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30 June 2017

Understanding DevOps recruitment

Jamie Freeman, Talent Engagement Lead for DevOps talks to us about understanding DevOps Recruitment.

Origins

For me understanding the origins of DevOps was a great place to start before tackling my first requirement. It was refreshing to see the buzz this technology movement was creating and the passion it had reignited into people’s roles. Like most recruiters, I had to first get my head around the idea that “DevOps Engineer” could possibly be a job title…it shouldn’t be…but it is.

“It’s not my code, it’s your machines” – 10 Deploy a Day: Dev and Ops Cooperation at Flickr

With collaboration at its core, it is no surprise that social media had an influence on the birth of the DevOps movement.

Following the influential talk “10 Deploys a Day: Dev and Ops Cooperation at Flickr” delivered by employees John Allspaw and Paul Hammond, Patrick Debois founder of the Agile Systems Administration Group, was inspired by the potential of this collaboration between development and operations and decided to host a conference of his own. Through abbreviating the words development and operations, he named his conference DevOps Days and subsequent discussions around the movement moved on to Twitter with the hashtag #DevOps. It has since adopted this name.  

Where to start when sourcing for DevOps?

As a Technical Sourcing Specialist, solid research forms the foundation for understanding the technical requirements of a role and being able to identify and engage with relevant candidates. As well as researching the day to day responsibilities and technical skill set associated with a DevOps engineer, I had to understand the successful mind-set that went with it. Prior knowledge of Software Development certainly helped, but I gained real insight from embedding myself within DevOps communities and following leading vendors such as Puppet and Chef, all of which generously share content, reports and webinars within the community. Tech talks also quickly cut the learning curve around Automation, Containerisation and Continuous Delivery Pipelines. In particular; Amazon’s DevOps talk at the AWS re:Invent summit, gave me a unique insight into DevOps at Amazon, Service Oriented Architectures and associated tools and processes. I also highly recommend the DevOps Handbook by Gene Kim.

It is not of course only about the technical requirements; DevOps requires a cultural shift and set of principles that support working towards a common goal. John Allspaw put’s it nicely in the DevOps handbook

“Think about the design of a high-performance vehicle. Where does the work of a mechanical engineer end and the work of an electrical engineer begin? Where (and how, and when) should someone with domain knowledge of aerodynamics (who certainly would have well-formed opinions on the shape, size, and placement of windows) collaborate with an expert in passenger ergonomics? What about the chemical influences of fuel mixture and oil on the materials of the engine and transmission over the lifetime of the vehicle? There are other questions we can ask about the design of an automobile, but the end result is the same: success in modern technical endeavours absolutely requires multiple perspectives and expertise to collaborate.”

With principles that include , but aren’t limited to, automating common processes, increasing transparency with works in progress, facilitating cross team collaboration and bringing together functions. DevOps aims to build a cohesive and standardised workplace. As such, it should be considered a framework that can be applied to any business in order to improve results and prevent problems.

What are we looking for?

It is important to understand that organisations may be at various stages on their journey to adopting DevOps. It is therefore also essential to understand what DevOps looks like within your own organisation before engaging with candidates.  Engineers can come from a variety of backgrounds whether it is infrastructure development, release engineering, site reliability, systems administration or software development. Although there is a foundation of technical skills we often look for, a key ingredient is a desire to learn new skills across a range of platform and languages with a goal of improving current systems and processes through automation.

Sam Eaton, VP of Engineering at Yelp, gives some insight into the successful mind-set of a DevOps professional explaining that you Openness, Communication, Empathy and lack of ego are key characteristics.

Ops need to Dev” – Rich Burroughs - Puppet

In the Puppet DevOps and You report, Rich Burroughs explains that “You used to be able to get by as a sysadmin by doing a little shell scripting or knowing a little Perl. That’s still the case in some shops, but if you want to work somewhere really interesting you need to be able to write some code”. This can often be in the form of Ruby, Python or Puppet and as Klynton Jessop from Hellosign rightly states; without this, you will still be doing things manually, the hard way!

There is no set workflow or toolset, however with this base level skill set you will likely also be looking for professional with experience across a variety of DevOps tools such as Docker, Chef, Puppet, Jenkins or Vagrant. Check out the Periodic Table of DevOps tools from Xebia Labs, which cleverly visualises and describes the growing toolset available.   

In summary…

In conclusion, it is best to approach DevOps recruitment with an open mind. It is as much about mind-set as technical aptitude and although I still believe the job title is fairly ambiguous, as Nigel Kirsten from Puppet rightly suggests, “It is sort of a signifier that you’re trying to do things differently”, which is a sign of exciting times ahead.  

References:

Sources DevOps Handbook – Gene Kim, Jez Humble, Partrick Debois and John Willis
Richard Rapaport - A short history of Devops
Damon Edwards – The short history of Devops
Fredric Paul – DevOps blog
Puppet – DevOps and You /State of DevOps report

Jamie joined Capita as a Graduate Recruitment Consultant in 2015 and then moved into IT Recruitment sometime later. He has also done Sourcing and Talent Acquisition Specialist roles before stepping into the role of Talent Engagement Lead for DevOps in 2017.

Connect with Jamie on Linkedin to find out about upcoming opportunities

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