FOSTERing Employability: FL’s Contribution in Building Careers
Years ago when our parent company Keen & Able started working on the Linux and the Open Source platform we would struggle to find people with the appropriate skillsets to do the kind of work our clients required – building and maintaining mail servers, clusters, domain controllers, proxy and LDAP servers, etc. This lead us to start FOSTERing Linux, where we could teach Linux and other relevant open source technologies to freshers while training our staff as well.
FOSTERing Linux has been where Keen & Able has found most, if not all, of its Linux engineers. Over the years the model has changed. From being a training institute that could provide Keen & Able with its required raw materials, both the companies now work in tandem as a (for the want of a better word) “Finishing School”.
Besides working professionals, FOSTERing Linux attracts may fresh-out-of-college BE, BCA, MCA students who are starting their careers in the IT world. Unfortunately, our current college education does not enable them on the current technologies and industry requirements. Thus, they are often required to go back to learning, either through extended induction and training programmes conducted by the BIG IT companies who have employed them, or through training institutes like ours.
But the question always remains: “Is a training session or a certification enough to ensure that a fresher can touch a production server – set it up or maintain it?” The answer is no, not without experience. And so the they are often given a few mundane tasks of adding and removing uses for a certain applications and taking care of desktops – not a very exciting prospect. And those without a job, either settle for something similar, or less, and in some cases give up. This is where we fit in…
We scout for our potential engineers from the crowd that comes in to do the foundation courses — the basics (RHCE, shell scripting, Perl, PHP, mail servers, etc.). During this time, the wheat is separated from the chaff. Senior trainers look out for candidates who have the attitude and aptitude needed to be a good system administrator. Those who really want to go ahead with a career as a sysadmin are encouraged to appear and clear their certifications. I shall take a moment here to say that there are quite a few who come to do a course, not because they are interested, but because that is what either everyone else is doing or they were told to.
Including them in the company’s culture
Keen & Able and FOSTERing Linux has a work culture that maintains that no work is beyond your KRA. As a member of the team you would be required to work on projects, dive into R&D work, document, and even teach others. There are no work hours and candidates who work by the clock fail to learn as much as those whose motive is to learn and have fun doing it.
Sharing what you have learnt
Once the certification has been cleared, and the selection process over, the candidates begin what can be termed as apprenticeship. A candidate starts out by assisting our trainers in basic trainings that he/she has completed, while gaining delivery skills and more in-depth understanding of the subject.
Once there is confidence (the candidate in him/herself and we in him/her) the candidate is allowed to take basic-level trainings. This develops and ability to deliver or speak in front of an audience, listen and understand the queries or questions the audience may have, and the ability to find a solution to those queries.
Training opens the mind of the trainer to ways of thinking that may never seem to exist when not exposed to the doubts of others. It also humbles a person when accepting that “we don’t have all the answers, but they can be found with enough commitment and perseverance.” Through training you share what you have learnt, and reinforce what you have known.
While the junior faculty assists and delivers basic training, he or she is put into a team and introduced to server maintenance and monitoring work. This builds skills in troubleshooting, problem solving and an exposure to what is needed to make things work in the real world. The work allows the candidate to apply what he/she may have learnt in classes and also acquire new skills.
The new skill thus acquired need to be endorsed through trainings and certification. The candidate is put through various training programmes and workshop so that he/she is able to clear the concepts behind a certain technology. Though not all skills are certifiable, quite a few are covered through the JBoss, RHCSS & RHCA certificates for expertise. Certificates can be a prerequisites when applying for jobs in larger organisations.
Setting them free
As the candidate increases his/her repertoire of skills and tools, he or she begins working closely with our various clients. This may include collaboration in designing a new setup, improving or tuning an existing one, or just handling or maintaining what is already there. The candidate begins to prove his or her worth and gets noticed for the work done.
Our understanding with our clients is that if they like any of our engineers, they (the client) are free to approach us in case they have an opening. We ensure that the candidate has the required skills to handle the client site, making them very valuable resources. Of course, this also transpires into a salary very good salary hike, and all in a time span of about a year to a year and a half.
Most of our them continue to remain in touch with us, returning to share what they have learnt through trainings, workshop and free mentoring. In a way giving back to the environment that created them.