Level up in 2020: How to build a successful career as a DevOps engineer

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Apple's senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi demonstrates group FaceTime as he speaks during the 2018 Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) at the San Jose Convention Center on June 4, 2018 in San Jose, California.

By U2B Staff 

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If you’ve been thinking about building a career or exploring career options as a DevOps engineer, it’s good to know what to expect.

DevOps is a combination of software development and information-technology operations, where DevOps engineers streamline the movement of software while automating the process of software delivery and IT infrastructure changes. DevOps engineers work closely with both developers and IT staff to oversee and plan deployments.

Despite a growing need for DevOps engineers, there is still a talent gap in IT and business sectors due to high demand and short supply of those who are truly qualified for the job.

Dan Greenwood, DevOps and Cloud Consultant at Robert Walters, said, “It is now more difficult than ever to source top talent. Demand for DevOps professionals far outstretching supply with approximately only 25,000 to 30,000 currently working in the UK. DevOps Engineers are currently a highly sought-after commodity.”

“As a DevOps Engineer, there are opportunities for you to work in any company across the IT sector. Start-ups within the industry are looking to integrate a DevOps model into their business straight away, and consultancies and large technology multinationals are creating new DevOps roles to strengthen their current tech teams.”

It’s not an easy task to hire professionals who are capable of this job that often requires wearing many hats. So if you’re looking to build a successful career in this field, you should know what is expected of you and what skills you need to develop.


What are the specific skills needed to become a DevOps engineer?

A survey of 1,260 managers and developers out of the DevOps Institute found that 58% of respondents found that finding and attracting people who are skilled in DevOps is an ongoing challenge, while 48% reported difficulties retaining them.

According to the survey’s authors, DevOps professionals need to have a blend of skills, or “hybrid DevOps” skillsets, from a wide area of fields ranging from technical skills such as cloud infrastructure, functional skills such as  IT operations, processing and framework skills such as site reliability engineering or Agile, as well as exposure and skills around specific automation tools.

Besides the technical skills necessary for this role, certain soft skills are also important as it’s a role that requires plenty of collaboration between departments.

Eric Sigler, head of DevOps at incident resolution software platform company PagerDuty said, “Critical thinking, problem-solving, communication and collaboration are the foundation for what makes DevOps work.

“Empathy, in particular, is a must-have for those building a career around DevOps. True DevOps engineers have a high degree of compassion and will use it to enable those around them. By being open to alternative points of view, you can pick and choose the best practices and skillsets available to solve the problem at hand.”

In addition to these skills, DevOps engineers should also have extensive knowledge of a variety of technologies such as software, infrastructure, and middleware.

Thus, you should have at least five years of experience working with these technologies as a developer, which would give you time to hone these skills and build enough expertise to apply these to a DevOps engineer role.

Jason Allen, CTO at talent acquisition software company Yello told CIO that DevOps is a “natural evolution of what would have been a system administrator’s role a decade ago.”

He explained, “A systems administrator role itself is a broad set of skills, and DevOps is, in some ways, even broader. They still need to keep servers running, deploy applications built by the development teams, tune kernel parameters, build networks, work on storage devices — all of those things plus added responsibility around development and programming, networking and security, cloud computing and constantly finding ways to improve the process of developing and deploying software faster.”

That’s not all needed for the demanding role of a DevOps engineer. They should also have keen business acumen as their work makes a huge impact on an organisation’s business operations.

Greenwood said, “DevOps breaks down barriers between organisational functions which have historically sat in silos, including product, engineering, security, quality assurance and operations. This allows you to apply an attuned business focus when delivering applications and services at high velocity.”

“There are not many positions available where you can have such an impact on a business. By having such a critical, all-encompassing role, you are able to articulate exactly how your actions have improved and streamlined software quality and delivery.”

As DevOps is a challenging role requiring multiple skillsets and is highly in demand, DevOps professionals can enjoy a lucrative career and high rewards.

So if you’ve been working for a few years in roles such as system developer and looking to level up with a career in DevOps, now’s a great time to start working on these skills and towards your goals.

There is a wide range of DevOps courses you can take online to earn a certification in this field. These courses include industry projects so you can gain hands-on skills and learn how to become a successful DevOps engineer.

By investing in your education in DevOps today, you can future-proof your career in this field that will further evolve in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.