The Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at Lewis University had the honor of welcoming Computer Science alumnus Nathan Adams back to campus to speak to Prof. Joe Ninh’s Linux classes this week. Nathan, who has worked at Argonne National Laboratory since graduating from Lewis in May 2010, gave an excellent presentation on powerful tools Linux system administrators use to manage their systems. Nathan described how he uses a variety of tools to perform his system administration tasks, including parsing server and security logs, performing system backups, and monitoring infrastructure. He described and then demonstrated using commands and tools like awk to analyze logs; rsync, Backupcc, and System Imager to perform backups, and Zabbix to perform comprehensive monitoring of hardware changes and critical events across an enterprise. Nathan, a natural teacher, expertly integrated explanations of what the tools do and how they work with demonstrations on how to use them. The students, who are mostly sophomores and juniors enrolled in 70-220, benefited significantly from Nathan’s talk, as they were able to see the real-world application of what they are learning in class.
Nathan also shared helpful insights about the place of Linux in the industry. He cited current salary statistics that are very encouraging for Linux enthusiasts and experts. He said that the average starting salary for a Linux administrator in Chicago is around $57,000. The highest salaries for Linux administrators in Chicago are around $130,000. These kinds of positions require experience using the kinds of tools Nathan shared with the group. He also explained that all Linux professionals need to learn how to script in BASH, Python, or Perl; to edit configuration files in vi or emacs; to configure and troubleshoot Apache, nginx, BIND, and ProFTPD; to manage operating system loading using GRUB and LILO; and to configure network connectivity and DNS. In sharing these insights with the students, Nathan helped them see that their efforts in this challenging course will prepare them to do great work in the industry.
The Department is very fortunate to have such expert alumni willing to come back to campus and show students the “light at the end of the tunnel”. One of our department mantras is “be real world.” We constantly evaluate our curriculum to make sure that what we’re teaching is practical, focused, and relevant. Alumni like Nathan assist us tremendously in accomplishing that goal.