DevOps careers: 35 key hiring stats from 2020

Looking to land a DevOps job – or hire for one? IT leaders looked for these top skills when hiring DevOps professionals in 2020, according to the DevOps Institute's annual survey
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Infinity lines to illustrate the concept of DevOps

DevOps has played a growing role in IT in recent years, helping companies ensure customer, client, and employee satisfaction. As we prepare for 2021, keeping customers safe and satisfied will continue to be a top challenge for enterprises globally, and doing this will require continuous upgrading of skills and technologies.

As competition for DevOps talent escalates, DevOps professionals are eager to update their skills. The DevOps Institute has researched DevOps hiring, including the most in-demand skills for DevOps professionals, since 2018. Its Upskilling 2020: The Enterprise DevOps Skills Report, released in March, 2020, offers some of the most recent data in this area. (Want to weigh in on the next round of data? Complete the 2021 Upskilling Enterprise DevOps skill survey and share your thoughts.)

If you are a DevOps professional, you might want to measure your skills against the findings of the report. If your goal is to enter the field of DevOps, consider this a roadmap for your upskilling plan.

Here’s what we learned about DevOps jobs, talent, and training in 2020.

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DevOps adoption rates

We’re eager to see how the global shift to remote work has affected DevOps adoption. Here’s what the survey found before the pandemic:

1. 42 percent of global enterprises are applying DevOps at the project or multiple project level.

2. 23 percent of global enterprises are applying DevOps at the enterprise level.

3. 16 percent of global enterprises are at the planning or initial stage.

4. 6 percent of global enterprises have not engaged in DevOps.

5. Agile, DevOps, and ITSM are the top three disciplines or frameworks adopted by global enterprises in 2020.

DevOps hiring: How hard is it?

When seeking candidates for DevOps roles, leaders are mixed on whether they prefer internal or external candidates. We’ll be curious to see how the global need for digital services and capabilities this year has impacted the talent pipeline.

6. 50 percent of organizations prefer to hire from within and for qualified individuals internally before they look outside the company.

7. 27 percent of global enterprises are recruiting externally for DevOps team members in 2020.

8. 13 percent of global enterprises are recruiting internally for DevOps team members in 2020.

9. 10 percent find the experience of recruiting for DevOps team members “extremely difficult” and 24 percent find it “difficult.”

10. 58 percent state that finding the right people is a challenge.

11. 42 percent say that determining the right skill set is a challenge.

[ Why is DevOps engineer an in-demand IT title that's here to stay? Eveline Oehrlich explains. ]

Top DevOps skills: Technical vs. non-technical

How important are technical skills when hiring a DevOps professional?

Leaders' opinions are mixed. What’s clear is that a formal upskilling program can help organizations train and retain DevOps talent within their enterprise. As the demand outpaces the supply, organizations need to ensure that their employees can grow and develop their skills (which in turn improves a company’s brand).

12. An equal number of respondents (33 percent) say they first look at soft skills when recruiting (because they can always train employees on processes and technical skills) and they look at technical skills as these provide an immediate ROI.

13. 18 percent look at the candidate’s knowledge of key tools within the organization’s automation pipeline.

14. 31 percent of organizations have a formal upskilling program.

15. 37 percent of organizations don’t have a formal upskilling program, and 20 percent are currently developing one.

16. 7 percent of respondents don’t know if their organization has an upskilling program.

Must-have skills for DevOps talent

Each year, the Upskilling survey identifies the skills that leaders and DevOps practitioners say their DevOps talent must have. It will be interesting to see if these top-rated skills continue to be most important or if priorities shift as DevOps becomes more widely adopted.

17. Process skills and knowledge is perceived as the top must-have skill category.

18. Automation skills are perceived as the No. 2 must-have skill category.

19. Soft skills or human skills are perceived as the No. 3 must-have skill category.

20. IT operations, security, IT infrastructure knowledge, and application development and design are the top four must-have functional skills.

21. Quality assurance, testing, business continuity/disaster recovery are the next most important must-have functional skills.

22. Network knowledge, DBA schemas and SQL knowledge, governance risk and audits, and enterprise and/or business architecture knowledge follow in the must-have category.

Top technical skills for DevOps talent

Which technical skills do leaders and talent prioritize? Here’s what topped the list before the pandemic. We might see more automation technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and the adoption of artificial intelligence and business continuity to minimize future business disruptions in a post-pandemic environment.

23. CI/CD toolchain is the top must-have technical skill.

24. The second most desired technical skill is knowledge and understanding of cloud platforms and environments.

25. Understanding APIs is number three on the list.

26. Analytical skills are number four.

27. Mainframe knowledge is still mentioned by 7 percent of survey respondents.

Top "human" skills for DevOps talent

Human skills – also known as “soft” or “core” skills – continue to play an important role in defining a well-rounded DevOps professional. It will be interesting to see how this aspect was affected in 2020 as the shift to remote work has forced employees to be flexible and accept change.

28. Collaboration/cooperation, interpersonal skills, problem-solving, sharing and knowledge transfer, and flexibility and adaptability are the top five must-have human skills.

29. Personal value commitment, which includes trustworthiness, respect for others, ethics and integrity, empathy, creativity, customer experience skills, inclusiveness, and diplomacy are important as well.

30. 60 percent of respondents felt that technical writing is a nice-to-have skill, whereas 24 percent said it is a must-have for DevOps professionals.

Additional valuable skills for DevOps jobs

What else are leaders looking for in their DevOps talent? Here are some additional skill sets and practices cited in the 2020 survey that we’ll be keeping a close eye on.

31. Experience with performance tuning has seen a tremendous increase in those who consider it a must-have skill since the 2019 survey.

32. SRE adoption has grown from 10 percent in 2019 to 15 percent in 2020.

33. Few consider project and program management a “must-have,” but it is considered a nice optional skill set.

34. Experience with source control, knowledge of application development and design, and experience with test-driven deployment models and concepts are on the list of top five must-have skills.

35. Agile and scrum skills and knowledge rank within the top must-have process and/or framework methodologies.

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Eveline Oehrlich is an industry analyst, author, speaker and business advisor focused on digital transformation. Eveline is the Chief Research Director at DevOps Institute where she leads the research and analysis for the Upskilling: Enterprise DevOps Skills Report and other research projects.