Trainer Talks: Shawn Powers on Linux, College, and Employability

Shawn Powers has been busy this year. He has taken on a massive, 100-video Linux course, Ansible Essentials, and Android coding. Between creating tons of great training, he took some time to stand in front of a white screen to talk about his career, his love of Linux, and the things that will make someone employable in 2018 and beyond.

You can watch all the uncut Trainer Talks interviews on our Youtube playlist, which we update regularly with more advice and stories from your favorite CBT Nuggets trainers.

We often get questions from new IT pros, and this is one of the big ones. What would you tell someone with a little experience why certifications are valuable?

Certifications do two things. It can make you more employable if you’re looking for a job, but it also allows you to be more employable internally.

If you’ve already got the experience, here’s what you do. Start with the lower-level courses, but don’t necessarily plod through every single video or module. If it’s something that you know, great! Do a quick refresher, test yourself, and then get certified. Now, not only do you have the certification, but you’re giving yourself the confidence that, “Yeah, I do know that topic.”

Next, find a topic you love, and go to the next step and the next step. (You can figure out the next step with any of the CBT Nuggets Roadmaps to Success.)

But don’t get caught in the, “I have 100 certifications,” trap.

What trap is that? Don’t you want to be always learning? That’s kind of our thing at CBT Nuggets.

Sure, but think about what you really need to focus on. I only say don’t be the perpetual certification test-taker when it’s for the sake of the certification. Get out there and do something awesome, and then learn what it is that can make yourself more awesome by doing more.  

Certifications do look good on a resume though, don’t they?

I’d say this. Get certified so you’re confident, so you’re employable, but then start doing something. Don’t get certified to get a job. Get certified to find the career you love. You can always get certified and learn more as you go because the skills you’re going to need will greatly vary based on what it is you’re doing on a day-to-day basis.

Okay, now, what about the recent graduates? Or anyone else looking to get into the IT field without a degree?

That’s a good question. So, you’re fresh out of college and you want to know where to go from there. There’s an easy answer: Follow your passions.

If you don’t know, then keep learning. You’ll find it. Certifications are a way not only to make yourself more employable, but with certifications, you can find and cement your skills, so that you’re more confident. You’ll feel better about that job you want to go for, and eventually that career.

Last year, you finished the Linux LPI 201-400 and 202-400 courses. This year, you’ve got a massive Linux course coming out. What’s the one thing about Linux you’d want people to know?

Linux is just not as scary and mysterious as everybody seems to think.

My biggest goal when I do Linux training is to peel back that mysticism and that scary covering. People get intimidated, and they’re like, “Oh, Linux is so complicated. It’s just all green text on a black background.” But it’s really not that bad. Once you start to learn, you know, it’s just configuration files or just text files, and it’s really not that complicated.

Your new course is called Everything Linux. That’s a big course. One of our biggest. Why did you want to tackle this?

There has been decades of system administrators who keep their knowledge to themselves. I’m not that guy. If you want to know about Linux, I want you to know and understand that it’s not scary. It’s not horribly complex. You can get it — and it can change your life.   

Switching gears a little. We all know that you’ve got a special, weird place in your heart for troubleshooting. What can you share about troubleshooting?

I do love troubleshooting. Most of my career has been in system administration and that’s pretty much all just solving problems. I could do a whole course right now about troubleshooting.

Let’s just start with one thing. What’s the single, best advice you can give about troubleshooting?

Alright, here’s the single, best advice I can give you. When you’re troubleshooting a problem, try to cut the entire gamut of what it could be in half.

So, if there’s a problem where I cannot connect to a web server. It could be in my workstation. It could be the server that’s down.

First, make sure there’s a connection between them. Can I ping the server? If you can ping that server, everything from my workstation to that server seems to be fine, so don’t focus on your computer anymore. You’ve narrowed that problem down, so then onward to the server. Is this service running? Is this port open?

Keep cutting the problem down so you’re focusing on a smaller and smaller area. Otherwise, you’re gonna take forever to get to that point where it turns out your server is unplugged in the room down the hall.

Just cut the problem in half as often as you can. Work on a narrower and narrower problem.

A couple other things from Shawn Powers

Shawn isn’t just a troubleshooting and Linux nerd. He also tackles DevOps topics including Puppet, Chef, and Docker for CBT Nuggets. In addition, he has produced a number of webinars over the years on relevant tech topics. Here are a few of them:

Linux For Mortals: How Shawn Got Into Linux

Automate Your IT Career with Ansible

Open Source Security: Reverse Proxies

Docker Compose: Simplifying Container Automation

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