Adding open source software and Linux to your resumé - even if you're not an expert

Category: TechToday
True story: My ex-girlfriend, a devout Microsoft Windows user, struggled through years of my gushing about the latest Linux distribution and pleading with her to dual-boot her Dell and Fujitsu laptop with Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat or openSUSE 11  Gnome. It got to a point when my incessant ramblings about Terminal commands and package managers finally started to adhere to her brain cells against her will. One day, she attended an interview for a software company. The interviewer noticed "Desktop Linux" under the heading Technical Skills on her resumé. I had added this item to her resumé because she had consented to try a then-new Linux distribution and used it for a few days. The interviewer, who may or may not have had any technical skills, asked: "So what's your favorite Linux distribution?" She answered: "Linux Mint." (Linux Mint 10 was the distro I had asked her to try at the time). She got the job and is now a manager heading her own team (and no, I'm not bitter - I'm very good at mopping floors).
Did I deceive anyone by adding "Desktop Linux" to her skills? No. I didn't say "Linux Desktop Administration" or "Network Administration with Linux". The key word is "desktop." This meant she could e-mail, browse, play music, write documents, and run basic tasks on a PC with Linux. The word "Linux" got her foot into the door even though she had never run an ls or apt-get command in her life. However, it distinguished her from other applicants who were restricted to Windows.

Silver Surfer can destroy small planets with his power cosmic . . . but is computer illiterate.
Silver Surfer was looking for a job in Silver Surfer #41 (1990). Art by Ron Lim and story by Jim Starlin.

The World as We Know It

Despite unemployment at dizzying heights in the EU and in the U.S. of A, today's generation shouldn't lose hope. They have time to bone up on their technical skills and they have the best resources to achieve their dreams. Consumer electronics and hardware are cheaper than ever. The greatest reference tool in the universe, the Internet, is ubiquitous and affordable with faster speeds and better quality. Linux distributions, web standards, and programming languages are now easier, more refined, and more useful than ever.
Contrary to the smug IT professionals who flaunt their certifications and look down on their nose on anyone who doesn't know at least 1000 Terminal commands and 5 platforms, you don't need to be "certified" or an "expert" to add open source software to your resume.

Adding Open Source Applications on your Resume for a Non-IT job

In one of my stints as a trainer, I worked with a well-known and very successful Indian conglomerate. The expatriate staff that flew in were exceptionally efficient and fast in their IT deployment. They set up the rented offices and computer hardware in a few weeks for an employee number of more than a hundred to start. One of the productivity software packages they installed? A network-installed OpenOffice Suite.
Adding open source software to your resume is easy. If you're applying for a non-IT job, just place it under "Software" or "Technical Proficiency." In this fictional example below, proprietary software is mixed with open source software just to make it more realistic:

Peter Crenshaw
Shipping/Warehouse Assistant Coordinator
Software: Windows 2000/XP/7, Ubuntu, Microsoft Office 2007, LibreOffice, OpenOffice, Google Docs, and Lyx

Lyx is a free WYSIWYM word processor which is loosely related to LaTeX. In this second example, we'll add software categories under "Technical Skills" to this jobhunter's technical skills:

Robert Andrews
Public Library Administrator/Researcher
Technical Skills
Operating Systems: Windows 7/8, Ubuntu, openSUSE, and Mageia
Image, vector, and photo-editing: Adobe Photoshop Elements, Krita, Blender, Inkscape, and Gimp
Desktop Publishing: Microsoft Publisher 2010, Adobe PageMaker 7.0, Adobe InDesign CS3, and Scribus
Content Management Systems: Drupal and Wordpress

Adding Open Source Applications for an Entry-Level IT-job

Obviously, most companies would probably want someone with experience, professional certifications, or a college degree for an IT opening. Entry-level jobs, however, like technical support, programming, search engine optimization, web writing, technical writing, online advertising, and many more jobs are great targets for jobhunters with adequate skill with open source software. In fact, some of the most fun IT jobs involve updating company social media accounts,YouTube videos, and blogs to keep the company "relevant" and "updated". And no, they don't use proprietary Oracle or Adobe software. The trick is to specialize. The IT industry and IT-enabled industry is much broader than what you normally see in the classifieds. It's not always about SAP, Windows Server, Java programming, and Network Administration.

Kate Upton's Mercedes Benz commercial quickly spread across the Internet (even to China's hours after its release - and it wasn't done through high-end "techie" methods.
List the open source software you frequently use and figure out how relevant they are to the job opening. Then organize the list in the "Technical Skills" or "Technical Proficiency" section of your resume. Some of the areas you might want to include are:
  • Kernel development
  • application programming
  • multimedia (video, audio, animation) production
  • office productivity
  • system and network administration
  • desktop administration
  • backup and desktop maintenance
  • documentation and technical writing
  • Linux security
  • iOS, Windows, and Android app development
  • Webcasting and podcasting
  • vector drawing and illustration
  • math and science
  • Web application development and social media
  • Game development
  • Linux security
  • Distributed computing
  • Virtualization
  • database
  • Blogging and online learning
Even small companies with little use for advanced hardware and software have an IT staff. Moreover, almost all companies need to be on the Internet whether in the form of a website, LinkedIn profile, Twitter account or blog. As a final example, we'll focus on a task-based approach to the resume entry. Under "Technical Proficiency", we separated "Software" and "Technical Skills" to better identify the job applicant's capabilities:

Jupiter Jones
Desktop Administrator/IT maintenance
Technical Proficiency
Operating Systems: openSUSE, Lubuntu, Fedora, Windows 2000/XP/7, and MacOSX
Database: Oracle Database Software, Linux SQL Database, and MySQL
Programming and Markup Languages: PHP, Javascript, XML, HTML5, XHTML, Java, and Docbook
Backup and Maintenance: Norton Security Suite, McAfee Total protection, VNC, Clonezilla, Deja Dup, Remmina Desktop Client, KDE Remote Desktop Client, and Rsync
Additional Technical Skills

  • Web development with Adobe Dreamweaver, Bluefish, Eclipse, Kwrite, XML Copy Editor, and Geany
  • Virtualization with VMware, VirtualBox and Xen

There are people who either overestimate their technical skills (like the guys who boast and criticize others in forums) and there are those who underestimate their technical skills. When adding technical proficiency to your curriculum vitae, be realistic about how good you are. The world is a big place and there are millions of IT professionals and non-professionals who are incredibly skilled and knowledgeable. However, that doesn't mean you're bereft of any technical skill at all.
For those who are out there unemployed and struggling in this horrible global economy, don't be discouraged. You have the right skills you need! Good luck and happy hunting!


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