Getting Started as a DevOps Engineer

Getting Started as a DevOps Engineer

Published: March 25, 2021
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When you first hear about ‘DevOps Engineers’, it can be easy to get the wrong impression. The title seems to suggest a single role with a distinct skillset – the kind of position that has a clear set of prerequisites for potential candidates to work on. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

‘DevOps Engineer’ is actually an umbrella term for anyone working within a DevOps culture. Engineers working at different ends of a pipeline will, naturally, have different points of focus within their roles, as well as distinct skills and experience, with the main factor linking them together being their understanding of DevOps itself.

Despite this, many companies still make the mistake of seeking ‘DevOps engineers’, as opposed to qualified individuals who also happen to either know about DevOps or are eager to learn how to thrive in DevOps cultures. Recruiters have also continued this trend, advertising ‘DevOps engineer’ jobs without focusing on distinct prerequisites for specific roles.

That is not to say that trying to become a DevOps engineer is a lost cause. DevOps has continued to grow in popularity over the last few years while simultaneously evolving to better suit the capabilities and requirements of software-driven organizations. Gaining experience as an engineer is an excellent way for a candidate to improve their hireability and unlock higher-paying job roles.

So, how does an IT professional go about becoming a DevOps engineer? Are there any skills that are universally required for all DevOps practitioners? How can a DevOps student build the experience required to join a DevOps culture? 

Good e-Learning got in touch with the DevOps Institute, along with DevOps Ambassador Jose Adan Ortiz, to talk about how prospective DevOps engineers can get started. 

Let’s see what the experts have to say about getting started as a DevOps engineer!

When did you first hear about DevOps?

Jose Adan Ortiz: “Back in 2015, I was working a lot with monitoring and orchestration tools, and I read an article about Ansible as a “new tool to automate sysadmin tasks and help DevOps teams” to administer platforms. Then, it was finally in December 2016 when I took my first “DevOps” approximation attending an “Introduction to DevOps” course from EDX University.”

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How popular is DevOps in your industry?

“It’s quite popular nowadays. DevOps is a powerful set of practices and tools to achieve application modernization, maturity, and fast time-to-market products that match final users requirements. Right now, I’m working in the Web Performance and Cloud Security industry, and it’s really important for us that our customers have tools and capabilities to immerse our solutions into their DevOps pipelines, so we are constantly working to enhance our customers with new tools.”

Is DevOps a standard in your profession? If not, is it becoming more popular?

“As a Solutions Engineer, it’s important to stay on the edge of new technologies, practices, and solutions that our customers are commonly using. Thus, it’s really important to have DevOps knowledge as a standard, and it’s getting more and more popular.”

At what point in someone’s career should they learn DevOps?

“For example, if you are working as a Software Engineer or Full-stack Developer, nowadays, it is strictly necessary to have DevOps practices and DevOps tooling to be part of an Agile Development Team. For new engineers or professionals that are around Application Modernization and Cloud Infrastructure Projects, it will be very useful to learn Git, Collaboration, Linux, Regex, Continuous Integration, Continuous Deployment, and Observability.”

How much experience does it take to become a senior DevOps engineer?

“I recommend having a minimum of 3 years working within a DevOps team on a daily basis. In a three year timeframe, you must develop all the necessary skills regarding Collaboration, Leadership, Problem Resolution, Continuous Improvement.”

Should you learn DevOps on your own, on the job, or as part of a course?

“It depends on your current situation. You could be forced to learn DevOps practices or how to use DevOps tools as part of your current job if you are part of a Development Team that is adopting DevOps initiatives, and on the other side, if you are not working directly with DevOps but you see how demanded DevOps profiles are, you need to invest time and money attending a few DevOps courses to upskill your professional career. A DevOps career is a continuous learning process where you need to be learning new tools and reskilling your practices to achieve a better collaboration environment for your team.”

Does DevOps certification have value for DevOps companies?

“Indeed. Companies are looking for skilled professionals with validated knowledge. Even with this 2020 certification hype, to be certified is a must.”

What are the skills shared by all DevOps engineers, regardless of background?

“I can count a lot of them but essentially: Git, Linux Administration, Cloud Management, Container Management, Web Server Administration, Continuous Integration Tools, Monitoring.”

How can you show a potential employer that you understand DevOps in an interview?

“You need to show them the value of DevOps’ pillars (Leadership & Collaboration, Architectures, Continuous Testing, Continuous Integration, Continuous Deployment, Observability, and Security) and how you match with all of these pillars. Nowadays, DevOps is tightly related to automation and Infrastructure as Code, so it is important to demonstrate how you can support the IaC approach to help the organization.”

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What are some of the most common questions in DevOps job interviews?

  • “Have you ever worked in a DevOps team?
  • “What’s your experience with Linux?
  • “Have you deployed container-based applications?
  • “Have you deployed microservices-based applications?
  • “How do you ensure high availability in cloud?
  • “What’s your approach to maintaining the visibility of all platforms?
  • “What are the three most important DevOps KPIs?”

How can you improve interview skills for DevOps roles?

“Based on what we have talked about before (Git, Linux Administration, Cloud Management, Container Management, Web Server Administration, Continuous Integration Tools, Monitoring), it is essential to feel self-confident within these skills to have a good interview. If you feel uncomfortable with at least two of these skills, it’s better to take some time to refresh and update knowledge. 

“My recommendation is to write down a small knowledge roadmap with what you think you need to improve and to define small milestones weekly. It is important to simulate real-life DevOps scenarios. You can arrange small labs in your local environment or use public clouds free tier to deploy them. I personally recommend the Katacoda platform, where you can find a lot of scenarios and ready-to-learn cases.”

What tools should all DevOps engineers know about?

  • “Everything Linux: shell scripting, services, networking, files mgmnt., users mgmnt.
  • “Regex, Regex, Regex
  • “Git, Git, Git
  • “Python or Golang for automation
  • “At least for one public Cloud: compute resources, storage, IAM, billing
  • “Ansible
  • “Terraform
  • “Testing Automation
  • “Jenkins or ArgoCD
  • “Sonarqube, Checkmarx or Veracode for source code quality (security)
  • “ELK, Grafana or Prometheus”

What is the value of networking in DevOps?

“As I said before, I consider that DevOps involves continuous learning – an (almost) infinite path where you need to keep improving your skills constantly. It’s necessary to help your team fight against cognitive overload. DevOps experiences and use cases are always different from company to company, and it’ll be useful if you share your experiences and lessons learned with your homologues. In past years, the DevOps Institute has been really helpful creating and maintaining a networking instance for DevOps enthusiasts and practitioners around the world for sharing successful and productive learnings on the road of DevOps.
“For new DevOps engineers, it would be helpful to participate in DevOps groups, Meetups, Conferences, and events to have real experiences of what it is to work in a DevOps team on a daily basis.”

How can a DevOps engineer keep their skills fresh?

“As part of networking recommendations, attending DevOps events and conferences might keep you fresh with the latest DevOps experiences around the world. It’s important you can find a local DevOps meetup where surely you can find valuable people who you can contact and discuss new tools and DevOps culture adoption.
“Right now, we can leave behind the importance of Cloud for DevOps. Public clouds are constantly developing and enhancing their developer-related tools, and this is a recommended path to follow to keep skills fresh. Public Clouds have prepared a DevOps learning path to take advantage of cloud services.
“I found this post really useful. It talks about the 100 Top DevOps Leaders on Twitter. Another path to follow is to keep listening about Cloud Native Computing Foundation news and projects.”

Are there any newer skills that are becoming more valuable for DevOps cultures?

“There are a few skills or practices that are getting more and more important recently, by example:

  • “Value Stream Management: A technique coming from the Lean movement that focuses on detecting bottlenecks and waste across to accelerate the flow of product delivery
  • “Improve Continuous Testing, including security-focused tests
  • “MLOps
  • “GitOps”

Jose Adan Ortiz

Jose Adan Ortiz is a DevOps Ambassador for the DevOps Institute and has over four years of experience with the methodology itself. He currently works as a Developer Champion within Akamai Technologies.

“DevOps is “Optimize human effort with tools for better value, sooner, safer to have happier users and engineers”.”

The DevOps Institute

The DevOps Institute is a professional membership association whose mission is to advance the human elements of DevOps by creating a safe and interactive environment where our members can network, gain knowledge, grow their careers, support enterprise transformation, and celebrate professional achievements. We connect and enable the global DevOps community to drive change in the digital age. DevOps Institute ambassadors are pioneers in DevOps and some of the world’s most foremost thinkers and advanced practitioners of DevOps ways of working who volunteer to share their wisdom and expertise with the humans of DevOps, globally.