Tools come and go, but it's a candidate's mindset that is most important when hiring for DevOps positions.
This is according to Conor Delanbanque, head of DevOps for MThree Consulting. He hires people ranging from junior-level consultants, whom he trains to eventually be employed by his clients, to senior software engineers and others.
The most sought-after DevOps pros at the moment are people with a software engineering background who can develop Continuous Integration/Continuous Development (CI/CD) pipelines and handle containers and container orchestration, he said. Configuration management and cloud orchestration skills are also in demand.
Both sides of the DevOps equation are important for a successful implementation, Delanbanque said, but in general it's easier to teach developers about operations than it is to train ops professionals to create software. "There are fewer qualified people from the engineering side, and more demand."
If a company's already built its DevOps pipeline and has its infrastructure more or less in place, it's important to hire developers to then populate that pipeline. If starting from scratch, however, the organization will need people to design the architecture, help create the right culture for DevOps to succeed, and then do both the ops and development work to make it happen.
When searching for the right candidates, Delanbanque has shifted from looking only for experience with specific tools to focusing on how a person thinks and whether he or she would be the right fit. "We want people who can work in high-performing organizations, who know how to iterate on their own systems or concepts and make them better," he explained. It's also about collaboration and respect for all colleagues on the DevOps team.
He suggested that employers stop focusing on the word "DevOps" and other buzzwords, and instead "focus on the core depths of what people do in their daily role and how they solve problems. You're looking for good, intelligent people. Be open-minded."
That said, experience with key tools is still important, said Art Zeile, CEO of DHI Group, the parent company of job-site Dice. Employers often try to find DevOps skills by "determining whether candidates have experience automating deployment pipelines and process management by using two or more different platforms, or experience using at least two types of automated testing frameworks," he said. "Many of the tools employers are specifically looking for from DevOps professionals on Dice include experience with Chef, Puppet, or Ansible."
Another strategy is to find junior-level people straight out of college, or already working at your company, who want to make the leap into this new field. Then, train them yourself, as Delanbanque has done.
MThree's four- to six-week "training academy," which it also sells as a service to customers, helps upskill junior people in CI/CD, conflict management, version control and more. After working at MThree for two years, they are eligible to join clients as full-time employees.
"These are not the people who are going to lead a DevOps project or transformation." Delanbanque said. "They're doing Jenkins, doing administration and not making major changes." But they become future leaders who put in the sweat equity to learn the basics first.
Jeffrey Weber, executive director at Robert Half Technology, said it's important to remember those basics when hiring for DevOps. "You want someone with DevOps experience they can talk to, but who also has strong experience in the traditional activities that DevOps impacts." So, this means, for instance, solid skills in traditional operations activities and development tools and methodologies.
"At some point in the future you will be able to hire for just DevOps," Weber said. But "we're almost ahead of ourselves today. What you really need or want is still somewhat undefined."