Climbing the Pyramid

Just a few weeks ago, Linux Professional Institute announced a complete refresh of its Level 3 exams, the second since its founding. As with our other certifications, the LPIC-3 program is under constant review to ensure that what we test for is what employers want. This time around it means retiring the 304 “Virtualization and High Availability” exam and replacing it with two new specializations: exams 305 “Virtualization and Containerization” and 306 “High Availability and Storage Clusters”.

As always, you need to pass only one of these exams to achieve LPI Level 3 certification, provided that you’ve already completed LPIC-1 and LPIC-2 as prerequisites. More technical details on the certification programs themselves may be found here on the LPI website.

To me, the work done by Fabian Thorns (our Director of Product Development) and his team to keep the LPIC-3 program current and relevant is a source of pride within LPI. Ours is the only vendor-neutral open source program doing this kind of high-level specialization, crowning the four levels of our Linux-focused certificates and certifications.

Rather than being tacked-on, this multi-level design has been a fundamental part of LPI from its inception in 1999. (I know because I was there in the room.) The LPI community understood, even in the earliest days of the organization, that we must accommodate the needs of not only entry-level open source workers but also those needing advanced and ultimately enterprise-level skills. We also knew then that — much like in university — everyone should know the same basics at the lower levels, but as students progress they come to specialize.

Doing a multi-tier certification program to evaluate peoples’ mastery of these many skill levels isn’t easy. The top-level exams are the hardest to craft because their subject matter is so advanced. That difficulty is combined with the awareness that the top levels have the least volume because students need to achieve the lower levels first.

I recall clearly a conversation with someone at a different certification body whose major emphasis was entry-level programs. “It’s the bottom of the pyramid”, I was told, “with the least cost to produce and the highest potential audience.”

Who wants the problem of making the highest-cost program with the lowest potential revenue? We do.

Although we need to earn enough to keep the organization fiscally sound, LPI does not exist to maximize revenue. We are mission-driven to serve our community of open source professionals, and that means paying attention to all parts of the pyramid. This mission has led us to many projects that cost more than they earn, such as our student subsidy and sponsorship programs, and participation in events such as Software Freedom Day (September 18 this year). Plus there are some exciting new initiatives coming near the end of 2021.

We’re happy to be part of an active, vibrant open source ecosystem with multiple paths to both personal fulfilment and professional success. But we are also proud to be one of the few to be able to see, react to, and serve the changing character of this community from the rare vantage point at the top of the pyramid.

About Evan Leibovitch:

Evan is LPI Director of Community Relations and one of the organizations' co-founders. A longtime advocate of open computing and open source, he was ZDNet's first Linux-specific columnist and has participated in numerous conferences, nonprofits, policy initiatives and white papers. Before re-joining LPI in 2017 he worked for the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) working to bring Internet access and work opportunities to refugee centres in Egypt, Uganda and Kenya. He was co-founder and first president of the Canada Chapter of the Internet Society, and first Chair of the the North American At-Large advisory body of ICANN. He is based in Toronto, Canada.

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