“You just can’t get the staff these days.” It’s a phrase we hear often enough in many industries. And nowhere is the search for a star employee more intricate and complex than in the world of DevOps.
Whether you are a job seeker, or a manager struggling to keep up and understand current trends, there’s a lot to consider. The talent environment for DevOps is constantly evolving and shape-shifting. We should know, as we’ve spent a lot of time carefully looking for and bringing in new software engineers here at Stackmasters. Thankfully, there are some key rules to follow, and ones which we always try to follow.
Before we get to those juicy bits though, let’s take a quick look at the state of play.
DevOps talent culture: the state of play
Let’s face it, currently, hiring a good DevOps specialist is a mighty hard task. Why? Because DevOps has blossomed in such a way that new roles keep cropping up all the time. High quality professionals which are already in shortage, then, are in high demand. Companies are actually fighting over them. Why are they in demand so much? Because businesses need people who can deliver on what DevOps promises. Which is, in short, constantly experimenting, continuously iterating. And this at great speed, while also handling a tricky culture change.
Obviously the above means that it’s a good time to be a competent IT pro. The job market loves you right now. As long as you have the right mix of skills and experience that is. And there’s more good news. In our software and increasingly cloud-driven, automated world, this situation is not likely to change soon.
In a recent report from OpenSource.com, staffing firm Robert Half said in its 2018 salary guide for technology professionals, that it expects DevOps engineers to be one of the most in-demand roles among North American employers next year.
“There is an increased drive to capitalize on the agility and productivity benefits brought on by DevOps, and leaders are seeking the talent to drive these initiatives and execute on delivering the strategy,”
says John Reed, senior executive director for Robert Half Technology.
There’s no doubt that the DevOps jobs boom is real. According to figures from Robert Half Technology, avergae salaries for DevOps engineers are north of $100k per year (US-based figures, but numbers in western and central Europe are close or on a par). This is why many IT professionals are switching from other sectors of IT to gain the experience and skills necessary to land a choice DevOps position.
How to hire the best DevOps pros
It can be a minefield trying to seek out the talent you need. Because you don’t just need a top DevOps pro. You also need someone who fits your business in terms of personality and work ethic. Hiring has to be everyone’s responsibility. Because the very same top-down and bottom-up approaches to DevOps culture also exist for hiring. You’ll find significant value in both approaches. Here’s our take on OpenSource’s key rules to follow:
I know this really good DevOps guy…
Rule number one. Ask anyone involved in talent search and hiring, and they’ll tell you, referrals are your first port of call. You should consider them your bottom-up approach to hiring. If someone already in your organization recommends a friend or former colleague, this goes a long way. Not only will you save money on adverts and/or recruitment services, you are more then likely to get someone who fits to you company’s culture. Great minds think alike and all that. An additional, perhaps bonus, point here is that the referrer’s reputation is what pushes a candidate to the front of the line. The rapport between all parties matters more than the fact that the referrer is a part of the organization.
Decide on the background you want
This one maybe should be number one, we kind of jumped the gun a little. You need to do a proper due diligence on the strengths of your existing team. For example, you may have some top class software engineers but are lacking in infrastructure knowledge. Your aim should be to close these gaps in skills, not just hire a (expensive) superstar engineer that you don’t actually need. Get the guy or girl who will give you the most value in your environment.
Freelancer or permanent staffer
This one overlaps with the above point. There is the temptation to immediately start looking for a permanent full-time staffer. But think again. Is it really what you need? If you are an early-stage startup for example, can you: 1. afford a full-time top notch DevOps engineer, and 2. Are you at the stage where you will fully benefit from someone like that? Chances are, the answer to both questions is probably not. If you are building a brand spanking new DevOps environment, then your best course of action could be to try out an experienced contractor. This way, you’ll get the knowledge that an experienced hand can show your junior whizkid the ropes. Then as you grow you can add to your team later. Who knows, your contractor may be able to refer you someone from his network!
I need the dollar
Money. Yes it does make the world go round, and is important to consider when hiring IT talent in the DevOps field. Best advice? Be clear from the start about how much you want to, or can, pay. As a general rule if you are an early startup, you really want to be breaking even first BEFORE trying to land “rockstar” DevOps engineers on big bucks.
Forget about your awesome product or service
Try to leave your ego to the side. In many cases, ego can destroy a startup. In many ways. Letting it interfere with your recruitment is one of them. Yes, you may have an awesome product/service/company. But there’s always competition. Candidates have a lot of the buying power. It is no longer as simple as saying, “We are hiring” and the awe-some candidates come flowing in. You need to sell your op-portunities. Maintaining a reputation as a great place to work is also important.
A poor hiring process, such as interviewing without giving feedback, can contribute to bad rumors being spread across the industry. It takes only a few minutes to leave a sour review on Glassdoor.A smooth process is a successful one“Let’s get every single person in the company to do a one-hour interview with the new DevOps person we are hiring!”.
No, let’s not do that. Two or three stages should be sufficient. You have managers and directors for a reason. Trust your instinct and use your experience to make decisions on who will fit into your organization. Some of the most success-ful companies do one phone screen followed by an in-person meeting.
During the in-person interview, spend a morning or afternoon allowing the candidate to meet the relevant lead-ers and senior members of their direct team, then take them for lunch, dinner, or drinks where you can see how they are on a social level. If you can’t have a simple conversation with them, then you probably won’t enjoy working with them.
If the thumbs are up, make the hire and don’t wait around. A good candidate will usually have numerous offers on the table at the same time.If all goes well, you should be inviting your shiny new em-ployee or contractor into the office in the next few weeks, and hopefully many more throughout the year.This article was originally published on DevOps.com and republished with author permission
Methods more important than tools
Focus on their understanding of DevOps and CI/CD-related processes over specific tools. I believe the best approach is to find someone who understands the methodologies over the tools. Does your candidate understand the concept of continuous integration or the concept of continuous deliv-ery? That’s more important than asking whether your can-didate uses Jenkins versus Bamboo versus TeamCity and so on. Try not to get caught up in the exact tool chain. Fo-cus on the candidate’s ability to solve problems. Are they obsessed with increasing efficiency, saving time, automating manual processes, and constantly searching for flaws in the system? They might be the person you were looking for, but you missed them because you didn’t see the word “Puppet” on the resume
If you like the sound of the above, you can read a lot more about it in detail in OpenSource.com’s white paper on the subject, which is also filled with similar tips for job-seekers. Which reminds me, Parenthesis: we’re still looking for a Business Development wizard to join our team. So, if you happen to be looking for such a role, then feel free to reach out to us.