A conversation among Linux Professional Institute Members

Simone "Simo" Bertulli and Kenny Armstrong: A conversation among LPI Members

August 26, 2021 - by Max Roveri

How LPI members benefit from a growing membership program

The young LPI Membership program was announced in late summer 2020. Lots of Members joined. What benefits do they get? In particular, what can they do to earn Professional Development Units (PDUs) and how do PDUs bolster certifications? Finally, what is LPI doing to continue strengthening the Membership program and enhancing its value?

Two leaders in the LPI community, Kenny Armstrong and Simone "Simo" Bertulli, the Author of the #LPIMemberJourney posts series, recently recorded a conversation  - a sort of two-ways interview - explaining all these topics.

An edited transcript follows.

Part I - Simo: What is the PDU thing all about?

Simone "Simo" Bertulli: As I said now many times during this "journey", I do love the Membership Program by LPI. So it's great to have the opportunity to ask a few questions to one of the Program designers: the idea of a "live FAQ session" sounded pretty cool; I hope you will find this conversation useful!

I'd love to have some documentation about how to present verified activities to gain PDUs. Does such documentation exist (maybe I just can't find it on the Portal), or going to exist? And, kind of related question: among the educational areas' activities, how can I demonstrate the "Self-directed learning activities" to request the PDUs?

Kenny Armstrong: When someone submits a PDU, there is a button on the page that will allow them to upload supporting documents. These can be PDF copies of a certificate for a course of completion, another vendor’s certification, or whatever they have that can provide evidence of the event. We also will take links to projects and events such as a Git repository, a record of attendance to a talk, or even a link to a digital badge.

Simo: Members collect PDUs in three activity areas: education, experience, community. Is the required "mix" set in stone, or might it change? (In my opinion, the PDUs from the Experience area should weigh more, while the ones from the Community area should have some limitations too.)

Kenny: The PDU criteria are not set in stone, as they are just the starting point that was chosen for the program. Members of LPI can join the Member Engagement Committee meetings or join in on the conversation at our discussion site to put forward ideas such as modifying the PDU area weights or priorities to better suit the group as a whole. We highly encourage this, as a matter of fact, because we want the Members to be involved in the program as much as possible.

Simo: The use of PDUs in the MP inherits some traits from the Certification path. Right now, in the LPIC path, renewing a higher level automatically renews the lower levels of the path. The question here is: what happens with PDUs? If I collect enough PDUs for a higher certification, hence renewing it, in this way, are the lower levels renewed as well?

Kenny: In essence, yes. Yet this same concept also applies to when you take an exam of a higher level, because it will renew the lower level certifications.  And just to clarify, we ask for only 60 PDUs per cycle. So PDUs by themselves can’t earn a higher level certification, because the PDUs just apply to your already existing highest level certification.

Simo: DUs are related to areas, but some activities may be more complex than others: what is the yardstick here?

Kenny: The “yardstick,” so to speak, is the weight of individual items within the area in question. For example, in the area of Education, there are PDU items for self-directed learning. These will carry a particular PDU point value that is different from taking a third-party course from a trainer. Another example would be volunteering within LPI itself. For example, volunteering for an event will grant you 1 PDU per hour that you spend on the activity.

However, if you organize a study group with others that are preparing for an exam, we award 3 PDUs for each group that is organized because we recognize that taking part in such an activity can require more work on your part. Again, we are very flexible and are open to suggestions as to how many PDUs could be awarded per activity. We would like for such discussions to take place with other Members so that we could come to a consensus on what makes sense for the group as a whole.

Simo: The LPI Membership Program is now a little over a year old: what are the plans for its further development?

Kenny: One of our endeavors that we are focusing on right now is making the submissions of PDUs easier for members. We are exploring various ways to accomplish this, such as a browser extension in Firefox that would let you click a button after reading an article or viewing a video that is relevant to your career and grant you PDUs for that activity. We are also working with our Partner team in getting job board functionality in place. We hope to have this completed soon. We would also like to curate a collection of training materials for “soft skills” or “core skills” such as communication skills and people skills, to aid our Members as they grow professionally. We would pull from resources that already excel at this type of training and make it easier for our Members to have access to them. These are just some of the initiatives we are working on, and we welcome any suggestions from our Members as to what they would like to see from the program.

Simo: My stone into the pond would go for a higher integration between the Membership Program and other projects and features that LPI has already. What about connecting the collection of PDUs to the LPI Partners activity? I can imagine specific content from the Partners for the Members, and, well: maybe the teacher, in this case, could earn PDUs too!

Kenny: That is something we will promote more, for instance, allowing trainers who are Members and are employed by our Partners to earn PDUs for activities that they take part in. On top of that we have a few Partners that are already offering discounts to training programs that they have for Members, as well as discounted prices on books and other study materials. We also have some Partners that provide discounts to Members for other services, such as NordVPN and Fluent Forever, a popular mobile application that aids in the learning of other languages. We are very open to ideas from other Partners as to other benefits that we can offer Members in this area.

Simo: I’d be intrigued - but I am just thinking out loud here - to see connections between Members and the Learning Portal; Members and the broader Community Program.

Kenny: There is a connection between them now, where Members who submit training materials to the learning community also gain PDUs for their work. Members who volunteer for events, once we can have live events again, will also be able to earn PDUs for their participation. We encourage Members and non-Members to take advantage of the opportunities that we have listed on our Community Programs page. Participation in anything listed on that page will grant PDUs to Members and those who wish to be Members.

Simo: What about an LPI Members convention?

Kenny: LPI does have something similar to this idea now, where we hold meetings under the Member Engagement Committee on a semi-monthly basis. However the idea of a separate Members convention has merit and is something that we could work on in conjunction with our Members. I invite other Members to join us at the Member Engagement Committee meetings so that we can discuss this idea further. This way, we could determine what everyone would like to see in a convention. We value the input of the Members, as the program as a whole is a shared experience amongst us all.

Part 2 - Kenny: What would Members like to see?

Kenny Armstrong: One of the main ideas behind the Member Program is that Members will have a say in how the program is handled. The primary methods that we use to engage with other Members is through the Member Engagement Committee and our discussion site.

The Member Engagement Committee meets once a month to discuss topics such as what benefits the Members would like to see for the program, suggestions for how to better engage the community, and of course at this time of year the topic of governance. This is where Members can learn more about candidates that are running for Board positions with LPI and on subjects that they deem important for the Board to consider.

Members can also promote their own candidates for the Board so that they can have a more direct say in how the Board engages in its business at a higher level. The discussions do not necessarily have to be so confined, as Members are free to discuss anything about the open source community and where they would like to see LPI engage with them.

All of that being said, what topic would you most like to see tackled by the Members to help improve the program?

Simone "Simo" Bertulli: One of the areas in which it would be nice to involve members could be to propose a structured community framework to improve the creation of training material on existing exams, starting from LPIC-1 up to the higher-level ones, because, right now, it is quite difficult to find all the useful resources.

Kenny: We are aware of the need to better streamline how someone can access the appropriate materials and we are making some headway in that area. We welcome any suggestions as to how we can make the experience easier for everyone and we appreciate all feedback.
Going back to the subject of PDUs, is there a particular activity for which we do not award PDU points for now, and that you would like to see covered by the program?

Simo: From my point of view, rather than talking about the introduction of a new category for PDUs, it would be interesting to review the distribution of these into macro areas: I believe that the number of PDUs linked to work experience should be increased, because I have always thought that technical certifications find great feedback in the everyday working context, compared to education and community activities.

Kenny: We currently have an ongoing discussion about PDUs on our Discord site. We also have a blog post coming up that will outline the existing rationale for awarding PDUs as well as an invitation to further discuss proposed changes and clarifications.

A couple of years back, a survey was sent out to people who were LPI certified to gain insight into what they would like to see in a membership program. One of the higher results was for Members to be involved in global FOSS advocacy. LPI is engaged on a global scale with various projects and initiatives. What would you like to see Members accomplish in this area? Is there an initiative that you feel would make a great contribution in global FOSS advocacy?

Simo: As you well know now, the training aspect is very close to my heart:
one of the things I would most like to see is even better integration between the various initiatives that LPI carries out and an even greater pouring of "know-how" into the scope of the issued certifications: it would be great, once you have a new tool, a new feature, for it to become part of a new version of the certification: after all, in an environment of “continuous deployment” and a need for continuous updates of skills and knowledge,  is needed for exams as well.

Kenny: Excellent! To that end, on LPI’s Discord site, we have a section dedicated to exam feedback and development where important ideas such as this can be discussed. Such discussions are not limited to just Members, either, but to anyone, including Partners, with interest in LPI’s certification exams.

Something else that you had mentioned was a Member Convention. Aside from the Member Engagement Committee, LPI would welcome local meetups with Members so that they could collaborate on projects, exchange ideas, and just get to know each other. We would also welcome mentorships between Members and those who wish to join the program. This could also include study groups to help those who wish to obtain the higher-level certifications. Do you have any advice that you could share with Members with regard to mentorship?

Simo: The introduction of dedicated study groups is always helpful, all the more as certification holders move to higher levels. So I would find it helpful to create groups to increase cohesion and a sense of belonging to the community.
Essentially, access to valuable resources for study and community activities
would find a better set-up and guided organization if done through dedicated groups.

Kenny: Once again I wish to thank Simo for taking the time to discuss the Member Program and for the feedback on how we can enhance the experience of Membership.

Kenny Armstrong has worked with UNIX-like operating systems since his introduction to them while serving in the U.S. military in the late 1990s. Kenny has been involved with the Linux community in various capacities, such as teaching Linux for a variety of training organizations, deploying Linux in local government institutions up to large Universities, and in various large-scale businesses. 

Simone "Simo" Bertulli is a Cyber Security Expert and a Linux Enterprise Specialist. He started working on Linux systems in 2012, then extended his interest to the whole open source world, creating an Italian community. Discovering the potential of open source software and the new opportunities it can create in the workplace is a stimulus for this passion, which brings with it the sustainability of technical solutions and professional skills. In the Cyber Security field, he works in an SOC and has collaborated with the Packt publisher on technical reviews of some video courses about blue team activities. In his spare time, he takes technical certifications on various IT topics ("never stop learning" is his motto) and likes to experiment with new technologies about security and virtualization for SOHO and Enterprise environments.

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About Max Roveri:

Max Roveri

Massimiliano "Max" Roveri is a writer, blogger, editor and social media manager. He started writing on the internet in the late '90s and he went back to the digital media in 2009. Since 2014 he lives in Ireland and, since 2015, he has been part of the LPI Italy team. He is professionally involved in cultural mediation projects, with an event management side, and in education projects as a professional and as a volunteer as well.  With a background in humanities and philosophy, he loves to address the ethical and social aspects of Open Source, with an approach that nods to Gregory Bateson and Robert M. Pirsig. Photo: uphostudio