How do you get prepared for Infrastructure Engineering jobs?

datacenter-rack

I just started contributing to a great site called Career Dean. It offers a forum where students and new college graduates can learn from those with established careers in industry.

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A recent question…

Application infrastructure is not something we learned in my college, and it’s definitely not something I will learn anytime soon in my current job (I work as a mobile developer for a mid-sized startup). I also think it’s not something you can just goof around with in your own computer. 

Do companies prepare their software engineers when hiring infrastructure engineers, or do they all expect you to know your skills and tools? 

Also: Is automation killing old-school operations

For example, My guess is that Facebook has a huge infrastructure team making the site usable and fast for as many people as possible. Where can you learn that skills, or get prepared for that time of job? Do you think it is possible to self-learn those skills?

Here’s my take on some of this. Since the invention of Linux, experimenting with infrastructure has been within reach. In the present day there are some even better reasons to experiment & teach yourself about this important aspect of devops & backend server management.

Early Linux circa 1992

Before Linux (in the 80’s we’re talking about) it was a lot harder. Into the 90’s Linux came on the scene and you could cobble together parts, video, motherboard, memory, ide or scsi bus & disks & build a 486 tower. You could then start building linux. I mean because of course everything had to be hand rolled (compiled by hand & debugged usually)!

Also: Is five nines availability a myth in todays datacenters?

Present day virtualization

Fast forward 20 years, and it’s an incredible time to be messing with infrastructure. Why? Because virtualization means you can do it all right on your laptop.

Also: Are SQL databases dead?

What to learn

Start learning Vagrant. It automates the provisioning of virtual machines on your own desktop. You can boot those linux boxes to your hearts content, network between them, hack them, run services on them, build your skills.

I’d also recommend digging into docker. It is the lightening fast younger brother to Virtualization.

Also: Is Oracle trying to kill MySQL?

Fundamentals

You really need those fundamentals. Build some 1.x Linux kernels and see if you can get ’em running. That’ll teach you some hacking & troubleshooting skills. Find forums to get answers.

Also take a look at CoreOS. It has some really cool stuff around infrastructure management & automation.

Also: Is the art of resistance important to devops success?

After all of that, you might want to play around with puppet or chef. Learn how to setup continuous integration, jenkins etc.

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Best of hiring posts on scalable startups

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Why I write about hiring

I’ve worked as a consultant for almost twenty years. Technology & professional services are pretty far removed from hiring, so why would I write about it?

As it turns out, finding projects, working with clients, and selling your skills & solutions has quite a lot in common to do with hiring.

As a services consultant, you’re more often a peer to technology directors & CTOs, while hiring for traditional roles is more of a boss employee relationship.

Recruiters

I’ve run into a lot of recruiters & hr folks over the years. Usually it means I’m talking to the wrong folks, as they’re gatekeepers & not decision makers. I wrote Why I don’t work with recruiters after some ups & downs.

Still they’re all a fact of life, and each of us has a role to play. So let’s play fair!

Games

I’ve always wondered, Is Hiring a numbers game? That is does it bend more to persistence & throwing spagetti at the wall, or deliberate, precision searches?

MySQL interview

If you’re looking for a database expert, I put together
Top MySQL DBA interview questions and then another one
Advanced MySQL DBA Interview questions.

These are helpful not just to candidates, but to hiring managers, hr, recruiters & everyone in between.

Mythical talent

Since as far back as I can remember, DBAs have been in short supply. In the 90’s I was doing primarily Oracle work. There were never enough technical dbas. Many came from business backgrounds, and didn’t have operating system & hardware fundamentals.

As startups shifted to open source databases in droves during the 00’s, the situation became even worse. I wrote about
The mythical mysql dba – where can we find one?

Will NoSQL databases continue the same trend?

Hire a developer

With a little light humor, we throw some opinions into the fray around hiring devs with How to hire a developer that doesn’t suck.

As devops gains momentum, some see peace between the old-school silos of developers & operations. Some see the need for ops being supplanted by developers. We have some opinions too.

AWS Interview

Are you looking for an Amazon Web Services expert, who knows how to scale in the cloud? Devops & automation also on your mind? Check out
8 Questions to ask an amazon ec2 expert.

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Best of Startup Content on Scalable Startups

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Costs

Costs of techops can involve short-term architectural, decisions, but what about the longer term affects of choices? Do cto’s underestimate operational costs?

A stack of…

These days the full stack of a internet or mobile startup involves a lot of varied components, from Chef, Puppet & Ansible, to Nginx, haproxy, redis, solr and some database like MySQL or Postgres on the relational end of the spectrum, or Mongodb, Hbase or Cassandra on the NoSQL side. What type of challenges does this pose to a team? I’m curious,
Do startups assemble at their own risk?

Most used tech

Leo Polovets ran some stats over the Angellist data of startups. He wanted to know Which tech do startups use most? and I summarized the results.

Death of ops?

These days with all the talk of automation, I’ve heard heard developers & even CTO’s argue of a diminishing need for backend administrators. Do startups still need techops?

Speed as a feature

Is Fred Wilson right to say speed is a feature? What does this mean for those migrating or already running in the cloud? How does scalability come into play?

Avoiding outages

Are many outages avoidable? Did Airbnb have to fail?

Performance Review

Reviewing architecture & site speed is a type of engagement that a lot of startups can benefit from. Here’s my Anatomy of a performance review.

Let things fail

Does it sometimes make sense to let things break a little? A tale of managed failure.

Young founders

I worked at one startup with a CTO just out of college. Although they were flush with cash & had real problems scaling, communication problems ultimately soured the engagement. Are you too young to be a boss?

80 million fix

Sometimes fixing serious performance bottlenecks can get a site back up on it’s feet. In this success story they went on to get acquired weeks after the fix. In tongue in cheek fashion I askWhere’s my 80 million dollars?

CTO’s should never do

There are times to get into the trenches. But what if it sacrifices leadership?What should a CTO never do?

Startups too cool for school

Joining YC but have no ideas? No problem. Is my startup too cool for your business school?

Instant business, just add water

Can a business be built in just a weekend? Is there a problem with startup bootcamps?

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