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The two constants on the DevOps career path: Change and uncertainty

So, what does it take to succeed in DevOps? Be a lifelong learner and a constant collaborator, and know your stuff. Welcome to the front lines. You'll learn the true meaning of agile.

So, you want to break into DevOps, do you? I have unfortunate news if that's the case: There is no such thing as a career in DevOps. You cannot pursue a long and rewarding DevOps career path. There are, however, many rewarding jobs inside a DevOps organization, but you will need one quality above all others if you want to hold on to one for any length of time.

For Data Center Knowledge, Sarah Lahav, CEO of SysAid, wrote: "Saying, 'I want to pursue a career in DevOps,' is equivalent to saying, 'I want to pursue a career in libertarianism.' DevOps is just a set of ideas about how an organization should produce software, just as libertarianism is a set of ideas about how governments ought to run."

Wing it until you retire

Before you find a job in a DevOps organization, Lahav wrote, you must first make sure that you'll enjoy working in a DevOps organization. No matter your job title, your position will be collaborative, fast and experimental. Not all programmers want constant interaction with co-workers. Not all managers can keep their teams working at the accelerated pace needed for a continuous delivery cycle. And perfectionists will not enjoy the experimental aspect of a DevOps culture where teams work to incorporate security and quality assurance into the process, pushing products out the door without the traditional steps. Lahav summed up DevOps culture succinctly, "You'll be winging it until you retire."

You'll be winging it until you retire.
Sarah Lahav

So, how do you enter and succeed in a culture that values "winging it" and in a field that is constantly changing? Above mastering any one technical skill or programming language, navigating a successful DevOps career path depends on being a "stellar self-learner," Lahav wrote. My colleague, Bob Reselman, reached a similar conclusion after speaking with four DevOps professionals: The essential skill for implementing DevOps is a desire to learn, always.

DevOps skills to pay the bills

I understand that saying you need to commit to lifelong learning isn't the most useful takeaway for someone looking to break into a DevOps organization. It's certainly a good starting point, but if you are ready to learn as you go, aren't afraid to fail on the road to success and thrive in an ever-changing, often chaotic workplace, then you might be muttering to yourself right now, "I am a self-learner. I've always been a self-learner." With that skill in tow, what are the other skills that DevOps hiring managers are looking for?

According to SearchITOperations, organizations are desperate for skilled developers and ops engineers versed in cutting-edge automation technologies. Specifically, "the best candidates have an interest in software deployment and experience with command-line and automation tools." But the "most important trait" is problem-solving skill, according to the article, offering further evidence that DevOps is as much about people and soft skills as it is about technology.

How to level up: IT ops to engineering

While IT roles are often written in chalk and not ink, there are steps you can take to hop from the help desk to an IT engineering position. Becoming a system administrator can often work as a transitional position. And always look for good learning opportunities from peers and co-workers.

Stop, collaborate and listen

I would like to reinforce the collaborative aspect of DevOps. DevOps breaks down silos in favor of small, agile, interdepartmental teams. The DevOps job where you sit at your desk all day, writing code with headphones in, while your manager takes care of all the needed communication with the other teams and stakeholders, does not exist. You will be required to work with others. You will need to be able to clearly state your ideas and objectives and ask questions. You will need to be able to listen as others do the same. Communication skills, if not paramount, are only second to being a self-learner.

It's true for any job, but especially on the DevOps career path, where people are working so closely together, that you will need to bring a professional manner to the office each day, treating others with respect, sharing successes along with failures and being a team player. You need to be not only a lifelong learner, but also a constant collaborator.

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