When Unix Stops Being Fun

Nathan Kinkade nkinkade at ub.edu.bz
Mon Oct 4 09:33:21 PDT 2004

On Sat, Oct 02, 2004 at 11:46:06PM -0700, Joshua Tinnin wrote:
> Well, I can only tell you about my own experience, but perhaps it will 
> help. I have always been a techie, getting my first computer at the age 
> of 14 - an Apple IIe. Learned some Basic, some peeks and pokes and even 
> some assembly. But I found that I also liked music, and tended more to 
> that side of things for the latter half of my teens and into my 20s, 
> though I never went to college (started a few times, but didn't know 
> what I wanted to do). Somehow I ended up doing web design for a band in 
> my mid 20s, and even though the band broke up, I was good enough at it 
> that it became my career in 2000, right when the dot-com bubble started 
> to burst.
> I was 30, just starting my career with no degree but making $50k (not 
> great, but not bad), and worked for three different failed companies in 
> the course of a year and a half. Most of this time I was using Windows, 
> but I used various flavors of *nix during the course of my work, mostly 
> Red Hat, plus I installed SuSE at home and used it occasionally. My 
> specialty was front-end web development - I found it increasingly 
> difficult to find work from 2001 onward, especially because I had no 
> strong programming skills, but could do JavaScript and some other 
> scripting, and I also didn't have credentials as a graphic designer, 
> even though I could do it by gut instinct (which sometimes isn't good 
> enough).
> Eventually I came to hate doing web design, partially because I couldn't 
> find paying work, but mostly because it's not the right discipline for 
> me anyway - it sort of fell in my lap, and I made a go of it. I've been 
> bouncing around between low paying jobs since then, wondering how the 
> hell to get my career started again without going back to school for 
> four years to get a computer science degree, when I discovered FreeBSD. 
> That was last spring.
> I now know exactly what I want to do, which is to get that computer 
> science degree and then some, specializing in systems administration, 
> and to go into teaching at the college level. First, I know this is a 
> hard road, especially at the age of 34, but I am tired of not *really* 
> knowing my stuff, so to speak. I've been a techie my whole life and 
> even made some money at it, but I've gotten by without having the deep 
> knowledge required to really understand the workings of an *nix OS such 
> as FreeBSD, which I very much want to do, and plus it's time to get 
> serious. I've also found that the systems administration/network end of 
> the spectrum is what suits me best, but I don't care about getting paid 
> big money as much as wanting to teach others (and, concurrently, also 
> have the time and resources to devote to projects such as FreeBSD). 
> It's not a particularly glorious career choice, and if I were a bit 
> different I might want to really go for the corporate path and a fat 
> salary, but honestly I'm happier not working in that sort of 
> environment.
> - jt

My situation has some similarities to JT's.  I graduated with a history
degree back in 1994.  Through a series of interesting events, a few
months after graduation I found myself working as an auto mechanic.  A
few years after that I found myself working in customer service at a
large apparel company.  While at this job I created an MS Access
database for myself and my small department.  This was my first small
jump into anything remotedly computer related.  Somehow I was able to
parlay that experience into a decent paying contract job working with MS
Access.  While working that contract I realized that networking was an
area that interested me more.  So, I started getting some certifications
and got a job at a "networking" company.  Up to this point (a year or
two), my experience was only with MS Windows.  A friend of mine
mentioned to me one day that he had heard about an OS called FreeBSD,
which was purported to have one of the best networking stacks around.
Because of my interest in networking I installed it.  As they say, the
rest is history; it has been my OS ever since, both desktop and server.  

Regarding knowledge, there was a time in the past that I was blown away
by a friend of mine who understood how to manually configure an IP
address and netmask.  This, among many other things, made me feel as if
he were some sort of computer genius.  However, my feelings about his
skills were only relative my own at that time, and I didn't have any
other frame of reference.  Now that I have been working with computers,
and specifically FreeBSD and Linux, for the past five or six years, my
knowledge has utterly eclipsed that of my friend.  This is the natural
course of things.  Yet I still feel as if I have only scratched the
surface.  Many people on this list would probably make me look more like
an infant stacking blocks when it comes to FreeBSD.

I have got to a level of proficiency and knowledge that I feel can only
best proceed through graduate studies in the area of computer science.
However, now that I have got to this level, I realize that working with
computers in this way isn't what I want to do anymore.  This is one of
the reasons that I am now a US Peace Corps volunteer in the area of
information technology.  I was hoping to find an interesting way to use
my skills that would provide a different environment to that standard
business or corporate one.

I'm now looking to go back to graduate school in a field not at all
directly related to computer science.  I'm 32, and won't be done
with my Peace Corps assignment till I'm 33, but this doesn't daunt me.
It's just important to move in the direction that interests you most no
matter how old you are.  FreeBSD will go with me no matter what field I
choose, as will the skills I have gained over the past number of years.
Virtually any path you might choose will at least be indirectly reliant
on computers, and advanced skills in this area will always be useful. 

The important thing is to keep pushing the limits of your knowledge in
whatever you do.  You will rarely regret it.  Will it take many years to
master Unix-like operating systems?  Abosolutely.  There can be no
shortcut to experience.  But as another poster pointed out, becoming
highly procient in any skilled field takes many years, perhaps a
lifetime.  Just push forward and absorb as much as you can.  Time will
fly by, and before you know it you'll occupy that place that only seems
like a distant dream at the moment.

PGP Public Key: pgp.mit.edu:11371/pks/lookup?op=get&search=0xD8527E49
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: not available
Type: application/pgp-signature
Size: 189 bytes
Desc: not available
Url : http://lists.freebsd.org/pipermail/freebsd-questions/attachments/20041004/705ce823/attachment.bin

More information about the freebsd-questions mailing list