DevOps Jobs: 5 tips for making the transition

Recruiters and tech leaders share advice on how IT professionals can land a new gig in DevOps
897 readers like this.
CIO Managing Your Boss

As we recently reported, the average salary for a DevOps engineer in the U.S. has hit $104,508, according to Glassdoor. And 60 percent of hiring managers are looking to fill DevOps engineer positions, according to the 2017 Open Source Jobs Report. When you see high salaries and high demand, it indicates an IT talent war.

No wonder IT professionals are asking themselves, “How can I transition into a DevOps role?”

[ For more on the state of the DevOps talent war, see our recent story: DevOps Jobs: 6 eye-opening statistics. ]

To help you do just that, we rounded up tips from recruiting and tech leaders. Their perspective should be beneficial to IT leaders and hiring managers as well as job seekers.

How to transition into DevOps jobs

1. Ask to be placed on challenging projects

“Technologies are evolving constantly, and a formal education isn’t always possible given how rapidly skill sets need to shift to keep up with the market,” says Mike Durney, CEO of job-hunting site Dice. “DevOps pros who are currently employed should work with their boss to be placed on projects that can be resolved through the integration of operations and development.

“If there isn’t an existing DevOps role within your company,” Durney advises, “software developers should spend time sitting with the operations team [or vice versa] to understand how their processes work and how they can be improved through collaboration.”

2. Consider certifications and other training programs

“With the growing demand around DevOps, there are increased options for training and development programs and certifications – those looking to grow their career in the area should address any skills gaps through these programs,” says John Reed, senior executive director for tech recruiting firm Robert Half Technology.

In the Open Source Jobs Report from Linux Foundation and Dice, three out of four open source pros said they feel that certifications are useful to their careers, and half of hiring managers reported they’re more likely to hire someone with such professional credentials.

Better yet, you might be able to get your current employer to foot the bill: 47 percent of companies represented in the report will pay for IT staff to seek certifications.

However, some DevOps experts caution that certifications – unlike the situation for hot IT roles of the past – will only get you so far with DevOps.

As a DevOps job candidate, your ability to spot trouble and turn around failures now trumps certifications, says Robert Reeves, CTO at Datical, a database release automation company. Are you developing that kind of story to tell in the course of your current work? (For more advice from Reeves, read our recent article, DevOps Jobs: How to win that role.)

3. Find a DevOps mentor

“It’s also advisable for job seekers to seek out a mentor in the field and attend some of the growing number of seminars and conferences around DevOps to stay in the know about advancements in the industry,” Reed says.

Reverse mentoring, which flips ideas about pairing people based on age, may be helpful for people looking to gain DevOps expertise. See our recent articles, “Reverse mentoring: Is it right for IT?” and “How to succeed with reverse mentoring: 7 tips” for ideas on rebooting traditional approaches to mentoring.

4. Build a tool that achieves new efficiencies

Automation is one of the most common goals of DevOps teams. If you can help your current team – even if it’s not actually a DevOps environment – achieve a better, more efficient way to do a current process, especially if that process is now automated, that’s DevOps resume gold, Durney says.

“[It] is important for DevOps pros to show how a tool they developed created efficiencies within a business,” Durney says. “It’s more than working on software and a lot to do with automation.”

5. Work on open source projects and attend meetups

One significant opportunity to build that kind of skill set and portfolio: Contribute to open source projects.

“Professionals who are looking for a role at a new company can flex their skill set by working on open source projects and showing employers how they’ve solved a problem through creating a new tool,” Durney says. “The beauty is a lot of open source projects can be accessed in your spare time online, so building up a resume or portfolio can be done with a fair amount of effort, but not necessarily over a long period of time.”

Meetups, a staple of the open source community, offer you a chance to not only learn, but also network with DevOps experts - some with a lot of expertise. Why? DevOps pros in mature DevOps organizations think of training as a constant process, as Red Hat’s Brian Gracely, director of OpenShift product strategy, recently noted. (See our recent article, DevOps Jobs: How to spot a great DevOps shop.) IT leaders can incent employees to go learn new skills via side projects or meetups, and then frequently share the knowledge with the team, Gracely says.

“The proper way to address the need for 'skills improvement' is not to think about it as 'training' (e.g. attend a course, get a certification), but rather to incorporate it into an actual work activity,” Gracely writes.

If the group you’re interviewing with is doing this, that’s a sign of a mature DevOps organization. For more, see Gracely’s recent article, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective DevOps.

Kevin Casey writes about technology and business for a variety of publications. He won an Azbee Award, given by the American Society of Business Publication Editors, for his story, "Are You Too Old For IT?" He's a former community choice honoree in the Small Business Influencer Awards.