How to Find Quality DevOps Talent

Finding and hiring the right people is always a challenge. You need to find someone who not only has the right skills and experience, but also the right personality and temperament to fit in with the team and corporate culture. When it comes to finding DevOps talent, though, things get a little harder because the term is both relatively new and somewhat ethereal.

Agreeing on what DevOps experience even is, and then finding someone with the right skills and personalities isn’t easy. I came up with these 7 tips to help you find quality DevOps talent:

It’s fairly well established that DevOps is first and foremost about a change in IT culture. When seeking DevOps talent—or even just hiring for general roles in the company but with a DevOps culture in mind—what are the specific skills and traits you look for? What are the common attributes among IT professionals who excel at DevOps?

DevOps is a new way of thinking. Just as agile development was a response to address the shortcomings of the Waterfall method, DevOps is part of a larger realization that there is a better, more efficient way to work together. That culture does require some unique traits, and it might not be a good fit for every potential employee.

To understand why this is the case, I asked experts at two leading organizations, Chef and New Context, to define some of the key traits of DevOps-compatible employees.

1. Prioritize around essential DevOps behaviors

Chef, a leading platform for DevOps, defines DevOps as a cultural and professional movement, focused on how it builds and operates high-velocity organizations, born from the experiences of its practitioners. Nathen Harvey, vice president of community development at Chef, says, “DevOps will look different inside every organization and the traits and skills needed to thrive on a DevOps team will differ. However, there are a few common themes and patterns that we see in successful IT professionals who excel at DevOps.”

Chef even has a checklist of key behaviors it uses as a guide for identifying the right talent. It includes:

  • Build features iteratively
  • Collect metrics
  • Manage risk
  • Solve theory arguments with execution
  • Choose tools that fit the job
  • Integrate and deliver continuously
  • Write tests
  • Focus on availability
  • Plan for capacity
  • Practice incident response
  • Use scalable systems design
  • Be unique
  • Empower teams
  • Build consensus on important decisions
  • Put application and infrastructure through the same workflow

That list is semi-comprehensive, but it also both too vague and too specific, depending on which principle you look at. I agree that it’s a good laundry list of qualities that would be nice on a DevOps team, but in terms of identifying and hiring the best DevOps talent, I think we need to boil it down to a few basic practices, which I describe below.

2. Be selective and look internally

It’s important that the people on the front lines of this movement inside your organization are up for the task. They will need to be a conduit between IT and the business and be able to evangelize and promote DevOps across their organization. They should already interface with multiple departments and regularly converse with members outside of IT on their own.

Harvey suggests, “Often the best people are inside your organization as they will be familiar with the company infrastructure, systems, demands and what projects can be tackled first. Internal folks will also understand the politics that come with any business, important contextual information to successfully navigate projects forward.”

3. Hire the right attitude

“First and foremost when seeking talent to hire is attitude,” explains Andrew Storms, vice president of security services at New Context. “Candidates need to reflect the thinking that DevOps is about cohesion and less about pointing fingers. We’ve talked about this so many times in every part of DevOps tool chain and process.

“Take for example ChatOps or blameless post-mortems. Being successful in these collaborative environments requires staff who want to be in these environments.”

Check out all 7 tips at TechBeacon: 7 Keys to Finding Phenomenal DevOps Talent.

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