Presenting Homelabs To Potential Employers

A recent posting mentioned documenting your HomeLab on your Resume to show you’re going above and beyond what your job requires. Shows initiative and interest. I know when we’re looking at candidates, we want to find people who have external geeky interests like a HomeLab. In some interviews, people have been asked to diagram out their HomeLab and are dinged if they don’t have one or can’t document it on the fly.

But an alternative view was also posted in that is there a Work/Life balance. Are you taking the time to do other things outside of tech? Is tech your sole hobby?

Personally my main hobby is table top gaming. Board Games, War Games, Card Games, Dice Games, and Role Playing Games. Games. In fact, it partially got me into computers. That and I was a typesetter on a computerized typesetting machine back in 1982 or so. Typesetting up a Dungeons & Dragons character sheet got me thinking about it and then creating a Car Wars vehicle generation program in Basic got me a job. But I also tour on a Motorcycle, Ski, Snowshoe, and yes, learn new technologies with my HomeLab.

Since the mid-90’s, my home environment has consisted of at least a separate Firewall system (generally my previous desktop when I upgraded). Back in the early 00’s, I signed up for an external server hosted in Miami where I could put pictures and continue to maintain my Unix knowledge (an OpenBSD server, now a CentOS one).

A few years back I was gifted two Dell R710s that were being replaced at work. I’ve since installed vSphere to have a virtualized environment, pfSense (firewall plus) as the first Virtual server, and then a bunch of servers to isolate the things I do for fun and to learn new tech. Recently I signed up for the VMware Users Group (VMUG) and their Advantage program. This gives me access to the vCenter software and the Operations options to let me turn my two ESX servers into a cluster (and mimicking work much better). We’re moving towards a Private Cloud using vRealize technology so I have access to that too (not installed… yet).

I have a bunch of different servers, syslog, Space Walk, Samba, a couple of development servers, MySQL, several web servers, a CI/CD pipeline is being staged (Jenkins, Artifactory, Ansible, and GitLab), and I’m in the process of rebuilding my Kubernetes servers (3 Masters/3 Workers).

I’ve recently been tasked with taking ownership of the Kubernetes development process, in part due to my explorations of Kubernetes at home. I’m moving the server management scripts over to a GitLab server at work that I built. Again, in part due to me setting it up at home (I have a Revision Control System (RCS) system at home and work now and moved to git).

It’s helping me get more familiar with the new DevOps ideas plus the CI/CD pipeline tools, Orchestration with Kubernetes, and Microservices with Docker.

The question though is, should this kind of information be better documented on a resume? Should there be a HomeLab section or a Learning section, something that shows your interest, motivation, and desire even if your job doesn’t require you to use these tools?

There’s also the idea that such things be documented in a Cover Letter. You see the position, supply your resume, and then in the Cover, call out your HomeLab. It might be a better place for some positions where you’re looking at a specific job. Over the years though, I’ve seen positions where you supply only your resume to a company database which is then mined when a position opens. Tough to supply a cover for a job you don’t know about.

It’s something to think about.

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2 Responses to Presenting Homelabs To Potential Employers

  1. Jim Fisher says:

    Now we have employers who tout “Work / Life Balance”, even though that phrase is meaningless since it cannot be measured. What does that show for balance?

    I often take part in tech interviews. If a candidate says “I have 10 servers at home, and each one runs 16 virtuals. I run clusters of…”, I wonder if this person has a life. All tech and no play make Jack a nerdy geek who may not play nice – or always think he knows better – or be impatient that something he can do in a few hours at home takes weeks of paperwork here in the office. (Weeks. I wish it were that short…)

    I guess it’s all about balance. Music – especially playing – it a great balance for a tech job. Cars. Motorcycles. Cycling. Find a balance. Show me you are not one sided.

    But! In the IT field, if you are not learning, you are irrelevant very quickly. Big companies often do not give you opportunity to learn, or it takes the sign off of 185 managers and three deities of your choice to happen, only for the budget to be cut at the last minute.

    But that is not what you asked – you asked should it be on a resume, or at least a cover letter. Hmmm. Well, y’know, maybe, I kinda, uh, hmmm…

    It depends?

  2. Freejack says:

    Weirdly enough, I didn’t add playing guitar to my list.

    I spoke to our hiring guy and he said “Formal Experience” is what he’s looking for when reviewing resumes. “Informal Experience” is ignored if it’s called out. He highly recommended it be added to the Cover Letter as you’re trying to sell yourself there.

    At least it’s a direction even if it’s his opinion. It’s still a good question 🙂

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