Carla Berjano: My Linux Story

A fresh start thanks to LinuxCon

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At the beginning of October I spent a week in Dublin sharing a room at a tiny bed and breakfast with two English students, each with really interesting stories to tell. Why was I there? I received diversity scholarship to attend LinuxCon 2015. I was so excited I didn't even mind the rain on the first day.

But how did I get there?

Early days

During the 60's, my parents left the Portuguese countryside, where life was dire and poor during a dictatorship, to search for a better life in Lisbon. They believed in the value of hard work, and they passed this belief on to my brother and me. We lived modestly and couldn't afford many luxuries. In 1994, my brother got a personal computer so he could write his final thesis. I was drawing on Paint, writing, and playing games in no time, but it didn't last long—he got married and moved out of the house.

It wasn't until 1998 that I got my own PC. At the time I would devour every PC and gaming magazine I could get my hands on. I was becoming a techie, but I never considered a career in computing because I was bad at math.

After my brother left, my parents started renting his old bedroom to students, mostly in computer engineering. I was always asking them to teach me something, and they were always borrowing my video games. Several of the students often spent time entering "complicated stuff" on what looked like MS-DOS. In 1999, one of them handed me six Linux CDs and told me to give it a try for myself.

"What's this?"

"It's Linux."

"What does it do?"

"It's an operating system, like Windows."

But, why so many disks? Windows 98 only needed one. "I think I'll pass."

I took a mental note to give it a try once I was more experienced.

Life as a technical translator

Some time passed, and after secondary school I pursued a Letters degree. I wanted to become a translator and help engineering students read those huge English-language books they needed for class. It was about that time when we got Internet access at home. Suddenly, I had the world on my fingertips. And I was hungry for knowledge. I started writing and reviewing for video game websites, and it didn't take much longer to realize I wasn't happy with my field of study. But what choice did I have? It was too late for that.

After finishing the degree, I got an internship as a technical translator. It was then that I figured out that one could learn anything they wanted. I felt something lacking in my formal education, so I enrolled in a master's program 300 kilometers away from home.

My first year was a failure for several reasons. While trying to "save" myself, I started applying for work outside Portugal and ended up in Ireland working as a contractor for Apple. One day, I woke up and my first thought was, "I don't want to be a translator anymore." That was the beginning of the change.

A switch to IT

Sure, I enjoyed computing. But what could I do with my self-imposed limitations? Maybe get further into QA and testing? No, they want programmers and computer science graduates. Let's try tech support! I looked around and discovered CompTIA certifications, got my A+ and started studying for Network+.

A series of bad decisions in a troubling economy was enough to make me stop and wonder what I was really up to. For health reasons, I had to leave a help desk job and I ended up trying different things during this last year.

Rediscovering Linux

Then I decided to pick up Linux, this time for real. Circumstances made me stumble onto the LinuxCon 2015 event website. Discouraged by the ticket prices, I almost missed out on the scholarship parts, specifically the diversity scholarship that allowed me to attend the event.

Those three days were some of the best I had in the last two years; so many people, so much to learn. It was simply amazing and it helped me figure out where to go next. At the time of my return to Portugal, my bag carried more than new knowledge and new connections: it carried a new hope, as I had finally found a place where I would fit in.

About the author

Carla Berjano - Hi! My name is Carla and I'm a former Language professional changing careers to Development and Linux System Administration. My interests include Web Development, Testing, Security, Documentation and Indie Video Games. Feel free to follow me on Twitter, at @CarlaBerjano.