The Myth of a Linux Talent Shortage. Is it true? You tell us.

Posted by tadelste on Feb 17, 2006 7:54 AM; By Tom Adelstein, Editor-in-Chief

Last fall I wrote an article entitled "Critical Shortage of Linux Talent Slowing Adoption". I composed a parody, a spoof about the ignorance of human resource management. I wrote:
Most human resource people believe Linux is an air conditioner company. They get confused between the term Linux and Lennox. So, HR recruiters define their job profiles like this:

Linux programmer needed by enterprise. Skills required:


Five to ten years of relevant training and master plumbers' license required. Will accept equivalent for H1B applicants. Microsoft Certifications a plus.
The article title has become an urban myth and from the comments I have read about it, most people took the title to heart and never read the article. So, let's set the record straight.


In an article published about a year ago, people who know the market refuted the myth of a Linux talent shortage. Here are some comments. The first from an OSDL representative.

"We see skills coming from so many different vectors in the Linux community that it's hard to imagine that there is a skills shortage," Bill Weinberg, an open-source architecture specialist with Open Source Development Labs in Beaverton, Oregon, told LinuxInsider.

There's a huge existing base of people in the IT and developer community who know Unix and other Unix-like operating systems, he observed. "About 90 percent of their available expertise is directly applicable to Linux," he said. "That conversion is value straightforward and happening all the time."
Red Hat also had an opinion of the myth.

"We're not experiencing a shortage of Linux talent," Leigh Day said. "We're hiring a good number of people in all parts of our organization, and we're not finding it hard to find those people."

The article also mentioned another survey from Forrester Research which said 57 percent of respondents using Linux or open-source software said their biggest concern was lack of support and another 36 percent said they experienced a lack of skills or knowledge.

Forrester's survey centered around respondents using Linux who said they experienced a lack of skills or knowledge. The key term in this survey, if you missed it, dealt with respondents using Linux or open source software. Those firms had an incidence of 36%. That's not a high figure and again they only had a concern.

Later in the article where people tend to stop reading, Bill Weinberg added:

The real myth out there when it comes to operating system skills is that there's an abundance of Windows professionals. I've tried to put together Windows teams to do certain kinds of development and found it difficult to get real expertise of any depth. I found it very difficult to hire resources for anything but the most superficial Visual Basic kind of development.

My Experience

I have seen no shortage of Linux talent even back in 1999, when I recruited programmers, system administrators, webmasters and gurus. I have attended and keynoted at enough UNIX User Groups and Linux User groups to also say a waste of Linux talent exists. I blame the myth on hiring practices.

When I speak with Linux people after my presentations I hear war stories. High quality, talented Linux people without Microsoft certifications get the run-around. Hiring managers seem afraid to go with Linux people since the hiring manager doesn't know enough about Linux to judge performance.

I went on a number of interviews in the Dallas area for Linux system administrators. I didn't have a problem flashing my Microsoft certifications or my experience programming Windows servers. (Let's not forget I broke MS Exchange's wire line protocol).

I also didn't share my resume as a manager on any of those jobs. Even so, the feedback at those interviews centered around the notion of too much experience and a fear that I wouldn't stick. This wasn't 2001 when people jumped ship every few motnhs for better pay.

What About You

Since I don't have the kind of scientificly manipulated data or the slant that Forrester and other analysts seem to have, I'd like to see some of your war stories. What's your experience? Have you seen discrimination and what kind?

Tell us your stories.

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