Top 4 Traits of a Great DevOps Hire

Giving developers operational responsibilities has greatly enhanced the quality of the services, both from a customer and a technology point of view. The traditional model is that you take your software to the wall that separates development and operations and throw it over and then forget about it. Not at Amazon. You build it, you run it. This brings developers into contact with the day-to-day operation of their software. It also brings them into day-to-day contact with the customer. This customer feedback loop is essential for improving the quality of the service.
— Werner Vogels, CTO and Vice President of Amazon

This sound bite from one of Amazon’s top executives seems to capture the DevOps zeitgeist in the IT industry today. Except this quote is from 2006, nearly a decade ago. Here’s the truth: if you haven’t been paying attention to DevOps, you are falling behind your competition.

High-performing IT organizations utilizing DevOps practices deploy 30x more frequently with 200x shorter lead times, have 60x fewer failures, and recover 168x faster, according to Puppet’s State of DevOps Report. That translates to some serious business value which has not gone unnoticed by technology executives—80 percent of Global Fortune 1000 organizations are expected to adopt DevOps by 2019.

DevOps is booming in the enterprise, creating a ripple effect on hiring and recruiting that has companies clamoring for DevOps talent. On, for example, the number of job postings for Chef professionals increased 67 percent between May 2014 and May 2015.


So, how do you begin diving into this seemingly shallow talent pool? We talked to Jeff Pabian, Principal Pre-Sales Architect here at Relus Technologies, about the four key traits of a good DevOps hire and how to spot them (hint: it’s not doing a keyword search on a resume for Puppet and Chef).


1. They’re a habitual hacker and a perpetual tinkerer

If you get frustrated by inefficiencies, you’ll likely be motivated by DevOps. Hiring managers should look for the people who try to do everything harder, better, faster, stronger—and not just at work! Jeff says he looks for the type of person who got in trouble for disassembling her family’s antique grandfather clock as a child just to see how it worked. This trait might be undervalued in children, but it’s a competitive advantage for someone looking at a career in DevOps.

In fact, DevOps was borne into existence by this predisposition towards continuous improvement. Talking about his first foray into DevOps over 10 years ago, Jeff says, “Anything that was repeatable, we wrote a script. It was a running joke that we were automating ourselves out of a job, but what it really does is allow you to work on other stuff.” These people are evangelists for continuous improvement in every aspect of their life: themselves, the tools they work with, the services they deliver, and the products they help build.

2. They’ve had a WTF moment in their career

At his last company, Jeff was responsible for hiring his DevOps team. Throughout candidate screenings and interviews, he was looking for what may seem like a counterintuitive trait in a new employee: “This might sound funny, but I look for somebody that’s been broken.” Jeff maintains that the people who end up being successful in this line of work have all had a career-defining moment in their history, saying, “You’ve had a moment where you messed up so bad that you were sure you’d be walked out the door—a Maalox moment. You can taste the vomit in your mouth.” The best hires—especially the ones in DevOps—are the people who seized that moment as an opportunity and were able to pick themselves up off the floor.

3. They’ve become a jack of all trades by being an accidental polyglot

There’s no formal career track for becoming a DevOps Engineer: they could be a Software Developer that becomes increasingly interested in configuration management and its deployment or they could be a Systems Administrator that finds poetry in scripting and code. DevOps professionals are people who have pushed beyond their defined areas of competence, resulting in a more comprehensive view of their technical environments. A lot of the time they don’t intend to pick up these skills, but have to do so out of necessity. DevOps professionals are the true Renaissance men (and women) of IT.

4. They’re good at written and verbal communication—no, really

How many times have you seen that qualification listed on a job description? It may seem like a generic bullet point (up there with “Proficient with Microsoft Office” and “Good at multi-tasking”), but effective communication is actually at the core of the culture of DevOps. Jeff says that candidates that have traditionally been silo-ed within a company may find it harder to acclimate to a DevOps environment, because “The DevOps attitude is ‘We’re all working on this together. I need you and you need me.’” Someone who is capable of understanding the motivations of others around them will likely thrive in a DevOps role, because they’ll have empathy for both sides of the wall: development and operations.

DevOps grew from the need for a more agile organization, characterized by improved collaboration, communication, and integration between software developers and IT operations. Some people dismiss DevOps as a marketing buzzword, while others describe it as a philosophy, cultural change, and paradigm shift. Whatever your definition, the fact remains: DevOps has gone mainstream.

Adopting a DevOps model requires new cultural, organizational, and technological ways of working and technology leaders are prepared to invest in its success: 73 percent of IT decision-makers anticipate investing in new tools due to their DevOps implementation, 70 percent plan to commit more budget dollars to employee training, and 53 percent predict having to hire new resources to support a DevOps adoption. Are you ready to invest in new technologies, tools, training, or headcount for your DevOps organization?

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