Best advice for your DevOps career? Keep on learning

Nov 9, 2021 · 5 min read · Leave a comment
Sharon Gaudin GitLab profile

DevOps skills might be in demand, but it’s not the time to remain complacent if you want a new (and better) job or a higher salary. Luckily the best career move you can make is also the easiest: continue to add new skills, even if you have to DIY it.

“I think continually educating myself has been really important in my career, and it’s been mostly DIY,” said said Brendan O’Leary, a staff developer evangelist, and product and engineering leader at GitLab. “It’s allowed me to make different career moves and advance my career by changing companies or by changing roles at my current company… Continuing to educate yourself is one of the most important things you can do.”

It’s well known that continuing to educate yourself and pursuing certifications are two of the top ways to increase your paycheck, but here’s our best advice on how to bootstrap your learning journey without waiting for your employer.

How to keep learning

Take responsibility for your own journey

Don’t panic if your company is one of the many that doesn’t offer continuous education opportunities: According to the DevOps Institute’s 2021 Enterprise DevOps Skills Report, 52 percent of companies don’t. (To be transparent, GitLab was one of the partners in the Institute’s survey.)

Figure out what you, and your company, need

Make sure you’re not learning about a new technology or tool because it’s the cool new thing. Focus your time and energy on learning something that actually will solve a problem or give your business a competitive edge. Keep your skills aligned with shifting business demands, learning enough about a new technology so you understand if it will solve a business problem.

In a sea of possibilities, there are some concrete learning options we can suggest. In our 2021 Global DevSecOps Survey, we asked respondents what skill or skills would be most important for their future career. A majority of developers said knowledge around artificial intelligence and machine learning would be critical, while ops team members wanted more advanced programming languages. Security pros, on the other hand, wanted to become subject matter experts in their industries.

Assessing your skills and deficits

Gauge your baseline of skills, experience and certifications. What comes naturally to you, and what is more of a struggle? Now compare your baseline to what your company needs, and then broaden it out to what the industry is looking for.

One easy way to broadly compare your skills to others is to look at a job search site like Glassdoor.com. The job listings detail the skills, languages, experiences, technologies and other attributes an employer is looking for.

We randomly grabbed and anonymized a job posting for a DevOps engineer from Glassdoor, below. You’ll see how many boxes you’ll need to check (we bolded the key phrases just to make the point):

You will demonstrate a leadership mindset, solid operational experience, and the ability to problem-solve. Additionally, you should have exceptional communication skills, be knowledgeable about the latest industry trends, and be highly innovative. The DevOps Engineer will help enhance and maintain a programmable infrastructure, configure, implement, debug and document new and existing applications running on Linux and Windows operating systems in private and public cloud infrastructures. Engage in design, development, installation, and system administration of build/continuous integration systems, anti-virus systems, and configuration management systems. Participate in the full development life cycle of DevOps projects including assessment of requirements, system analysis, and design.

Go to the source for certifications

Of course, there are university classes but they can be pricey. You don’t always have to spend thousands of dollars on a college course. Go to the original source of what you want to learn, and let certifications be your friend. A survey from the McKinsey Quarterly, noted that 66 percent of survey respondents called certifications “extremely valuable.”

For instance, if you’re using The GitLab Platform, you can get a security certification from GitLab. There are also certifications for everything from CI/CD training, to project management and Git basics. Similarly, if you need to bone up on Google Cloud, check out their site for certifications.

Other opportunities to educate yourself

You also can find learning opportunities at a lot of conferences, coding events, bootcamps, hackathons and workshops. Especially in the time of COVID-19, think about taking advantage of online courses. YouTube is full of hands-on technical tutorials, including a lot from GitLab and other tech companies as well as consultants and individual contributors. Don’t forget GitLab Learn, where you can do a self-paced deep dive via video tutorials into a number of key DevOps areas, including continuous integration.

And for female developers, organizations like Women Who Code offer scholarships, tutorials and educational materials.

Don’t forget about mentorships. Find someone who has the knowledge and experience you need and ask them to work with you and bring you up to speed. Then don’t forget to later turn around and lend a hand to the person coming up after you.

Stay tuned for more information on what hard and soft skills you should consider adding to your resume.

Read more on DevOps careers:

“Want a better DevOps salary? You need better DevOps skills. Here's our best advice on DIY-ing continuing DevOps education.” – Sharon Gaudin

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