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August 21, 2017
By Lisa Dare
“There’s a lot of opportunity in DevOps right now,” says Stephen Laredo, a Linux and DevOps recruiter for TEKsystems. “But while many companies are hiring DevOps roles, they have a specific candidate profile in mind.” Find out which skills you’ll need to start or advance your DevOps career, what employers look for in candidates, and interview questions to prepare for.
1. Programming. In order to break into a DevOps role, you must learn to program—the main languages are Python, Java, Go and Ruby. “I see systems engineers trying to advance their careers but the lack of programming experience is holding them back,” says Chad Kronauge, a strategic account lead who partners with Fortune 500 IT leaders. “Knowing how to code wasn’t traditionally important in systems and networking but is becoming more essential in everyday operations.”
2. Automation. Automation tools make DevOps possible. “If you know one tool it’s not hard to pick up the others, but hiring managers really prefer people already using their tech. I most commonly get asked for candidates who know Puppet, Ansible, Chef, Terraform or SaltStack,” says Laredo.
3. Containerization. Candidates with exposure to containerization platforms like Docker and Kubernetes will have a leg up. As organizations move toward the container model for apps, it’s a skill you’ll need to know to keep pace.
4. Cloud. Experience with cloud environments like AWS, Google Cloud, Azure, OpenStack and virtual private clouds will help differentiate your resume today, and will become a must-have in the future.
Beyond technical skills, employers seek two traits in DevOps candidates: intellectual curiosity and a collaborative nature.
Employers notice people who are passionate about technology. “They want someone who’s contributing to open source communities, building out new cloud environments, and experimenting with the latest and greatest technologies—not just the 9-to-5 worker,” says Kronauge.
“Building your own home lab can be a real differentiator, and it gives you something to talk about in interviews,” adds Laredo.
A collaborative nature is just as important as curiosity. A successful DevOps engineer needs to be willing to ask people about their projects, help developers understand best practices and mentor junior staff. “A heads-down person won’t thrive in a DevOps role. This is normally performed in a matrixed environment involving different teams and skill sets,” says Kronauge.
Whether a DevOps certification will help your career depends on the employer. Certifications aren’t as important within the private sector, while many government positions require them because of certain contractual obligations. "Just make sure if you get a certification that you’re able to use those skills in your current job. A certification won’t be as beneficial if you don’t have the real world experience to back it up,” says Laredo.
The worst mistake technical candidates can make on a resume is to include buzzwords and technologies they don’t have experience with. It’s important to be able to articulate how you’ve used every technology or process you name. “Some managers will go through every single technology and ask specifically how you’ve used it. So if you’ve only read or heard about something, take it off your resume,” says Kronauge.
Common DevOps interview questions: