So much information in our heads, so many people who want it. Welcome to the third UDig Brain Dig, where we interview our consultants in the field about the day-to-day work in the various industries they serve. This week, we talk to David, UNIX/Linux Systems Administrator at a local shipping company. To read our other Brain Digs, check out Adam and Matt, both of whom work in the insurance IT industry.

When you consider IT and the logistics industry, what trends are you seeing?
In logistics, IT is purely about integration and speed: Ensuring that every piece works seamlessly with one another, in a quick and efficient way. Coupled with that, there is always a push to provide the customer with methods of interaction that better suit their needs.

And of course, if things move faster and easier, costs go down.
Right. Companies are trying to do much more with much less in an attempt to keep the impact on the bottom line down. This means that IT workers need to be as versatile as possible, as there is little room left for someone who’s an expert in one specific technology but has little practical experience outside of that. While there may still be a need for an individual like that, it’s in a limited capacity for short-term projects and contracts rather than any sort of long-term position.

Why is open source software so instrumental to business operations in today’s economy?
Open source is much more versatile, and in many cases more cost-effective than proprietary software. When a company has the resources and time, they can take an open source application that comes close to meeting their needs and really tailor that solution to their particular environment. This brings them much closer to that “perfect solution” than they would often find in the proprietary world.

Is cloud computing impacting the logistics industry yet, and if so, how?
Cloud isn’t really impacting my job or logistics at the moment, but you can see it coming down the road. An organization can continue to shrink their data center footprint with virtualization, and even more so by implementing cloud computing on demand. Logistics companies won’t have to maintain so many systems over a long period of time that get limited usage.

What types of skills do you recommend candidates have before going into your field?
The biggest skill isn’t really a skill at all, but more a personality trait. You need to be curious. Be willing to learn and solve puzzles. Without that, your skills will often stagnate and you might find yourself obsolete or redundant. Outside of that, I would recommend that you try and diversify your experiences as much as possible while maintaining a focus on one general area. This will both make you more marketable to employers, but better at doing your job because you’ll understand the associated technologies involved with your day to day operations.

How do you stay up-to-speed on the latest technologies out there?
Read, read, read. Be curious about the technology and where it’s going. Keep abreast of the direction of the technologies you use and always be mindful of how it would fit in your environment or how you would leverage it in a way that may be outside of the scope of the project. Linux specifically lends itself to this type of curiosity and ability to constantly innovate.