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The Culture Change of DevOps and Your Career

DevOps has been viewed primarily as adopting tools. Actually the major shift in DevOps is a cultural shift that is supported by processes and tools. Many voices in the technology community are now focused on the cultural change of DevOps. What are the implications for companies and those in development and operations focused roles?

Christian Posta makes clear the shift associated with DevOps in his article – DevOps and the Myth of Efficiency.

“DevOps, Microservices, Cloud, etc are all about making organizations more effective. It’s laying the groundwork to treat our organizations as complex systems, not machines. This approach lends itself to really understanding the value of feedback, failure, learning, autonomy, and emergent behavior which are critical for any complex system to exhibit to evolve and stay relevant in a complex, not merely complicated, world.”

A recent SD Times article interviews two evangelists for Red Hat: Markus Eisele, a developer advocate based in Germany, near Munich, and Burr Sutter, product management director for developer products based in Raleigh, NC, to get their perspectives on how enterprise DevOps can best gain traction. Posta and Burr had this to say on the culture change required for DevOps:

Sutter: The No. 1 mistake I see IT organizations, shops and developers make is often they’re looking for a tool to come in and solve their problems. There are tools that help, but in general it’s about cultural change, workflow and process change.

Eisele: Enterprises in general don’t actually see what it means to do DevOps. To them it’s a solvable problem by tool. We have seen independent software development teams and internal IT organizations working together in waterfall-driven processes for years. When people jumped into agile, they said, “Let’s see if we can get the stakeholders closer to each other,” but that never included operations. The whole problem goes all the way up the organizational chain. Getting those cross-business-unit methodologies to work together is not solvable by a tool. And when vendors say, “We are going to sell you containers and microservices so you can achieve Continuous Delivery,” the part they don’t mention is the cultural change.”

A Tech Beacon article discusses the opinions of Gene Kim on the topic. Kim is a co-author of the best-selling book The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win (Affiliate) The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win, the former CTO of Tripwire and one of the organizers of the annual DevOps Enterprise Summit. In the article Kim states:

“The original idea was simply to de-silo dev and ops to overcome the bottlenecks in the software development and deployment process, mostly on the ops side. Today, with the evolution of DevOps, the goal is supporting a continuous delivery pipeline. Operations has been adopting so many of the techniques used by developers to support more agile and responsive processes that we’re seeing a kind of “dev-ification of ops.”

The “dev-ification” of ops and “ops-ification” of dev as Kim talks about later in the article leads to considerations for those working in development and operations roles today. In order to be well positioned for this culture change it stands to reason that some additional skills will be needed.

In a recent ebook UpGuard – a Mountainview California based DevOps and CyberSecurity company – gives ideas of how developers, operations and others can prepare their careers for DevOps. The eBook titled “The DevOps Career Guide” quotes research from, that indicates that DevOps salaries average more than $10,000 per year more than traditional developer roles. In the San Francisco Bay Area early stage startups pay upward of $150,000.

The UpGuard ebook goes on to state:

“Culture first, tools second. This is the order of precedent that most DevOps practitioners encourage, albeit– the tools help to shape the culture. Because Agile and lean are close cousins to DevOps, many of the highly valued personality traits integral to them are also highly valued to DevOps shops. Communication skills and empathy are perhaps the two most important skills– this allows team members to be responsive to the needs of the product offering, the customer, other stakeholders– and perhaps most importantly, other team members. The best tooling in the world will not go far without the proper cross-team communication skills and collaboration strategies.”

“A typical DevOps-enabled organization might expect proficiency with CM tools like Chef, Puppet, or Ansible– as well as other automation and orchestration platforms like Jenkins and Travis CI. As DevOps is spiritually a grassroots movement, command of popular open source tools is a highly prized skill set in the DevOps arena. Containerization technologies such as Docker and CoreOS’ Rocket are also essential tools in the DevOps toolchain.”

On potential interview questions the UpGuard ebook recommends:

“Be prepared to discuss topics around scope maintenance, workflow streamlining, setting objectives amongst team members, and resolving conflicts, among others. Again– at the end of the day, technical skills are only part of the equation when it comes to DevOps. A skilled DevOps practitioner is able to use technical skills and tools to augment and promoter tighter teamwork and positive behavior for building optimal products and services.”

Of course just as DevOps is first a culture change, there is also a very relevant aspect based on tools. Today we looked at some of the voices emphasizing the importance of the culture change in DevOps. We also looked at some relevant career considerations for individuals desiring to position themselves well for DevOps. Next time in the DevOps series we will take a look at the DevOps toolchain and some of the most relevant current technologies.

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7 thoughts on “The Culture Change of DevOps and Your Career”

  1. Excellent article! I have a few comments:
    1. To expand on what state at the beginning for your article, tools do not solve the underlying issues. If you have a hammer in your hand, everything looks like a nail.
    2. As software and hardware systems grow in complexity, there is no single person who understands it all. There is no Chief Engineer. The Space Shuttle was a very complex system and the Chief Engineer was Max Faget. But there was not an equivalent person for the Space Station.
    3. Today’s complex systems are multi-layered. There may be one person who understands a single layer, but not the interactions between all of other layers. This complexity is where many of the security vulnerabilities lie.
    4. Colleges and Universities are still churning out software developers who know languages, but not software or systems engineering. Their first exposure to processes, procedures, DevOps is on the job.
    5. I was an invited speaker at the 2016 TSP Symposium in Mexico City this week and DevOps and Agile were discussed in many of the talks. Team Software Process (TSP) addresses many of these issues. And Mexico is leading the world in adopting TSP.
    With Kind Regards,
    Henry Schneider

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    You are so awesome! I do not believe I have read something like that before.
    So good to find another person with some original thoughts on this subject.
    Really.. many thanks for starting this up. This site is something that
    is required on the internet, someone with a bit of originality!

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