I didn't know it then, of course.
Sometimes there are days and times when you know - in the moment - that your life is undergoing a severe change. Usually those moments are new beginnings... an engagement, a wedding, the birth of a child, the day you moved to a new place... or started the job you always dreamed about. Or they are new endings... a death of a parent, child or other loved one, the final granting of a divorce, the ending of a long-held job, an accident or serious injury... whatever the case, you know at the end of the day: I am not who I was when this day began.
Other life-changing moments - perhaps most - are far more subtle... the day passes as a perfectly normal day and it is only later, perhaps much later, upon reflection that you realize that that particular day was so important.
Ten years ago today was one of those latter moments for me.
So what happened, you say, that was of such grand and momentous importance?
Simply this... an article of mine was published in an online magazine.
That's it. I wrote an article. It was published. No big deal, really. Now granted, this was 1998, the time before today's era of ubiquitous self-publishing via blogging. Sure, you could run your own website (I did), but that wouldn't necessarily get you traffic and get your ideas out there. "Search" was still emerging and larger websites were still where the traffic and audience was. So having an article published in a larger website was still a bigger deal then. But in the end, that was still all it was.
Yet I had no idea then how much writing one little article would change the course of my life - and in many ways bring me to where I am today.
Remarkably, ten years later, the article is still online. Even more remarkably, perhaps, it still remains at its original URL. (Or at least the URL I added to my page of articles a good number of years ago.)
The article, "Creating a Linux Certification and Training Program", was published in the October 1998 issue of the Linux Gazette which, if my memory serves me correctly, came out on October 1, 1998. In the piece, I laid out the reasons why I thought a certification program was needed to expand the growth of usage of the Linux operating system, the requirements I thought were necessary for such a program and ended with a request for those interested to contact me or point me in the direction of where such discussion was happening.
As I chronicled over the next months through a series of Linux Gazette articles and summarized in the last piece one year later (note: most of the links don't work anymore), the response to that article led to connections with some amazing people and was one of the threads of action that led to the creation of the Linux Professional Institute (LPI), today the leading vendor-neutral certification for Linux professionals giving literally tens of thousands of exams each month around the world.
The creation of LPI involved a huge number of people, an incredible amount of effort and time, uncountable numbers of email messages, raising over a half-million dollars in sponsorships (thank you, dot-Com era!), presentations at conferences around the world... and more exposure to the scientific side of test development than I ever would have even remotely imagined would exist. Someday perhaps those of us involved early on will sit down and write more about the history of what happened... in retrospect it was remarkable in so many ways. And while my own thinking evolved considerably from where it was in that first article, it was the starting point for one thread of what became LPI.
On a personal level it took me from managing the training side of a small IT training center in Bedford, NH, to suddenly being employed by Linuxcare to build LPI and be LPI's first President. From traveling occasionally around New England to traveling globally 2-3 weeks a month speaking at conferences and attending meetings. From being just a regular Linux user to coming to know the CEOs and senior leaders of the leading Linux companies and eventually joining the board of Linux International. From reading the Linux-related news sites to either writing for them or begin written about in them. It was a crazy, insane, yet incredible time. And while I was only involved with LPI really through sometime in 2001 (and then a bit more briefly in 2005), my work there directly led to the offer to work for e-smith in Ottawa, which then was acquired by Mitel... which then led ultimately to Voxeo, where I've been for the last year now.
All coming out of... one... little... article.
Which is why when someone asks me for advice about whether they should publish something online, or start a blog, or launch into a new venture, I usually do encourage them (providing their content is decent) to go ahead and do it. Begin it. One never knows where something you start may take you. One of my favorite quotes has always been one attributed to Goethe:
Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
And while that quote turns out to only very loosely be from Goethe, the sentiment is one I definitely agree with. There is power in starting. In beginning. In taking that first step. In putting forward ideas knowing that while they may be applauded they may also be shredded (or perhaps worse, completely ignored).
It seems somewhat bizarre to me that that article was published now a decade ago - although perhaps not when I look at the gray now in my hair and beard. (Hmmm... how much of that came from LPI? :-) ) It led to some amazing times, some great friendships that are still there today... and did fundamentally change the path my life took in some wonderful ways. Ten years later, I'm still very glad I wrote that piece. I'm thankful and honored to have met and interacted with so many incredible people (way too many to thank/recognize in a simple blog post). I'm thrilled to see that LPI has grown and thrived in ways that many of us would never have imagined at the beginning... and I look forward to seeing what it may become over the next 10 years.
Amazing what can happen sometimes........ what will you begin today?