Episode 60: DevOps Got Talent - Why Upskilling Matters

DevOps RadioSam Fell hosts live from DevOps World | Jenkins World 2019 in San Francisco with a distinguished panel of guests including Jayne Groll, CEO of The DevOps Institute; Helen Beal, Devopsologist at Ranger4; Damon Edwards, co-founder of Rundeck; and Sean Davis, chief transformation evangelist of Equifax.

In Episode 60: DevOps Got Talent, the panelists dive right into their observations on the investments companies are making in upskilling their employees. Case in point: Amazon recently committed $700 million to upskill their employees by 2025. Survey data from DevOps Institute’s 2019 Upskilling: Enterprise DevOps Skills Report shows that organizations prefer to upskill existing staff. While it seems that training budgets have never been a problem, the talent gap still exists and organizations sorely need unique and multi-talented people. The panel also discusses the need to incentivize training but notes that it’s not enough just to pay for it. Organizations need to gift people the time to attend the training so they don’t sacrifice work-life balance.

A good reminder for all listeners is that upskilling takes time. While it’s easy to promote good practices, it doesn’t mean training is being exercised and implemented. More importantly, upskilling is not just evolving a skillset but making sure you are right-skilling - or learning the skills you need to achieve your goals. Helen describes the different types of skillset personas - the T-shape, the I-shape, the pi (as in the Greek letter) and the comb (someone with a “full-stack” set of skills). No matter what category you identify with, it’s important to consider how the rest of the world works around you and be able to adapt to the systems while having impactful conversations with the other specialists you work with.

So how are these experts implementing upskilling within their own organizations? At the DevOps Institute, Jayne says they launched a program called ‘continuous learning minutes’ where they explain a concept and why it matters in a short video format. Sean also describes the training experiment conducted at Equifax, where they eliminated the documentation behind the training program and set expirations for the training licenses. He says by changing the rules of engagement and accountability, the organization has been able to receive more rapid feedback by just getting it into their users’ hands.

As the episode wraps up, the panel examines the vicious cycle of whether people need to learn skills that are not being used within their own enterprise. They note that within an organization, there can be social pressure of not knowing a skill, which is why exploratory projects or ‘innovation hours’ should be encouraged. These “outside-the-box skills” may be a process or tool the organization adopts down the line.

Want to share your own upskilling experience? Be sure to take the DevOps Institute 2020 Upskilling: Enterprise DevOps Skills Report survey.

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