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Unix Education IT

Ask Slashdot: Getting a Tech Job With Skills But No Formal Degree? 266

Posted by Soulskill
from the have-you-tried-turning-it-off-and-then-on-again dept.
fmatthew5876 writes "I have a friend who graduated with a degree in philosophy and sociology. He has been spending a lot of his spare time for the last couple years learning system administration and web development. He has set up web servers, database servers, web proxies and more. He has taught himself PHP, MySQL, and how to use Linux and openBSD without any formal education. I believe that if given the chance with an entry level position somewhere and a good mentor he could really be a great Unix admin, but the problem is that he doesn't have a degree in computer science or any related field. He is doing stuff now that a lot of people I graduated with (I was a CS major) could not do when they had a bachelor's degree. Does Slashdot have any advice on what my friend could do to build up his resume and find a job? I know a lot of people think certifications are pretty useless or even harmful, but in his case do you think it would be a good idea?"
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Ask Slashdot: Getting a Tech Job With Skills But No Formal Degree?

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  • CS is not IT (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Friday June 08, 2012 @05:56PM (#40263089)

    CS is not IT

  • by x0mbie (415207) on Friday June 08, 2012 @05:56PM (#40263091) Homepage

    I have had friends do this (and myself to a degree) and it can open doors you didn't know you had. Also join some local user groups (like I joined my local VMware User Group) and made a lot of good contacts, one even got me a job when I just got RIF.

  • Portfolio (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) on Friday June 08, 2012 @06:00PM (#40263145)
    I wouldn't recommend getting a Cert, probably more trouble and cost than its worth. Not as negative to have on your resume for a SysAdmin than a programmer, but still, it doesn't exactly shine, so it doesn't feel worth it. Its going to be hard, no doubt. There's just so many people who apply for IT jobs that have NO idea what they're doing at all, hiring is a nightmare. So much of the "interview process" is just to weed out people who should never be applying in the first place. You mentioned, "He is doing stuff now that a lot of people I graduated with (I was a CS major) could not do when they had a bachelor's degree" There's the answer. That's how you get a job without a degree, you do really impressive stuff that shows you know what you're doing and you care about it. Tell him to do as many personal projects as he can, and try to find everything he can do to show evidence of having done them. Set up a personal website, and make it as in-depth as possible. Write extensive notes on all the stuff he's doing that graduates couldn't even do, and include that with your resume. Take pictures, include links to live things on the web if you can, everything and anything to show that while you don't have a formal education, you still have experience. That's what counts. Other than that, I'd just say apply everywhere imaginable. Getting your foot in the door is the hard part, once he's got a job on his resume or two, people won't care about his education at all.
  • GO to user groups (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland.yahoo@com> on Friday June 08, 2012 @06:00PM (#40263153) Homepage Journal

    make friends and contacts.

    And if you already have a degree:
    Go to user groups,
    make friends and contacts.

  • Comp Sci != IT (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Missing.Matter (1845576) on Friday June 08, 2012 @06:01PM (#40263157)
    Given that sysadmin is not in any way equivalent to Computer Sceince, I'd say he's in luck. Anyone who requires a CS degree for a sysadmin job is just ignorant of that fact.
  • by Cute Fuzzy Bunny (2234232) on Friday June 08, 2012 @06:05PM (#40263213)

    Same here. Worked hard and cheap for a while, then worked hard and for a lot of money once I had the street cred.

  • Re:Nah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bobcat7677 (561727) on Friday June 08, 2012 @06:09PM (#40263253) Homepage
    Yes, as a senior software engineer with no degree, I can say that certs definitely help. Yes, they don't mean much really, but they make your resume more attractive than the stack of resumes with no degree and no certs. Some employers won't even give you the time of day if you don't have a degree. The ones that will consider applicants with no degree have to wade through mountains of resumes from all sorts of riff raff that think they can bullsh1t their way into a job. Anything that makes your resume possibly look better then the next guy's and seem more legit increases your chances of getting an interview and ultimately the job.
  • Re:Nah (Score:2, Insightful)

    by The Mighty Buzzard (878441) on Friday June 08, 2012 @06:17PM (#40263351)
    To anyone who actually knows anything, they're worth less than toilet paper because they're too stiff to use in anything but truly desperate situations. Unfortunately, management almost never satisfies the "knows anything" condition.
  • Re:CS is not IT (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CubicleZombie (2590497) on Friday June 08, 2012 @06:43PM (#40263661)
    99% of software jobs involve taking database column x and putting it in text field y. I hate to burst the bubble of any CS students reading this and dreaming about "expert system, an openGL based implicit 3dregrees of freedom equations solver", but reality is not that exciting. We all sit in the same cubicles churning through millions of lines of legacy Java code, filling in our change requests and putting cover sheets on TPS reports.

    You're right. I did NOT do the same things you did in your CS classes. I'm STILL not doing any of that, and neither are many other people.
  • by perpenso (1613749) on Friday June 08, 2012 @07:11PM (#40263943)

    I hate to burst the bubble of any CS students ... We all sit in the same cubicles churning through millions of lines of legacy Java code, filling in our change requests and putting cover sheets on TPS reports.

    No, we do not all do that. Some of us went into CS because we actually had an inherent interesting in coding, not because a parent or guidance councilor told us it was a good career path. Because we had an inherent interest in building things. An inherent curiosity regarding puzzles, practical or academic. We appreciated the theory presented in many classes because it better prepared us to design new things. And many of us matching the preceding sit in our cubes designing and developing new things, not maintaining old things.

    I'm sure someone who came up through an IS program can probably make a similar observation.

    What you end up doing has a high correlation to what your inherent interests are and to how seriously your took your degree program, CS or IS. I would not trust most of my fellow CS grads to design and develop new things, however these individuals typically were just in class to get a piece of paper to get a higher salary.

  • by Nethead (1563) <joe@nethead.com> on Friday June 08, 2012 @08:17PM (#40264525) Homepage Journal

    I'm a HS dropout too. Learned computer programming at Radio Shack University on the TRS-80, worked fixing radio stations, produced telemarketing devices made out of C64s, got hired by an ISP in '96 since I was taking care of the local modems anyway. 2001 I was a Sr. network engineer at Amazon, Now own my own company providing technical services (what ever interests me.)

    People would ask me what they needed to do to get into tech. My reply was, "Be obsessed with it." Don't do it for the money, do it because that's what you have to do.

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