SUSE: Global Linux jobs on the rise

New Linux jobs are showing up every day, one enterprise vendor reports.

Even as the Linux Foundation reports on Linux jobs in the U.S., the global picture seems to be even more encouraging.

That's the take away from my conversation with Ralf Flaxa, SUSE's VP of Linux Engineering, who paints a pretty strong picture of worldwide job hiring on the part of SUSE and, presumably, other non-U.S. firms.

As the person primarily responsible for hiring engineers for SUSE, Flaxa has a unique position on the outlook for Linux careers, especially in the European market. While Flaxa certainly recognizes the importance of the Linux Foundation's recent infographic for the U.S., "my point of view looks a bit different."

Indeed he should. Currently, SUSE is hiring quite a bit--anywhere from 10-20 positions are being opened every week, as Flaxa works to fill SUSE's ranks with programmers, integrators, and automation specialists in a global market.

Primarily, Flaxa is hiring for SUSE's Nürnberg and Prague engineering offices, which makes sense, since SUSE is based in Nürnberg, and much of its SUSE Studio and appliance work are co-located in these offices. But, Flaxa added, he is also looking to fill positions in SUSE's Beijing, Taiwan, and India offices.

"China is a big hiring location for us now," Flaxa said, "not because it's cheap labor, but because we are doing a lot of business there." Flaxa stated that SUSE's enterprise Linux business is currently the leader in China.

I asked Flaxa if SUSE tried to hire locally to coordinate with customer deployment and integration projects. He de-emphasized this notion, outlining a broader strategy for the company's global hiring practices. What SUSE tends to do, he explained, is look for strong candidates--particularly good contributors to upstream projects, such as Linux kernel development--and then find out where the candidate is located.

If the candidate is close to an existing SUSE engineering location, then they are usually paired with that office. If not, they may be asked to relocate or allowed to work in their home office.

Interestingly, Flaxa indicated that SUSE seems to prefer team members actually working within offices. I probed this in more detail, since in a community with such strong distributed development tools, one wouldn't think physical location would not be so important.

Part of SUSE's preferences lie with the type of work the candidate will be doing. A Linux kernel storage engineer, for example, could do a lot of coding from a remote location, but when performing activities like debugging, latency could pose a significant hurdle. In cases like that, the candidate would be encouraged to work within a SUSE office.

"Having them locally also creates an increase in productivity," Flaxa added. But working remotely is not necessarily a deal-breaker for hiring a candidate, if they simply could not relocate.

So what kinds of job skills are hot right now? Prefacing his answer with the the simple truth that his hiring "is biased because we're an operating system company," Flaxa said that for SUSE, the hottest demand is kernel developers.

"Currently, the Linux kernel people don't grow on trees," Flaxa said, "And the really good ones are probably already hired and being fought over."

"Tell your kids that if they want to get a job when they grow up, they need to get into Linux kernel hacking," Flaxa chuckled.

When looking for programmers in general, Flaxa said that programming language aren't as important as the style and experience of the programmer being interviewed. Do they have agile development experience, for instance? What's their experience working with open source communities? Those are key factors for Flaxa when looking at candidates.

"We do a lot of integration work with SUSE Linux Enterprise for customers," Flaxa added. "The ability to quickly read and integrate code is also important."

Flaxa couldn't pinpoint a hot geographic area for hiring, because it changes literally week to week. Today, the SUSE hiring site has more positions open in China, but that could certainly change.

One thing that's clear for SUSE: the post-acquisition reevaluation period seems to be over. With a constant stream of job openings right now, SUSE is definitely in growth mode. A quick glance at Red Hat's and Canonical's career pages shows a lot of growth in those companies as well, in a lot of global locations.

The good news: jobs in the Linux ecosystem are on the rise, and not just in the U.S. Definitely a bright light in such gloomy economic times.

Read more of Brian Proffitt's Open for Discussion blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Drop Brian a line or follow Brian on Twitter at @TheTechScribe. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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