DevOps Jobs: How to win that role

DevOps Jobs: How to win that role

How can you stand out among DevOps jobs candidates? Apply this expert advice

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August 01, 2017
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For IT job hunters, some of today's most desirable jobs are DevOps jobs. A company with a strong commitment to DevOps wants people to run fast, experiment, and iterate their way to success. These organizations prize innovation. But the DevOps methodology and culture turns some old rules about IT job hunting upside down.

For instance, your ability to spot trouble and turn around failures now trumps certifications, says Robert Reeves, CTO at Datical, a database release automation company. For DevOps teams, companies need people who can think on their feet – and communicate clearly to all kinds of people, from marketing team members to engineers. Remember, DevOps is all about cross-functional teams.

[ How are today's best DevOps teams structured? See our related article, DevOps success: A new model emerges. ]

As a DevOps job applicant, how can you demonstrate that you check all those boxes? Moreover, how can you stand out? Here, Reeves shares some practical advice based on his experience in the trenches with DevOps teams. He also has some tips for people breaking into DevOps for the first time.

CIO_Q and A

The Enterprisers Project (TEP): How has DevOps changed the way companies staff IT organizations?

Reeves: We have seen our customers at Datical look for gifted generalists instead of platform specialists. In the past, companies would hire an Oracle DBA or a Solaris Administrator. Those roles are changing dramatically just like “machine operators” in manufacturing. Previously, companies would hire a person to do a specific job, over and over again, never deviating. 

With the explosion of platforms and software used by today’s enterprises, IT organizations need people that can quickly learn new technology and excel. Thus, the move to gifted generalists.

TEP: What are the most in-demand roles, the key ones companies need to fill, in today's IT organizations practicing DevOps?

Reeves: Technology, with DevOps, is more about process management than technical expertise on a specific platform. It’s not a specific role that’s in-demand but the type of person. Companies need administrators than can code and coders that can administrate. 

Just as developers are now expected to understand the platform they write code for, the same is true for administrators who must be able to perform their job with code (Infrastructure as Code).

TEP: How can an applicant stand out during an interview process as a DevOps expert? What techniques do you use to identify standouts?

"DevOps is about identifying friction and resolving it."

Reeves: Candidates should speak to their failures, what they learned, and how they turned it around. DevOps is about identifying friction and resolving it. 

DevOps practitioners do not wait for someone to tell them to do a specific task – the DevOps practitioner should identify challenges, a plan to address, and enact the plan. When complete, it’s on to the next challenge and the process begins again. “Pain is instructional” and thus the DevOps practitioner must appreciate failure and take it as an opportunity to improve.

TEP: How can applicants demonstrate their ability to work in a DevOps culture?

Reeves: Discuss past metrics and how you helped to improve them. Also, demonstrate how you helped “win hearts and minds.” Soft skills are a must for the successful DevOps practitioner.

TEP: Any advice for IT pros looking to break into a DevOps shop for the first time?

Reeves: Odds are, you are doing DevOps today. Look at your recent past and find areas where you improved a release process. Detail how you identified the challenge, your proposed fix, and how you brought others to see the same thing you did. That is exactly what DevOps is. 

This is very different than breaking into a role like Solaris Administrator where a certificate is all that’s required to get that entry level position. You must show a track record. The good news is that you have already done this. If not, time to get started in your current job. These positions are in such demand that the barrier for entry is much lower than, say, a DBA or network engineer.

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Laurianne McLaughlin is Content Director for The Enterprisers Project, developing content for the IT leadership community. Previously, she served as Editor-in-Chief at InformationWeek.com and Managing Editor at CIO.com. 

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