Certification tips for Unix sysadmins

2008-01-01 00:00:00

It takes at least a couple of years for a fledgling sys admin to build up his or her experience to a level where people will say: "Yeah! He's a good sysadmin.. He knows his way around the OS."

Most of the time of your first two or three years (assuming that you start admining in college) will be spent either with your nose in the books (learning new stuff) or with your nose to the grind stone (practicing the new stuff). A lot of time will be spent on basic grunt work, combined with maybe a couple of nice projects and some programming. But at some point in time a dreaded new word will drop on you like a brick from up on high... Management level that is...


At first official vendor certification may seem like a humongous task! Especially if you take a look at the requirements that the vendor publishes on its website and at the sheer volume of the prep-books available. I had the same problem! One day may Field Managers mentioned that official certificates would look good on my resume and that I should go order a book or two... Which I did... And I subsequently try to read three times over... And just could not get through...

You see, I made the fatal mistake of wanting to cram everything in my head before even setting a date for the exam. This gave me way too much slack, causing me to lose interest at least two times over. So, after a bit of coaching from one of my friends/colleagues I came to the following conclusion on how to prepare for certification.

1. Get some experience :) Don't try to get certified immediately after being introduced to a new OS.

2. Take a look at the vendor's requirements for the certificate. These are usually published on their website.

3. Order one, maybe two good study books. I've created a small list of which books are good and which ones should be avoided.

4. Make a rough guestimate on how long you'll think you'll take studying. Don't make this any longer than two months, else you'll simply lose interest.

5. Order an exam voucher from your vendor.

6. Schedule the exam.

7. Start studying.

There's also a couple of other things that can really help you get the knack of things, ensuring that you'll be absolutely ready for the exam:

* Ask your employer to provide a sandbox system: a simple, small server which you are free to tinker with, configure, play with and break. This is an invaluable study tool!

* Purchase an account for a practice exam website (or get your employer to pitch in). The guys at Unixporting.com provide damn good test exams for Solaris Sysadmin 1 and 2, at a low price!

Most important of all: don't sweat it! A little excitement or a couple of shivers are good, but honestly: the fate of the world does not lean on your shoulders. If you don't make the exame, try, try try and try again. :)

Good luck!

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