Kubernetes jobs hunt: How to land that role

Trying to get a job working with Kubernetes? Consider these five tips
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Here’s a quick temperature check on Kubernetes-related hiring: When we last checked in January of this year, a national search for “Kubernetes” on the jobs site Glassdoor returned 11,847 open positions. Roughly three months later, the same search produces 14,508 jobs.

Is that scientific research? No, but it’s but a quantifiable measure of growing adoption of containers and orchestration and a corresponding growth in demand for IT pros with the skills necessary to run these systems in production. Other sites also indicate increasing hiring: A recent jobs search on LinkedIn for “Kubernetes” returned 17,915 positions, up from 16,774 in January.

The term Kubernetes is creeping into more titles.

The job titles continue to be diverse: site reliability engineer, infrastructure engineer, DevOps engineer, software engineer, full stack developer, and the like. It would also appear that the term Kubernetes itself is starting to creep into more titles: LinkedIn search includes open positions for a “Kubernetes engineer” at DoorDash, for example, or an “Engineering Manager, Kubernetes” at PayPal."

No matter the title, Kubernetes-facing jobs are out there in growing numbers. So how do you land one, especially given that not many IT pros have had the opportunity yet to build a significant track record with the container management platform?

We asked two IT leaders with hiring responsibilities to share what they value – and what they think about executives and managers look for, too – when vetting candidates for roles where Kubernetes will be a significant part of the day-to-day work.

[ Read also: Kubernetes job interview questions: How to prepare ]

Kubernetes job hunt: 5 tips

Consider these five insights if you’re hoping to land a role working with Kubernetes.

1. Be able to discuss Kubernetes’ bigger picture

It’s obviously good to have a strong understanding of Kubernetes technical features and capabilities. If you can’t explain key concepts like clusters, nodes, or pods – and that’s just the “101”-level stuff – you’re probably not going to get very far in the process.

[ Read also: 12 ways to get smarter about Kubernetes ]

On the other hand, someone who can recite verbatim the Kubernetes official documentation but can’t discuss orchestration in a broader context – such as why it’s necessary in the first place – might be sending the wrong signals to a hiring manager. You should be able to locate Kubernetes in the larger landscape of cloud, containers, microservices, and other overlapping technologies.

“Be careful not to get lost in the nitty-gritty details of Kubernetes,” says Manish Chugtu, CTO of cloud infrastructure and microservices at Avi Networks. “Employers want to know you understand the value behind Kubernetes and they want to see that you understand the bigger picture. After all, Kubernetes is part of the larger container and microservices ecosystem, not the other way around. You will stand out if you can articulate why containers are needed and why containers need an orchestrator.”

Chugtu adds logging, metrics, automation, and load balancing as other relevant technologies that may help you stand out in terms of your big-picture vision and understanding.

2. Connect dots between Kubernetes and the company’s goals

Think about the “why” behind that organization’s infrastructure and application development.

The number of people to be able to “speak Kubernetes” will inevitably grow. Those folks will be able to answer the “what” of Kubernetes. But if you want to land a role at a particular company – as opposed to just any company looking for a warm body – you’ll want to think about the “why” behind that organization’s infrastructure and application development. For starters: Why is Kubernetes important to helping the company achieve its goals?

“The most important thing for a potential hire is that they can tackle the challenges your company faces,” says Leo Shemesh, CTO at Jackpocket. “The job of the interviewer is to assess whether the candidate can not only learn your infrastructure, but whether they can improve it.”

This may be especially important when a technology is running as hot as Kubernetes is right now: Explaining the “why” shows you’re not just following the hype.

“Companies are becoming increasingly averse to technology for technology’s sake,” Chugtu says. “You have to show that you understand the value behind the technology and that you are a strategic, forward-looking candidate who can drive the business forward.”

3. Highlight prior Kubernetes production experience

Everyone has to start somewhere. Sandbox or lab experience is better than none at all, and may be enough to get your fit in the door to a position that will allow you to build production experience.

That said, if you have experience running Kubernetes in production environments, shine a bright light on it: It’s a huge difference-maker right now.

“A lot of people have experience with Kubernetes in a lab environment, but very few have experience in production at scale,” Chugtu says. “If you have production experience, emphasize that. Production environments have different problems and challenges, and those with production experience are in high demand.”

[ Read also: Kubernetes in production vs. Kubernetes in development: 4 myths ]

This doesn’t mean that a lack of production experience is a dealbreaker: You can still break in with the right mix of relevant skills, ongoing education, and lab or proof-of-concept work. (We’ll cover tips for folks who want to transition into a Kubernetes-facing role without much prior on-the-job experience in a future post.) But if you have been in the production trenches, showcase that work as much as possible.

4. Show more than tell

Regardless of your prior experience level, both Chugtu and Shemesh say the best candidates for Kubernetes roles showcase relevant work as much as possible: This helps sort the results-oriented folks from those that can merely talk a big game about Kubernetes and related topics.

“A developer [or other IT pro] who is actively looking for Kubernetes jobs needs to be able to showcase work that they were actually able to deliver,” Shemesh says.

Some hiring managers may actually care more about your GitHub than your actual resume when it comes to Kubernetes .

Chugtu notes that some hiring managers may actually care more about your GitHub than your actual resume when it comes to Kubernetes and other cloud-native or cloud-centric roles, especially if you’ve developed compelling personal projects or contributed to relevant open source communities.

“Someone who can describe in detail interesting projects they’ve worked on would be in the top echelon of candidates,” Shemesh says. He shares several examples of projects or work that would catch his eye when considering candidates at Jackpocket:

5. Know other emerging technologies in the ecosystem

There’s a growing set of emerging tools and technologies in the broader cloud and Kubernetes ecosystem that can help you differentiate yourself on the job market, too. Service mesh technologies are a prime example, but not the only one.

“Talk about service mesh and other [forward-looking] technologies that could impact containers and microservices,” Chugtu advises.

“A strong candidate would also be able to talk about their experiences using established technologies in the Kubernetes ecosystem,” Shemesh says. “Some examples would be IstioHelmSpinnaker, and Operators.”

[ Read also: How to explain Kubernetes Operators in plain English]

Shemesh notes that Kubernetes has become so popular that it’s actually kind of hard to keep track of all of the emerging developments and technologies in the ecosystem. A tangible, serious interest in that evolving ecosystem is a big plus for jobseekers.

“If a [candidate] comes in and can show genuine passion and enthusiasm for some of these new technologies, then that would go a long way to impress companies,” Shemesh says.

[ Kubernetes terminology, demystified: Get our Kubernetes glossary cheat sheet. ]

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 InformationWeek.com story, "Are You Too Old For IT?" He's a former community choice honoree in the Small Business Influencer Awards.