How IT Professionals Can “Level Up” Their DevOps Skills 

In a recent DevOps.com webinarEveline Oehrlich (Chief Research Analyst of the Upskilling: Enterprise DevOps Skills Report), Jayne Groll (CEO, DevOps Institute), and Sam Fell (Vice President, Marketing, CloudBees) discussed the results from the 2019: Upskilling Enterprise DevOps Skills Report (EDOSR). The inaugural report from DevOps Institute provides critical information on how IT professionals can up-level their DevOps skills, and which skills employers are looking for on resumes and during job interviews to fill DevOps roles.  DevOps career  Why look at DevOps skills from this angle? While there’s been plenty of insight and research into the tools and techniques required to deliver software on business demand, the human elements of DevOps haven’t always gotten the same level of investmentLack of appropriate skilled human resources adds friction to any digital transformation, as it is nearly impossible to adopt certain methodologies or squeeze the full value from best-in-class tools if there aren’t qualified people involved  In fact, as the EDOSR finds, soft skills are the most necessary DevOps skills. The ability to communicate, collaborate, and experiment is key to finding new, better ways to work and makes for a happy team to boot!   GrollOehrlich and Fell uncover the most compelling results, what they mean, and share tips on how to upskill to stay ahead of the curve. Continue reading for their insights!

Hiring and Jobs 

Oehrlich shares the results on how many organizations are currently hiring for DevOps positionsWe asked, What steps in your organization are you taking or planning to take to expand the DevOps team or teams? 37% of our respondents were currently hiring. And, then there’s plenty more who plan to recruit.  Fell shares his curiosity as to how DevOps skills and job titles will shift over time: “One of the things that I’m very excited to see over time is how these titles are going to shift. For instance, Site Reliability Engineers, are we going to see more of those next year or less? System administrators? What areas of this business, if you’re looking to upskill yourself, makes sense for you to go in based on that data?  Groll is excited to see that operations roles were prominent in the results: Recently, there’s been a lot of emphasis on NoOps and, of course, many of that I’ve been working with some others on shaping NewOps. Operations really make a strong presence here. Looking at cross-functionality where test engineers and test-driven deployment are going to show up as part of that T-shaped approach where it isn’t just a single specialty anymore. The system administrator, whether it rises or falls, is still going to need to learn how to code and developers are going to need to know how to test.”

T-Shaped IT Professionals  

T-shaped individuals have breadth and depth of DevOps skills instead of focusing on just one area of expertise. Groll continues: “The survey results demonstrate that there is an evolution of the IT professional from a specialist to what we now call the T-shaped practitioner. Specialists have deep knowledge about a single competency, like if you’re a software developer, or you’re an infrastructure engineer, or you’re a DBA or any of the myriad of specialties that are associated with IT. We grew IT up to be an organization of specialists, but we found out that there were constraints associated with it, which is why the concept of the T-shape professional is actively hired.”  Fell on the importance of trying new things and gaining hands-on DevOps skills experience: “People who are going to really be successful are those that know how to learn and who put themselves in situations where they’re able to sample from a large variety of DevOps skills in a can-do, roll up your sleeves way and not a hypothetical metaphorical way. Implementing monitoring is different than watching somebody talk about how they implemented monitoring. And, having the exposure to all these different skills is going to be very useful for people as they move forward in their careers.”  Groll explains that treating IT as an art will help build up T-shaped professionals: If we think about IT as an art, we need to be able to supplement our core DevOps skills with other skills like testing, or coding, or infrastructure, or in the case of site reliability engineering, looking at some automation tools. In the case of DevOps engineering, really looking at continuous delivery all the way up through release automation and into production. The goal here is to be able to identify how you fill the top of your T.” 

Category of Skills  

Oehrlich mentions that automation skills, process skills, and soft skills are the top three most important DevOps skills to have: “Become the automator, not the automated. Coupled with automation skills, you must have process skills because automating a mess will create an additional mess. Without understanding processes and having the knowledge on how to decipher process and reduce the waste, you won’t be able to automate. And the third most important type of skills is soft skills.”  DevOps specialist Groll explains some findings on how different job roles view certifications: “I find it fascinating that the C-suite and the management have a slightly different perspective on certifications. When we look at DevOps certifications, particularly those coming from DevOps Institute, which is very skill based, management’s going to be likely the hiring managersThey’re going to be the ones trying to validate that an individual has or does not have the skill, particularly because we know today that the standard definition for say a DevOps engineer isn’t really agreed upon. When we see the management level with a slight rise in that it’s because, again, they’re comparing the resume of potential talent and trying to figure out whether one individual has demonstrated that scale compared to somebody who hasn’t.  Fell emphasizes the importance of empowering people to get creative and try new things: “Soft skills are a very important part of that whole equation. Giving people the ability to experiment in a safe place is critical to allow people to grow and become more willing to try new things. So, you have to figure out a way to enable that collaboration and support those people to experiment.  Collaboration skills were high on the list as must-haves. Groll explains why: “Bringing in people with natural collaboration skills or the ability to communicate well is very critical to the smooth operation and, of course, the faster pace of software delivery. For individual contributors it’s important, but they don’t necessarily see the bigger picture of that. This speaks very much to cultural transformation, which we in DevOps know is a critical success factor.” 

Process Skills  

Among the top process DevOps skills were SDLC skills, process flow understanding, source control models and agile.   Oehrlich dives into the findings: “The SDLC, understanding and having that knowledge of how to do software development is still very important. And 46% think it is a must have and 49% said it’s nice to have. Second understanding of process flow and analysis, so, those who are systems engineerssystem designers or systems analysts. Systems designers and systems analystunderstand process and flow and analysis, so it is a very important skill The experience with source control models and processes was also high on the listHaving that knowledge of where and how to manage source control or manage source and take care of that is also very important. Agile really wasn’t a surprise because again, agile is there, it’s active. It’s in the business, it’s in IT.  devops professional

Soft Skills  

It’s been difficult to really pinpoint what “culture” means in a DevOps transformation. Oehrlich explains some of the results from the report that help provide some answers: “There’s tons of talk about the culture, but we never really had clearly the idea what are the must-have DevOps skills to bring up that culture. The fact that customer experience was so important was music to my ears because that really is, and should be, the measurement of the success of DevOps. The velocity, the speed and the quality of the software we deliver is only as good as the customer experiences it. So, having that understanding of what does impact the customer as it came in with 44% as a must-have skill.”  Groll explains some of the unique characteristics of collaboration and communication: “There really is a difference between collaboration and communication. It isn’t just getting along with other teams. It isn’t necessarily passive communication. The big difference with collaboration is I ask your opinion. I ask you what you think, and I respect your expertise as much as I respect my own, and therefore, we collaborate on a solution because we combine our expertise.  Oehrlich on why individual contributors don’t see customer experience skills as a must-have: “It has to do with the metrics to some extent in terms of how organizations and DevOps organizations are measuring what they’re doing. Often in these DevOps teams, there’s not a direct link to what is the outcome of a new feature, new shopping cart item, etc. We’re seeing more and more that DevOps organizations are expanding their metrics to also bring in the outside-in perspective. But oftentimes, it’s really all about the speed, not as much on quality. 

Functional Skills  

Oehrlich shares the results on which functional skills are most sought after: 52% of respondents say a must-have functional skill is IT operations knowledge, and, 44% said it’s nice to have. Infrastructure knowledge came in second, and most importantsecurity was at the top of this list as well. We’ve seen a tremendous uptake on DevSecOps, so, it is really important to recognize that security is part of this entire chain.  DevOps skillsPeople are starting to realize that there doesn’t need to be a tradeoff between security and quality, mentions Groll: What we’re seeing is regulated organizations are adopting DevOps even though governancerisk, and audit comes in as a nice-to-have but not a high on the must-have. So, it’s definitely a paradigm shift that understands that you can still have compliance in a DevOps environment and you certainly can manage risk and IT governance even though you’re trying to go faster with more automation. 

Technical DevOps Skills and Tools  

Oehrlich on some of the most important technical DevOps skills and how AI fits into the picture: “Having analytical knowledge and experience with a user interface for web design is also key in our digital world. Specific frameworks, having AJAX knowledge or SOA, .net, etc. is top of mind as well. And then, interestingly to me still, artificial intelligence is not yet at the must-have level. There’s a lot of hype on AI. It’s just like cloud washing. We’re doing AI washing now, but there are some companies, of course, that are finding it’s an important skill.”   A final thought from Oehrlich: “While functional and technical DevOps skills are important, they’re not enough. You must have more to offer and you must be able to show evidence of soft skills which are important and hopefully part of further research. Understanding how to positively impact customer experience is critical.”   What do you think? Are the findings from the EDOSR consistent with your own experience? We’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback below!   —————  For their full conversation, watch the webinar now