How to become a DevOps engineer
It’s a big industry, software.
There’s a lot of money to be made, and a lot of fun and satisfaction to be had. With skills in DevOps, you’ll always be in demand – as a freelancer, or as an employee. But DevOps isn’t for everyone, and it’s certainly not an easy ride.
Let’s look at what it takes to practise DevOps, and how to become a DevOps engineer.
First – what do DevOps engineers do?
The definition of “DevOps engineer” is pretty broad.
That’s mostly because DevOps isn’t a “thing” that you engineer – it’s a practise, or a culture, or a mindset. It’s a way of working; lean and agile, where small teams with overlapping skills fulfil many roles in parallel.
That doesn’t stop the role being advertised, or the title being used when technically, it doesn’t exist!
Semantics aside, DevOps engineers are highly sought-after.
They’ll usually have the following responsibilities and more:
- Building and automating infrastructure
- Writing CI/CD Pipelines
- Designing DevOps strategies
- Managing version control (usually Git-based)
- Working on multiple platforms across different programming languages
- Creating and configuring container orchestrators
- Working closely with developers to write well-designed microservices architectures
- Providing support to internal and external stakeholders
- Ensuring that all workloads and infrastructure are secure
This is really just a general list, and the actual responsibilities will vary from company to company.
To boil it down to the simplest explanation, DevOps engineers build the processes that turn code into a product.
What will always be true is the need for a solid understanding of the DevOps culture, and a core set of technical skills.
What skills do you need?
DevOps engineers are excellent problem solvers – but they need to be collaborative, and work well with others. DevOps engineers manage teams of developers, so they need to have a strong knowledge of the SDLC (software development life cycle): the six–stage process which guides software development projects. Above all, they need to be excellent communicators and have soft skills to match their hard skills.
As a bare necessity, you need the six technical skills common to every DevOps role. These will be your gateway into technical DevOps and better jobs:
- Using the Linux operating system
- Basic programming skills
- Fundamental knowledge of networking
- Fundamental knowledge of Cloud platforms
If you already have these skills, you can apply for entry-level DevOps roles – for more advanced technical DevOps roles, you’ll need to understand the CI/CD pipeline: the production line of software companies.
How to get DevOps technical skills
As with most things, the best way to learn is to do it for real. This means daily, focused work – making mistakes, learning from them, and logging successes.
Doing this off your own back will teach you to be proactive, a soft skill that’s essential to DevOps. But you could also learn on the job, at the right organisation.
There are many courses you can take to hone your technical skills – Learning the CI/CD Pipeline in tools like GitLab, or learning to use Docker (the most popular runtime environment for containers).
The hard skills can all be taught.
The thing you really need for DevOps is a set of soft skills; and some people think you can’t learn those.
We beg to differ.
Soft skills – can they be learned?
Understanding the DevOps culture is key to your success. DevOps culture is pinned on transparency and open communication – and this is why DevOps isn’t for everyone. Some people just work best solo, or are set in their ways. And that’s fine, too! You do you.
The fact is that soft skills are harder to learn. Some say they are unlearnable, but we think that’s bunk. If you really, really want to make it in DevOps, you’ll do it. And humans learn best by doing and practising.
To hone your soft skills for DevOps, focus on developing the following – and train yourself to build these skills.
Prioritise communication and collaboration
Learn how to write clearly, effectively, and mindfully. Learn how to speak to others as your equals, and expect mutual respect.
If working with others is something you struggle with – don’t be ashamed! It’s a challenge for lots of people, most of us are just better at hiding it. Instead of shying away, try to apply collaboration skills in low-stakes environments, like gaming. Ease yourself out of your comfort zone.
This is the number one soft skill for anyone who wants to become a DevOps engineer.
The good news? If you’ve set yourself the goal of becoming a DevOps engineer, and started learning how all by yourself, then you are by definition a proactive person. You simply took the initiative to do what needed to be done, and here you are. Even just by reading this article, you’ve made a step to better yourself and become who you want to be.
The trick now is to carry on – and never stop.
If you can keep going, you’ll certainly figure out how to become a DevOps engineer. Try not to forget us when you do…
ClearHub – the home of DevOps professionals
ClearHub specialises in placing and sourcing freelance DevOps engineers – vetted, skills-checked and ready to work. Join us as a contractor, or hire your ideal candidate. To get started, call +44 (0) 2381 157811 or send your message to firstname.lastname@example.org.