IT talent: 4 ways to address a Kubernetes skills shortage

Kubernetes skills are in high demand but short supply. Industry experts share strategies to help you fill the gap
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Kubernetes adoption is on the rise. Due to its unique challenges and benefits, it is a popular conversation starter among IT professionals today. While your IT organization has the potential to be highly productive with Kubernetes by easily building, scaling, and monitoring containers, the transition to Kubernetes is very complex and can be difficult to manage.

The Upskilling 2021: Enterprise DevOps Skills report identified cloud, modern compute tech and architecture, OS and container orchestration, and app technologies as skills that DevOps professionals must have. However, when it comes to these technical skills, many individuals and teams fall short. Addressing these skills gaps is essential to reaping the benefits, so it’s important to understand how to do that.

I asked several industry experts to share their insights around Kubernetes skills gaps, and here’s what they had to say:

1. Upskill your existing team

"One way to work around a skills gap within the organization is to upskill the team. Rather than hiring a new headcount that is already difficult to find, a solution is to train your existing team (or a few members of the team who can in turn train others). Today, various training options exist, from classroom training to virtual classes and more.

[ What IT skills will be hot in the year ahead? Read Top IT skills to build in 2020, according to CIOs. ]

“In my experience, hands-on training works best for technical skills like Kubernetes. In this way, teams can learn practically, taking ownership of the environment as they learn and grow, all while having access to an expert who can guide, correct and reinforce learning.” - Parveen Kr. Arora, co-founder and director, VVnT SeQuor

2. Identify Kubernetes talent or skillset gaps

"We’ve seen that Kubernetes is widely used. But companies also see obstacles to adopting containers. It’s mostly people and skills shortages that are getting in the way, either directly or as manifested by simply not having the time relative to other priorities. This skill shortage is a common pattern. Red Hat’s 2022 Global Tech Outlook found that skillset or talent gaps were the top barriers to successful companies with their digital transformation.

“While it’s tempting to chalk this up to pandemic-fueled hiring challenges, it’s not wholly a new phenomenon. The figure in the Global Tech Outlook was essentially the same as in the prior year’s report based on a survey conducted in mid-2020. And over the years, we’ve seen talent, skills, training, and time frequently pop up as obstacles to adopting new technologies.” - Gordon Haff, technology evangelist, Red Hat

3. Allocate time and resources to continuing Kubernetes education

"Demand continues to eclipse the supply of professionals that have experience running Kubernetes. Today, Kubernetes is a technology that has huge promise but has a deep learning curve and is still in its very early stages of maturity. For organizations to derive meaningful and cost-effective benefits from it, first and foremost, leaders should allocate time and dollars for continuing education to give team members the time and space to up-level their skills. This provides employees a great growth opportunity and is wonderful to build a bench of skills inside of your organization. Organizations such as DevOps Institute provide a wonderful community with opportunities for certifications and training.

"Find a low-hanging project that your team can experiment with and 'play safely' with the new technology."

“Next, find a low-hanging project that your team can experiment with and ‘play safely’ with the new technology. As part of that experimentation, help the teams determine how this new technology will impact the rest of your organization (e.g., the processes and tooling required to deliver, run, and monitor that software).” - Erez Barak, VP of observability, Sumo Logic

4. Create a centralized IT team

"Given the relative newness of Kubernetes, software engineering and operations teams are required to build new skills outside of specific areas of expertise. The most important thing companies can do is invest in their team through continuing education and upskilling programs so that people not only fill a skills gap but are invested in the future success of the company and its IT organization.

"However, since developing new skill sets takes time, organizations looking to address a skills shortage in Kubernetes in short order must consider ways to centrally manage and support the rest of the organization. For example, creating a centralized IT team – even if initially small in the number of people – is a good way to leverage existing Kubernetes expertise across the organization.

“This central platform team, let’s say, can be formed and empowered to help provision, configure, and manage Kubernetes as-a-service for the organization and help consult developers and operations. The intended outcome is to help the organization move forward initially by relying upon fewer people for Kubernetes expertise but still give the organization a path to leveraging the powerful and dynamic technology. As hiring managers bring on new Kubernetes talent and establish internal training or continuing education programs for Kubernetes skills, a central team focused on enabling Kubernetes across the organization can make an immediate impact as the skills gap is being addressed.” - Vishnu Vasudevan, head of product engineering and management, Opsera

For a deep dive into the state of Kubernetes today, join us on March 17, 2022, for SKILup Day: Enterprise Kubernetes. Register now.

Jayne Groll is co-founder and CEO of the DevOps Institute (DOI). Jayne carries many IT credentials including ITIL Expert™, Certified ScrumMaster, Certified Agile Service Manager, DevOps Foundation and is a Certified Process Design Engineer (CPDE)™.