Getting started with modern software development can feel overwhelming, particularly if you're trying to build a DevOps team from scratch. Hiring the right DevOps roles may require a blend of art, science, and luck, but it is doable. Here's our best advice on key DevOps roles, and the skills each position needs to make your DevOps team function like a well-oiled machine.
Developers: DevOps is a team sport nowadays. Devs test code, act as security champions, provision infrastructure, and write automation scripts… just to name a few of the job requirements. They use scrum, Kanban, or other Agile methods to work in short iterations with regular feedback from the business side or from other clients. The dev role has changed dramatically over the past few years and will likely continue to adopt elements of other roles from UX to business-side subject matter expert. They want to continue to stretch themselves, so keep that in mind. In our 2021 Global DevSecOps Survey, developers said understanding AI/ML is the most important skill for their future careers.
Operations engineer/systems administrator: In Olden Times, this is the person who ensured the software could and did run smoothly in production and sent out alarms if it didn't. But on a DevOps team, ops will manage the cloud, help create monitoring and analytics that are integrated into code, manage the tools, deal with the tools, and, of course, help resolve problems. Like the dev role, operations pros need new and emerging skills to stay relevant, including advanced programming languages, subject matter expertise, and a deeper understanding of security, according to our survey.
Evangelist: Someone needs to make sure the rest of the company knows what your team is up to, sing its praises, and communicate what the business's most pressing needs are. Ideally, this is a senior-level person who sits on the company's Executive Committee or board. More than just a cheerleader, an evangelist on a DevOps team should get everyone in the company involved in DevOps, committed to its success, and happy to spend budget on the endeavor.
Project manager/release manager: This DevOps role tracks the team's progress against business objectives, sets goals and timelines, and tries to keep everything running on time. Solving problems with cost, project scope, schedule, and client satisfaction are also squarely in this job description.
QA tester/automation engineer: A testing professional plays a critical role on a DevOps team, even with the advent of "devs who test" and test automation. Testing pros look at the big picture of the entire software pipeline and at snippets of code. From choosing or creating the right tests to driving test automation, this DevOps role needs out-of-the-box thinking, flexibility, and the ability to pivot at a moment's notice.
Security engineer: It's critical to build in security and compliance from the start, rather than trying to tack it on at the end when fixing problems becomes most expensive. A security engineer on a DevOps team must be strategic and hands-on. Security has a lingering tarnished reputation as a top-down problem that devs literally don't have the tools to solve, but are asked to. So for this DevOps role, it's critical to hire someone who can meet dev and ops where they are, explain the challenges and technologies, and work together collegially.
User experience (UX) professional: This DevOps role is the end-user advocate, the person who is totally focused on how the software looks and works from the client's perspective. Think of the UX pro as the person who brings the client and the client's needs right into the development process. In this era of modern software development, a UX role is a must-have rather than a nice-to-have.
Those are just the "getting started" DevOps roles. Other titles to consider include a site reliability engineer or a DevOps platform engineer, an infrastructure engineer, project and product managers, systems engineers and architects, and software architects. Keep in mind that, especially now with the Great Resignation, hiring talent for any of these DevOps roles, and pretty much anything IT-related in general, can take months.
Reskilling is an excellent option, though. The DevOps Institute offers trainings, which it calls SKILup Days, on topics such as site reliability engineering and how to create a CI/CD pipeline. And when thinking about reskilling, don't forget the importance of soft skills to a DevOps team. If ever there's a place where collaboration and communication matter, it's in DevOps.
Johanna Ambrosio is a freelance technology writer.
Cover image by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash
“Do you have an evangelist on your DevOps team? What about a UX professional? Learn the DevOps roles that will lead you to success.” – Johanna Ambrosio
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