If you've followed the DevOps movement, you know by now that it's about building collaboration and cooperation between software developers and other IT pros. Thus, in hiring a DevOps engineer, you're attempting to bring in an outsider to make sweeping cultural changes throughout your organization. Read that last sentence again, and think about how well most organizations will respond to an outsider attempting to institute sweeping changes.
If you must hire for this critical position, so be it, but I highly recommend that you instead identify someone from within your organization -- preferably a goat. Let me explain.
One of the most interesting characteristics of goats is their high level of intelligence coupled with their high level of curiosity. As a result, goats are notorious for breaking out of their pens. They constantly test the limits of their surroundings, looking for weaknesses to exploit.
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This is exactly the mindset you need for someone in a DevOps role. He or she needs to be extremely intelligent, but also needs to be curious enough to push and prod on and break out of the organization's conventional thinking.
Goats Will Eat Almost Anything
In an episode of the old Tex Avery cartoon, Tex finds a baby goat left on his doorstep. He lets the goat in and it proceeds to eat everything in its path, including railroad tracks and a car engine, as Tex tries to stop it. Although goats don’t actually eat things that are inedible, they are browsing animals that will stick just about anything in their mouths to see if it's consumable.
When looking for an employee who will help drive DevOps, find someone who's a browser, an individual who will try many different ideas and software solutions. At some companies, these folks are said to be part of "shadow IT" or "skunk works," but they're really just trying to drive the organization forward.
Goats also serve many purposes. They can be used for milk, fiber, manure, land clearing, meat, hide and catgut. Combat medics use goats for training, as their anatomy is similar to humans. In many ways, goats are the polymaths of the animal kingdom.
Although specialists have their place in an organization, generalists are becoming more and more important as converged infrastructure, automation and cloud computing blur the lines between traditional IT silos. What you want in a DevOps position is a multipurpose individual who can span those silos.
If you're interested in hearing more on this subject, I'll be giving a presentation on Oct. 22 at Cloud Connect Chicago called "The Goat and the Silo: What an Old Calculus Problem Can Teach Us About Instilling the Culture of DevOps." I hope to see you there.