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A Sysadmin's tale: How I moved from the ocean depths to Red Hat Tower

How do we choose our paths? Or do they choose us? This is the story of my professional journey into the world of system administration.
sunset over a submarine

Photo by Tyler Carrigan

"Not all who wander are lost." This quote, over-used as it may be, is an accurate summation of my professional career. It's not that I was unsure of what I wanted to do. In fact, I think I knew all along that I would end up working in and around technology; I just didn't know how. This is going to be a personal piece, but I write it to make a point. Now, if you'll indulge me...

I grew up in the 90's and let me tell you, it was a great time to be a kid! Technology had not quite taken over the known world as it has today, but there was plenty of it around. From VHS movies to cartridge video games, all of my favorite entertainment was delivered in the form of technology! Duck Hunter, Donkey Kong Country, Goldeneye, and Twisted Metal, just to name a few! I have always been a gamer, and in fact, I still make time to connect with friends over video games today! 

Fast forward a few years to 2009. I am graduating high school, and like every 18-year-old kid, I have no clue what I want to do for the rest of forever. I always had pretty good grades and had a small scholarship to a local university. I originally majored in nursing, but could never really convince myself to care about the material. After that, I changed my major to poli-sci, intending to become a lawyer. If you ask my wife, even now, she would swear this is what I was born to do.

Again, I found myself concerned with everything except school. I think this is what happens when your motivations for wanting something aren't purely your own. I had only considered those career paths because I wanted to make money, and that was not enough to keep me engaged. After floundering for a while, using up my scholarship trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, I suddenly found myself at a US Naval recruiting station. 

I originally signed a contract to work as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician. These guys are real-life superheroes and the embodiment of working under pressure and I wanted in. Thing is, its a physically demanding program....very demanding. Due to lackluster run times, I was dropped from the pipeline and needed to pick a new job.

I chose Submarine Electronics Computer Field (SECF), a general title covering several disciplines within the sub-community, and you don't really have a say in where you end up. Luckily, I was picked for the job that I wanted. Fire Control Technician onboard the USS Georgia out of Kings Bay, GA.  

Now, contrary to how it sounds, it has very little to do with combustion and far more to do with software operation and troubleshooting. As it turns out, all the weapons systems used were based on very well known operating systems. I learned Windows, RHEL, Solaris, and several other systems in my time on the boat. They taught us networking basics, electrical circuits, technical diagrams, and systems administration.

I worked in a team with the same four guys for almost my entire time with the Navy. I didn't know it at the time, but working in that tightly knit group under the pressure of time constraints and technical perfection prepared me to excel in a professional setting far better than any college course I ever sat in. 

After five years of active duty,  my wife and I decided that it was time for me to be home. My unit had a very high deployment tempo, and I had been gone, almost literally, for half of our marriage. This allowed me to put what I had learned to use, so I started studying for my first industry certification. I quickly realized that self-study and a Linux VM were not going to be enough to get me certified, so I enrolled in a 13 week 'Network and Security Professional'course at New Horizons in Greensboro, NC.  

There I was immersed in Microsoft, Linux, Cisco, and general security topics. I ended up passing several industry certifications and was now ready for the job market. After months of searching, planning, hoping, and praying, I finally received an offer to work at DellEMC as a Tier II Support Engineer for a Suse-based backup solution. I didn't have the most experience going into that job, but I listened and took notes, and I worked harder than ever before to become the best engineer I could be.  My time there was really well spent. It allowed me to meet some great people and experience the civilian sector in an enterprise environment.

After two years, I received a call from a technical recruiter in the area about an exciting opening with a dream company here in North Carolina. Red Hat had started a community for system administrators and wanted me to work as a technical advocate/writer/editor, and support several other roles, as is the way with new projects.

And the rest is history! Like I said in the opening, I have always been a 'scenic route' type of guy. It's something that I have come to love about myself. It's more about the journey than the destination anyway, right?  

 This is my story. To be clear, every journey is as unique as the traveler that sets out on it. With that in mind, we here at EnableSysadmin would love to hear your story. What generated your initial interest in technology? How did you translate that interest into a professional setting? What were some of the challenges you faced as a sysadmin hopeful? All of these things are an essential part of who we are as a community and can be used as lessons learned for others in the future. We look forward to hearing from you!

Topics:   Career  
Author’s photo

Tyler Carrigan

Tyler is the Sr. Community Manager at Enable Sysadmin, a submarine veteran, and an all-round tech enthusiast! He was first introduced to Red Hat in 2012 by way of a Red Hat Enterprise Linux-based combat system inside the USS Georgia Missile Control Center. More about me

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