Road to RHCA--Preparation Meets Opportunity

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This article is the second in my series "Road to RHCA", where I'm charting my journey to the Red Hat Certified Architect designation—a designation that's difficult to come by. As an advocate and enthusiast of Linux and open source, and more important, as someone who works as a Linux professional, I am eager to change the current state of affairs around the number of women and people of color who know Linux and open source, study Linux and work in the Linux and/or open-source space.

Things haven't changed much in general when it comes to the numbers of women and people of color who enter the IT field, but those numbers drop significantly when it comes to Linux and open source. It's my goal to convince other women and people of color to study Linux and pursue open-source projects, because diversity of thought is invaluable in the world and in the enterprise. This world is not homogeneous; nothing else ever should be either. So I'd like to see more professionals who look like me in Linux and the Open Source community, and I'm starting to see a few, but there's still more work to be done.

Joining the RHCA ranks requires significant time and effort. Nothing worth anything comes easy, nor should it, but I can say with work, family, mentoring and now writing a book for Packt publishing, finding time to study will be more and more difficult for me, but it's my highest priority. At the time of this writing, I am five exams away.

You can choose from five areas of concentration, or you can select any combination of eligible Red Hat certifications to create a custom concentration. Those five concentrations are:

  • Data Center
  • DevOps
  • Application Platform
  • Cloud
  • Application Development

I decided the best route to my RHCA is for me to customize my concentration to include these five certifications in the order I plan to take them:

  1. Red Hat-Certified Specialist in Ansible Automation
  2. Red Hat-Certified Specialist in High Availability Clustering
  3. Red Hat-Certified Specialist in Red Hat OpenStack
  4. Red Hat-Certified Specialist in Linux Diagnostics and Troubleshooting
  5. Red Hat-Certified Specialist in OpenShift Administration

If you ask Red Hat the company, it obviously would recommend paying for and using one of its subscription options. The standard option costs $5,500, and the basic option costs $7,000. Having the subscription definitely would be beneficial, especially if you are working toward an RHCA, but it's not something that everyone can afford. You might be able to get your employer to cover the costs, but that's not always possible. So how does one without such resources become an RHCA? True grit, determination and a little creativity.

I did some research and talked to one of my mentors, and I was given an opportunity through sponsorship to take the EX407, which is the Red Hat-Certified Specialist in Ansible Automation training and exam. I am now scheduled to take the EX407 on July 31st.

I don't want lack of money to be the reason others don't pursue the Red Hat certifications. Things are changing, and virtual training platforms are beginning to offer some of the courses that are required to obtain the RHCSA, RHCE and even the RHCA. At this point in time, there are two that I recommend, although likely more will continue to crop up.

One is O'Reilly Books Media. I pay a monthly fee of $39, but with all the available resources, it's a worthwhile investment. Sander van Vugt, a renowned Linux expert, has courses that will satisfy the RHCA, such as Red Hat EX436 ("Linux High Availability"), EX442 ("Linux Performance Optimization"), Ex413 ("Red Hat Certificate of Expertise in Server Hardening") and the OpenStack certification. This isn't an exhaustive offering of the exams that Red Hat offers, but it's a start. If one of these courses is on your list, you could utilize it while saving up for the standard Red Hat subscription.

Another option is Linux Academy, which costs me $49 per month (it used to be $29 per month). Linux Academy currently offers the Ex280 exam preparation course, "Red Hat Certified Specialist in Platform-as-a-Service (OpenShift)". It also has a learning path called "Red Hat Certified Architect RHCA: DevOps". The path is not yet complete, but it currently has the EX407, which is the course I am taking presently (the Red Hat Certified Specialist in Ansible Automation prep course). Its two other offerings are the "Red Hat-Certified Specialist in Containerized Application Development" (EX276) and the "Red Hat-Certified Specialist in Platform-as-a-Service (EX280)".

I say all of this because it's important to understand that there's more than one way, one road, one option or one opportunity. I wish Red Hat offered more payment options for its subscriptions, but at this time, it doesn't. Pursuing a career in Linux and open source should not be inconceivable or unthinkable. Women and people of color always have had to be resourceful and tenacious, and unfortunately, there isn't always a lot of thought put into how to attract us and keep our attention.

I titled this article "Preparation Meets Opportunity" because I wanted to explore the variety of opportunities that have become available and that will continue to become available to obtain the RHCSA, RHCE and RHCA. There isn't only one way, just as there isn't only one way of learning, one way of tackling a challenge, and more important, one way to prepare yourself for the opportunities that you seek. Do your research, talk to others in the industry, and understand that while the numbers are small when it comes to women and people of color in the technology field, and even smaller in Linux and open source, with hard work, focus, shutting out negative thoughts, preparation and finding the right opportunities, there is nothing you can't overcome and nothing you can't achieve.

In my next article, I plan to explore why I've chosen the five exams mentioned above, what my study habits are like, time-management challenges and what the EX407 exam is all about. Until then, in the words of Oprah Winfrey, "I believe luck is preparation meeting opportunity. If you hadn't been prepared when the opportunity came along, you wouldn't have been lucky."

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