One Engineer, Many Hats: A Recruiter’s Guide to DevOps Roles
A DevOps Engineer is everything to everyone. Sure, if you’re not one that might seem like hyperbole — but sometimes, it’s really the truth. It’s a profession that requires you to wear many hats, and each of those hats is a role in itself. So just what are those DevOps roles? And just as importantly, what does it take to find success in each of them? Knowing these things can help you hone in on and recruit the perfect candidate.
It takes more than just technical skills.
A DevOps engineer obviously needs strong technical skills, but soft skills like the ability to communicate and collaborate well are just as important for success. The problem there is that while you can teach a candidate new DevOps skills, teaching those soft skills is a much taller order. So the key becomes finding a candidate that has the soft skills to backup the technical knowledge.
Communication in DevOps
Communication isn’t just the ability to speak, but also to listen. Beyond these two things, it’s also the ability to translate.The DevOps engineer needs the ability to translate product or system requirements from less technical stakeholders and communicate them clearly to deeply technical developers. That means being able to convert all of the information into understandable and achievable steps within a development cycle. In this sense, DevOps roles require communication as defined above, but they need something further: Someone who builds a strong rapport easily and thrives on collaboration.
The roles of a DevOps engineer are dictated by the component parts of a development team. But at a high-level, these roles involve coordinating the implementation of technology across the tech stack, as well as integrating requests from a variety of stakeholders.
The developer needs access to (and knowledge of) a variety of tools and technologies to meet deadlines and demands. They generally desire a path of least resistance, as resistance is going to stand in the way of them getting from point A to point B quickly and meeting their goals. The developer role requires an engineer to exercise the hard skills more so than the soft skills, executing with both speed and precision.
The Release Manager is a natural gatekeeper. They seek to create stability for the team and product. Playing this role means ensuring that anything released into production is going to fulfill the features and requirements that were laid out for the project, while at the same time not impacting the accessibility of the end product. Since they operate through this lens, Release Managers are generally alright with deadlines being missed as long as production stays up and running. As such, they’re sometimes viewed as roadblocks by cross-functional partners.
Like the Release Manager, the Security Engineer is viewed as a gatekeeper — aka a roadblock. However, security Engineers answer to management and business stakeholders more often than Release Manager. Security Engineers are focused on engineering, implementing and monitoring security measures for the protection of computer systems, networks and information. They identify and define system security requirements and design computer security architecture and develop detailed cyber security designs.
A stakeholder might be an individual on the team or, in many cases, the business itself. Stakeholders have projects they want set into motion, and they want them done yesterday. Oftentimes, they don’t understand the resource constraints of product teams, and, even if they do, they still may enforce the same strict deadlines.
Still, stakeholders have a laser-sharp focus on the end user experience and often gather together the requirements and resources for a project. Of all DevOps roles, they’re generally the least concerned about security, as it’s not as important to them as an application’s technical needs, end user experience, and benefits to the business at large.
The DevOps Engineer
The DevOps Engineer is often caught in the middle, as they’re responsible for everything and have authority over no one. They may play one or more other roles that you’ve seen in this list, or they may be responsible for all of them: They may develop at times, they may build out more mature processes, etc. In some tech shops, however, they may just oversee others who are playing those DevOps roles.
You’re searching for the right multi-tool.
The DevOps Engineer’s role will fall into any and all of these areas, and they’re expected to have a broad range of skills that are often very specialized for other industries — from coding languages to general application knowledge. While you generally see a database administrator specializing in databases or web developers specializing in web development, you don’t get that so much with with DevOps.
DevOps Engineers need to work across many different pieces of software, applications and environments, and do it all at with a high level of skill. They’re an army of one that needs the communication skills to work with many. So as a recruiter, it’s imperative to remember that the DevOps skills and tools a hire will use on the job probably go beyond what you’ve listed in the job requirements.
Here are your recruiting cheat sheets.
Periodic Table of DevOps
To help with organizing and understanding the diverse world of technology and tools used in DevOps, Xebia Labs created the Periodic Table of DevOps. It’s a great resource for you to use when assessing a candidate’s experience. It shows the proximity of one tool to another for the same job, and helps you understand the relationship between them. With it in your back pocket, you’ll see that while a candidate may lack experience with a given language, they may be versed in a different language which falls into the same category.
DevOps Engineering with Kellyn Pot’vin-Gorman
Senior IT industry specialist Kellyn Pot’vin-Gorman’s comprehensive DevOps recruiting class takes you through everything you need to know to hire well, starting with an in-depth introduction to the field. Kellyn will guide you through the history of the discipline, break down different roles and responsibilities, show you how to identify trends in the field, indicate important DevOps skills and tools, and more. It’s everything you need to understand DevOps Engineers and make smart selections when it comes time to recruit.