While Linux is gaining popularity at a fast pace, related certifications are also getting a lot of attention. There are many Linux certification courses of different levels today, but people are confused about how they can benefit from them. LFY spoke to various people from the industry and educational institutes, and to students, about how much weight these certifications carry in today’s corporate world.
Why are certifications gaining popularity?
A survey conducted by the Linux Foundation earlier last year indicates that the adoption of Linux is overtaking Windows at the enterprise level at quite a rapid pace. About 80 per cent of the respondents mentioned that they plan to add more Linux-based servers to their business’ infrastructure within the next five years, while only 21 per cent plan to add additional Microsoft-based servers.
“Now, with the rate of adoption of open source-based technologies on the rise, techies find that open source expertise, which was earlier only a passion for them, can now also provide a strong career option in enterprises, as well as in government entities that have large deployments of open source-based technologies,” states Narayana Menon K, head of Strategy and Marketing, Novell India Pvt Ltd.
“The key players of the Linux and open source market, like SUSE, dominate the enterprise space in terms of deployment of Linux flavours. Hence, certifications on these would make more sense from an employability perspective. Certification courses like the Novell Certified Linux Professional (NCLP), Novell Certified Linux Administrator (NCLA) and Novell Certified Linux Engineer (NCLE) courses offer candidates the core skills required to handle the minute of a Linux environment. These programs differentiate themselves from others available in the market through in-depth modules like shell scripting, which enables the certified to not just be restricted to peripheral admin roles, but also opens up opportunities to work on R&D, product enhancements, etc.,” Menon shares.
Akshay Bhat, assistant professor at Manipal Institute of Technology, MCA department, adds that such foundation courses would be appropriate for students to build a sound and progressive career. “There is a wide array of courses available today like an introduction to Linux operating systems such as Red Hat and Fedora, Linux systems administration, Web application development on Linux platforms (Java, AJAX and Android), OS virtualisation, designing applications for cloud deployment, and computing and kernel programming. Students can evolve into experts in a particular domain based on their experience and knowledge,” Bhat states.
Organisations that receive many profiles also find it easier to sift through candidates’ profiles when they are certified. Ramandeep Singh, CEO, Calsoft Labs, reveals, “For any job post, we find it easier to filter candidates based on their qualifications and certifications. Certificate holders are naturally expected to know certain things, having gone through a structured course. Certifications also tell us that the candidate is more likely to be keen to pursue a career in open source technologies. It is important when we are trying to build a core team to focus in this area.”
Certifications also enhance the skills of employees working in a particular area. Calsoft Labs encourages its employees to undertake certification exams to test their knowledge, and to take additional courses to upgrade their skills in areas where a skill gap is perceived.
Do certifications help?
The big question is, “Will a Linux certification help get you a job?” People from the open source industry feel that certifications can take freshers a long way. “Students who are fresh out of college often do not have the required skill set to work on Linux,” shares Sajith A, CEO at ZFramez Technologies, a start-up working in staffing services, data-com testing tools, development and automation.
“If a candidate goes in for a certification, he is a nose ahead over others in terms of employability in the industry. The companies prefer such candidates, as they require less moulding before assigning them a project. Moreover, most service-based MNCs in India prefer certification, as they can claim the employees they are outsourcing are certified, and this adds credibility,” Sajith adds.
Sumit Gandhi has been working at Greycells18 Media for a little over nine months as a junior software developer in PHP programming. He feels that his certification played a major role in landing him a job. Gandhi shares, “At most interviews I attended, one of the most repeated enquiries related to RHCE certification. The interviewers asked me questions about development and scripting. As a fresher, they tested me for my depth of knowledge, and I was able to answer all the questions asked. They also asked me to write a shell script program. Employers tend to consider you as a serious candidate as they feel you are proficient on Linux. By opting for a certification, I feel like I increased my chances — not just by being certified, but the certification course gave me a lot of in-depth knowledge about the subject.”
Apart from acting as a reasonable indicator of knowledge, certification also helps candidates stand out during interviews. “When prominent organisations post their vacancies on job sites, thousands of applications come pouring in. If it weren’t for certification, the company would have to spend a lot of time going through their details and evaluating their expertise,” feels Varad Gupta, CTO, Keen & Able Computers, an open source systems integration, solutions and consultancy company.
“Certifications may not guarantee a job to candidates, but it helps to at least land them an interview. For experienced candidates, the need for certification depends on which area they plan to build a career in. If there are certifications in the candidate’s area of interest, there is no doubt that such certification would help. I have seen cases of two equally skilled employees interviewing for the same job, and the one with the certification held the advantage and bagged the position. Certifications also help when reasonably skilled people want to move up in their organisation,” Gupta adds.
Certification must be backed by the right skills and experience
Menon believes that an open source enthusiast takes up a Linux certification course primarily from an employability perspective. He elaborates, “Once the candidates get a strong base in mainstream technology work, they can expand their knowledge in specialised domains like Perl, Python, Android scripting, etc., within the open source space, transforming them into core specialists and critical resources of the organisation. They would, in turn, contribute back strongly to the open source community.”
Dr Ram P Rustagi, professor, MCA Department, People’s Educational Society Institute of Technology (PESIT), adds that it would help if a candidate gains proficiency in generic courses on Android internals/applications development, Linux internals and device driver programming, shell scripting, PostgreSQL DB, PHP (Zend certifications), Perl and Ruby on Rails.
However, a certification cannot guarantee you a job, but only aid you by pointing you in the right direction. If you already have a strong base in your area of interest, a certification is merely a tag on your resume. “A certificate is like testing a candidate’s performance,” feels Saurabh Galav, founder and Red Hat trainer at Linux Scrappers, a Linux training institute.
“Students can get the certification only with proper training, and if they have a strong knowledge base about the operating system. After choosing candidates with certification, the interviewers will later focus on how well a candidate knows the subject. They want to check what level of experience they have, and what type of problems they have solved. If they find that the candidate has somehow managed to get certified, but does not have enough knowledge about the subject or shows less interest, there goes his opportunity!” Galav quips.
Sumit Kadian, a B-Tech graduate in IT who is currently searching for a job, couldn’t agree more. He talks about his experience of attending interviews at organisations like India Bulls, IBM, Idea and Airtel: “I have been looking for a job in Linux server administration, and the first question interviewers ask me is if I hold a certification. Later, they ask questions to test me on shell scripts and networking concepts. I am a fresher, and so the RHCE certification did teach me a lot.”
On the other hand, freelance Linux trainer, Anil Kumar Pugalia, feels that a certification does not make a difference to how employers perceive candidates in his area of work. “I am more into the Linux systems level — embedded Linux and device drivers. Certification is beneficial to those who want to get into systems administration or networking, especially freshers. But if you are into the core internals of Linux, it has more to do with kernel space, writing drivers, etc., and a certification will not help you in this area,” Pugalia claims.
Yes, no, maybe?
Viewed with a broader perspective, our verdict is that certifications are the safe way to go if you are a fresher. They can increase your employability, but make sure you know the subject well, as employers are more interested in what a candidate can do, rather than what tests he has passed. For the experienced ones, certification is a great way to go deeper into a subject and specialise in your area of interest. Service and support providers can use the number of certified personnel in their ranks as a marketing tool to show their prowess.
In the end, certifications may help you gain confidence with respect to your knowledge, but you will still need to prove yourself in the corporate world.