RHCE, the developer’s key to production access at Red Hat IT

If you are a Linux System Administrator, then passing the Red Hat Certified Engineer exam is probably on your to-do list for career development or better yet, it has been checked off your to-do list with great pride when you passed the exam. If the latter applies to your situation, let me congratulate you! You’ve earned it!

But what if you are a Developer? Should you even care about this certification? Well, here at Red Hat IT, we began piloting a ‘program’ approximately four years ago that would allow Red Hat IT developers to gain full access to production servers with the intent to allow them to work with the IT Operations teams on: deploying, debugging, and monitoring applications in Production.

During the initial phase of the program, only a small selection of IT departments supplied participants for the program. These participants became known internally as Production Control Lieutenants (PCLT). The Lieutenants effectively became an extension of the Red Hat IT Operations department. Prior to the launch of this program, the concept of Developers and  Operations working together with one common purpose instead of trying to blame each other for every production issue occurring under the sun was, to say the least, a stretch of almost everyone’s imagination. Including mine! How could I (as a System Administrator) trust a developer not to make things worse on a server?

That is when a former Red Hat IT manager and I came up with the idea of requiring a developer willing to participate in the PCLT program to also pass the RHCE exam. Why, you may ask? You see, I’ve been with Red Hat for almost 7 years now, and throughout this time I’ve met a lot of very good System Admin types of people, but believe or not, not all of them were able to pass the RHCE on the first try or even the second. They knew their stuff. Heck! They knew more than I ever knew, but they either didn’t have the discipline to work through the time-limited exam or the focus needed to solve the problems without getting themselves into the ‘rabbit hole’. The reason the RHCE exam, IMHO, is such a good barometer of a person’s ability to be a Lieutenant in our IT program is not just because they can hold their own in our Red Hat Enterprise Linux based environments, but also because if they pass the exam it shows that they had the discipline and the focus needed to clean up their mess in the event they accidentally make one.

Today, four years later, I’ve seen the PCLT program expand from only two Lieutenants to five with a few more managers in IT expressing interest in the program. We also realized at some point in the last year that even with an RHCE (and the training that comes from the System Administrators), to get a developer comfortable enough to start doing things on our somewhat complex environments, we needed a ‘bridge’ to ease a Developer into becoming a ‘full’ Lieutenants.

We have called program participants who are working to bridge that gap Corporals. For those who may be unfamiliar with military ranking, a Corporal is ranked beneath a Lieutenant. So now at Red Hat IT, a developer who may be interested in becoming a Lieutenant can first become a Corporal. To become a Corporal in the program, you do not need an RHCE, but you only get access to our QA environment. The goal of this Corporal rank is to begin to allow the developer to gain familiarity with our environments and processes while he or she prepares for the RHCE. Ultimately the Corporal would get the Production access that his or her department needs to get the work done faster and better.

As Red Hat grows as a company, we in IT have more and more services to implement and support for the success of our business, and I am honestly not sure where we would be today without the help of our Lieutenants [and Corporals]. Recently one person arguably declared that we started doing ‘DevOps’ before the term became a ‘thing’.

What do you think?



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