Reskilling to become a devops dude could net you $105k+

Here's the lowdown on making your package bulge like theirs

There’s a skills shortage in DevOps and that’s forcing up salaries.

A Netenrich survey of 200 CIOs last year found 97 per cent of large and mid-market US firms are moving to cloud – yet the same CIOs reckon their IT teams are lacking the necessary qualifications to make that move.

Nearly half (42 per cent) said their IT staff are lacking in the expertise needed to move existing applications to the cloud, while 39 per cent don’t have the ability to optimise cloud deployments for cost and performance.

Demand is driving up salaries: an Impervia poll of 442 respondents also last year found salaries for those in DevOps are going up; 76 per cent reported an increase of earnings compared to 2014.

Impervia reckoned the mean salary for a “DevOps professional” is now $105,000.

There is a supply and demand disconnect. The result is a headache for employers forced to pay through the nose for DevOps experts. The flipside for jobseekers is “compensation plus” salaries and a wealth of career opportunities.

That shortage of supply means there’s a real opportunity for those looking to break into DevOps – if you can repackage your CV appropriately. As long as you can tick the right skills and experience boxes, you’ll boost your chances of success. Interestingly, experts suggest that with many DevOps roles, it really is about having the right mind-set and a penchant for the kinds of technologies currently doing the rounds in DevOps circles.

Warren Howard, technical director of consultant Cohaesus, believes there’s plenty of individuals who can make sure that in the absence of DevOps experience on their CV, they tick the right boxes for employers.

“It’s hard to get a DevOps job straight off,” Howard says. “You have to transition from an existing career, either in an operational space or the development space.”

Whichever sphere you come from, that breadth of understanding is key, he say.

“Developers have programming experience but whether it’s because they don’t care or not, they’re not often exposed to a lot of systems administration. Although it’s not hard, when you do it you learn some best practice, which is really important when it comes to DevOps,” Howard adds.

If you’ve not yet dipped your toe in the water, but have your heart set on a DevOps career, the million dollar question is: how can you best position yourself to make sure your CV is top of the pile? Although experts say there aren’t any qualifications per se that prospective DevOps recruiters are particularly looking for, if you’re hankering after a DevOps engineer or manager role, jobs will involve technical skills (typically around agile practices) and your credibility will depend upon at least a good working knowledge of one or more of the many tools – such as Docker, Jenkins and Puppet – widely viewed as the Lego blocks of the cloud industry.

Liam Kelly, general manager for develop experience at Microsoft UK, told The Register: “It’s a great idea to tweak your CV to make sure it conveys your knowledge of the kinds of tools and technologies relevant to DevOps. In the Microsoft ecosystem, for example, these would include PowerShell, Azure Resource Manager Templates, Containerisation and Visual Studio Team Services.”

Make sure, too, that you highlight skills that will be useful within this industry, Kelly advises. “This includes scripting and automation experience – both of which can be used in practices such as Infrastructure as a Code, Configuration Management and Continuous Delivery – as well as flexibility, determination and collaboration skills.”

Unless you can add some programming to your resumé, the chances of getting a DevOps role are slim, Howard warns. “Any senior sysadmin and senior developer will be using DevOps tools in their day to day jobs so it’s about pushing these to the fore on your CV or at interviews,” he says.

The industry is continuing to evolve at such a rapid pace that experts stress that it’s pointless getting too hung up on specific technologies. Instead they recommend that individuals focus on the concepts that these technologies represent and use their CV to show an understanding of how they can apply to a work scenario.

Many also say that it’s the willingness to collaborate rather than expertise in specific cloud technologies that can give you the edge in this area. “It’s largely around a mind-set. If you want to be a success, you have to be open to collaboration and see that you’re part of the flow of production,” says Sacha Labourey, CEO of CloudBees. “Don’t be hyper focused on one thing. You need to understand the full pipeline.”

So although namedropping orchestration or continuous integration tools may help you get a foot in the door, make sure your CV steers well clear of the tech speak. Instead focus on the impact your work has had on the business “from a transformational perspective” and helping it achieve success. Focusing on metrics like customer satisfaction improvements, number of downloads and cash will speak far louder to prospective employers than your proficiency in a programming language, for example.

A CV that gets across that you’re keen to support a fast moving development programme will strike a chord, says Robin Webster, director of technology at Centiq. “Show some interest in the development world but it’s about getting the balance between that and appreciating the rigour needed to keep systems running.”

Considering that DevOps is about transparency, collaboration, trust, and bringing people together in service of mutual goals, fudging a CV to wing your way into a DevOps job runs a little counter the principles of the movement itself, says Chef Software EMEA consulting director Mandi Walls. A better approach is education and professional training, she says.

“Software engineers can build up their experience working in or leading teams, and in a range of testing environments. Whereas people from more traditional business administration roles will need gain experience of the automation side of things, as well as metrics, collection and telemetry – these are super important,” Walls says.

“People from help desk environments can demonstrate value from developing their ability to work across teams, and accurately and rapidly assess people’s and businesses’ requirements.”

The great thing for people trying to get into DevOps is that it’s so accessible. “You can do it all in your bedroom at home,” says Centiq’s Webster.

“People who thrive in this area have a natural passion for new technology so it’s about demonstrating a keen interesting in how these things are evolving.” ®

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