me hand-on projects?

@jhtrice: How do I find a mentor or guru? Should I seek one in my city ( San Diego, CA ) or would an online mentor/guru work?

@rhfrommn: Thanks for your insights! I noticed even part-time entry level system admin still requires some experiences. Its like egg & chicken theory. Maybe volunteer / intern work would be easier to set foot in the door. Another idea would be local user groups?
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Old 04-23-2010
rhfrommn rhfrommn is offline Forum Advisor  
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Yes, joining your local linux users group would be a good idea. The learning part is obvious, but more important might be the contacts you'd make. The chances to find an entry level position, whether volunteer or paid, would be much higher if you're associated with a group like that.
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