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What Skills Are Needed to Excel at DevOps?

Friday Feb 9th 2018 by Arthur Cole

Formal training is the best way to begin the acquisition of DevOps skillsets, but there is no substitute for experience.

DevOps is not merely a new technology, it’s a new way of working. With both software development and IT operations melded into a single workflow, specialists in both disciplines will need to redefine their roles and their overall contributions to the finished product.

And that means acquiring new skillsets. In many cases, this will involve training on the latest platforms and adapting to the latest techniques and best practices, but it will also require the development of a series of soft skills tied to the need to work in a more collaborative, less linear, fashion.

According to a new report from Stack Overflow, the top skills for emerging DevOps professionals run the gamut from specific programming languages like Javascript and Python to IT management solutions such as Angular and Tensorflow. It is important to remember, however, that the IT landscape is changing so quickly, and so dramatically, that today’s emerging platform is likely to be tomorrow’s has-been, or at the very least so radically altered that it bears only a remote similarity to its original form. For the DevOps practitioner, then, the future will likely consist of constant training and retraining on the latest technology.

A quick look at some of the emerging technologies already impacting some high-level enterprise workloads offers a clue as to what kind of skills will be needed in the near future, says Solutions Review’s Tyler W. Stearns. Expertise in serverless computing, for one, is likely to prove invaluable to DevOps, as will Robotics Process Automation and even quantum computing, which is already being offered as a service from leading cloud providers.

No single person can perform the entire DevOps process, which is why organizations would do better to focus on developing team-oriented skills rather than individual training. As Engine Yard’s Christopher Rigor notes, team building should start around six core competencies: collaboration, automation and continuous integration, testing, delivery and monitoring. From there, you can then accumulate specific skillsets regarding scripting languages, admin platforms, production systems and the like. It also helps to ensure that everyone can understand the same ITIL terminology, particularly words like “incident” and “problem.”

In addition to collaboration, DevOps will evolve around a number of other non-technical skills, according to Teachable’s Laurence Bradford. These include self-learning, communication and a high degree of resilience, all of which are necessary for the fast pace and sometimes chaotic workflows that characterize DevOps. As well, less tangible skills like empathy for someone else’s challenges and the ability to view one’s own tasks in terms of the big picture are vital for the entire concept of DevOps to succeed. In many ways, these will be among the most difficult to master, given that there are no manuals or guide books to help today’s solitary worker become more social.

Formal training is the best way to begin the acquisition of DevOps skillsets, but there is no substitute for experience. Even today’s “experts” in DevOps are unlikely to have a full understanding of its capabilities given that the movement is still so new and is certain to evolve in different ways, or perhaps in multiple ways, for each enterprise.

To become highly skilled in DevOps, then, knowledge workers should think about not only adapting their work habits to the new paradigm, but also tailoring this new environment to their existing skills and thus providing a level of service to the enterprise that virtually no one else can duplicate.

Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.

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