I’ve been working for almost 6 years as a Linux Systems Administrator for a small technology services company based out of Philadelphia. What drew me to this job initially was their dedication to Open Source (particularly Debian) and the opportunity I’d have with them to not only grow my career as a Systems Administrator, but to work on Debian packages as a paid part of my role there.
Over the summer I came to the realization that it was time to move on. As much as I enjoy my job and the flexibility I was allowed to pursue my Open Source work, my role has become the most senior possible in the company and I have grown to handle a lot of company operations and management tasks. What I really want career-wise is to leverage my growing Systems Administrator skill set in a position that would allow me to tackle larger systems and solve more challenging problems. In August I approached the owner of the company to explain my intention to seek new opportunities and we’ve worked together to develop a transition plan to make sure my role could be sufficiently covered when I left. With this plan in place, I began my job search.
Now, there are no shortage of Linux Systems Administrator jobs here in San Francisco and I’ve had some great interviews with some interesting companies. I’ve spoken with a couple of start-ups who hoped to bring me on board to take over key portions of operations, but it quickly became apparent that, while satisfying my desire for a stronger technical role, the time involved working for these start-ups would be more than full time and would eat into the time I spend on Open Source. I’ve also had interviews with companies who have interesting roles but are completely indifferent to my work in Open Source and are strictly hiring standard Linux Systems Administrators. While such a traditional systems role remains a valid option that I’m still considering to satisfy my technical career goals, I may be disappointed to see my Open Source work largely ignored at a company like this.
Given that my Open Source work these days centers around Ubuntu projects related to the community, I looked into some Community Management roles. I’ve discovered that the vast majority of these roles, even in Open Source-focused companies, are very marketing-oriented and I was told directly by one hiring manager that my technical skills would be wasted in such a position at their company (she put me in touch with their Systems Engineer recruiter instead). I haven’t been able to find a position that mixes my technical prowess with my skills as a community organizer. The inability to find such a role, as yet, is unfortunate. When I talk to actual contributors from projects, they’ve expressed an interest in having a more technical person in place as the liaison between community and company.
So, my dream job? A position that values, and perhaps even leverages, my Open Source work as well as the systems work to which I am so dedicated in my career.
At this point, I continue to work for my current employer and have begun this week to train my replacement. Now that I’ve wrapped up my major international travel for the year, I’m continuing to interview for roles both at companies here in the city of San Francisco and as well as remote opportunities. My primary focus remains systems administration positions, though I still hope to find the right fit and balance for my skill set.