My Interest in Linux started during university where I was doing a second degree in computer science. This was in the late 1990s. I remember when assignments where do and the Irix machines at the computer lab where unavailable as everyone was trying to get their assignments done at the last minute. I would just do mine on my home PC running Linux. Usually porting to the Irix machines didn't involve much more than typing "make"
As for jobs, my first job was with IBM in Toronto, Canada as a compiler writer. There I became involved in real-time Java, as much for more Linux as for my compiler writing expertise.
I moved to Germany later for personal reasons, and got a job with Red-Hat on the Real-time kernel team.