To be a modern DevOps engineer is a seriously complex role from a technology perspective.
It requires you to be familiar with common programming languages like Node.JS, batch scripts, Python, or batch scripting. Another expectation is understanding how to incorporate test automation inside the deployment processes.
As a code integrator into automated pipelines, you need to know at least the basic functionality of various cloud services.
Despite this technology complexity, technical skills are not always at the forefront of the skills DevOps engineers lack. Even though it would be expected to assume that mastering technical skills is the key, various insights gathered from real DevOps practitioners show that their soft skills are often even more important.
Important DevOps Skills
Watching a DevOps engineer’s interaction inside a Scrum team is often quite an interesting observation. Most of the time, they have very little details about the concrete content of the stories the rest of the team is implementing, just because of technical information about concrete functionalities inside stories for the team.
Yet they need to be able to incorporate the output of the team into one workable deployment pipeline, alongside execution and validation of various automated tests.
This is where being a low-level technical expert is not enough anymore. Communication is becoming a key part of the success. So, let’s explore the most important DevOps skills required.
It is indeed the collaboration and discussion inside the agile team that is the main reason why the lack of soft skills topped the list of DevOps skills. If you still wonder why, here are some of the most sound arguments:
DevOps engineers can’t be effective without adaptability to the rest of the development team. This team is building the foundation of the software or platform features. It is up to the DevOps engineer to create a live environment for that all and make it work.
Apart from being in sync with its own dev team, they are a key contact point for external stakeholders striving to get access to the software platform. They must be capable of understanding such requests and translating all the technical complexity of the automated cloud environment into non-technical equivalents so that the stakeholders can actually understand them. And be the ultimate middleware between the development team and the external stakeholders.
While you can usually build a learning system to acquire specific technical skills, maturing in the right soft skills requires you to go much deeper into your integrity and personality. To learn how to look at yourself from another perspective in time and identify the areas of growth. This isn’t something everybody can do with ease.
When you look at the technology landscape of modern cloud platforms, it doesn’t take a lot to lose yourself. You need to cope with file system services, multiple database services, backend APIs, server or serverless architectures, front-end services, machine learning models, hybrid environments, virtual private networks, high availability load balancers, various real-time streaming services, and many more.
It’s impossible to know all about everything. But it is absolutely required for DevOps engineers to know how to connect it all into one functional software platform. Building a strong network community is a must.
Finding the optimal balance between the simplicity and effectiveness of distributed systems communication is a challenge they need to be aware of and ready to give the team a solution.
Usually, you know that the infrastructure you are building is mature enough only when you start dealing more seriously with security questions and challenges of the platform. And guess what – it’s again the domain of a DevOps engineer.
Instead of sticking to old proven contacts, you need to search for new ones constantly to cover that new piece of service just requested by your team.
Especially in the Agile world, flexibility in software releases is critical. You might have a scrum setup with two-week sprint periods. Then, a new production release every second week is an expectation.
If you think about the whole project lifecycle that includes planning, estimating, developing, testing, and releasing, you can’t possibly achieve that without serious automation on as many of those steps as possible.
The main prerequisite of success in this setup (and to ultimately enable faster time to deploy to production) is a heavy focus on the automation of testing. Faster deployments alongside automated tests result in a shorter time for users’ feedback towards developers.
For a DevOps engineer, that means integration of various testing teams’ outputs into a CI/CD pipeline:
Enable unit test script execution after each repository commit. If they are nonexistent, negotiate with developers to create them.
Include integration test cases into the CI/CD pipelines deploying to a fully integrated and consistent test environment. It doesn’t make sense to run integration tests on every development environment that the dev team is using. The integration test cases must run flawlessly in the environment where all the services are deployed, and data is consistent.
Incorporate real-world end-to-end test cases into the CI/CD pipeline. Make it a mandatory run for each master code deployment into the integration test or user acceptance test environment. This ensures all important and critical business processes can run without failures.
Writing effective test cases in such a way you don’t overdo it but also cover all the critical processes is another challenge to master. DevOps engineers don’t necessarily need to be here alone.
Business analysts or quality assurance managers can be part of the network (if not part of the team directly) to help with that and define the exact steps. But it is then the role of the DevOps engineer to translate it into automated executable code.
CI/CD and Infrastructure as Code
We have already touched on it in several places. Still, there is no denying that the IaC (and subsequently its execution via CI/CD pipelines) are the main outputs of DevOps engineers. This is where all inputs from the dev team (in the form of various service functionalities) are connected together with some real infrastructure environments. Then, they form usable software as a service output, which can be deployed repeatedly to different environments.
No wonder this is one of the main challenges for each DevOps engineer. Even more so, if the requirement is to stay cloud-agnostic, this usually means writing the IaC in Terraform language and ensuring the code does not contain cloud provider-specific nuances. The experience shows it clearly. Switching to cloud-agnostic infrastructure code scripts can be a very difficult task, even for experienced engineers.
It is quite impossible to maintain cloud infrastructure using solely manual steps for deployments. During the on-premise times, this was the standard. But in the same way, it was the rock solid standard to deliver via waterfall ways of working. There is no chance to survive with manual deployments in an Agile environment. The transition must be done, which is almost always painful.
But once done properly, you are there.
Need for a production deployment? Just run the release pipeline containing the code deployment to production.
Do you require another development environment to not overlap with other development work inside the team? Then, find the development pipeline and hit the Run button. All the development infrastructure will be executed and created automatically, including test data.
Once the need for an environment existence is gone, the same development pipeline can execute the destroy commands for all services previously deployed to the environment.
It is inevitable for a successful Agile team to implement infrastructure as a code and place it inside CI/CD pipelines that can do the job anytime and every time. DevOps engineers are here to deliver.
In large-scale projects, the possibility of replicating fast is crucial. Making hundreds of copies of the same environments at the same time wouldn’t be really possible without containerized environments. Containerization is a skill that requires a steep learning curve. That’s also the reason why only a few of the projects are actually using it seriously.
The container server is a template to apply as often as needed, and the output will always be the same. Identical infrastructure and identical data. It’s a property that only DevOps engineers can build for the team. They need to learn how to create that using different tools.
Containers are designed to be easily created and destroyed. DevOps engineers shall implement container orchestration tools such as Kubernetes or Docker Swarm, which can automatically manage container deployment, scaling, and recovery.
Containers share the same host operating system. If one container is compromised, it can potentially compromise other containers on the same host. Also, if containers are built from third-party images, those may contain vulnerabilities inside the code. DevOps engineers shall make an effort to implement security features such as container isolation, access control, and vulnerability scanning to mitigate these risks.
Scalability is another native property of containers. You can easily scale them horizontally to handle the increased workload. This can lead to resource contention and performance issues. DevOps engineers shall implement resource management tools such as cgroups or Kubernetes resource quotas, which can limit the number of resources that each container can consume.
DevOps engineers have to approach containerization with security, scalability, and resilience in mind. Among all the other technical skills, mastering containerization requires an especially steep learning curve. The complexity is just too high. That’s also the reason why only a few of the projects are actually using it seriously.
DevOps practitioner is a unique member of your agile team. You might have just one or two of them for the entire project, but even then, they will be crucial for the success.
The expectations from DevOps engineers are high, as they need to be in many roles at the same time:
They must be strong technical developers,
team players full of empathy, understanding, and collaboration-ready,
effective middleware between the development team and non-technical external stakeholders,
connecting the whole team on automation, and code test verifications,
enabling the regular releases of the project,
and consistently building a network of experts that is changing from day to day.
Despite all the technical complexity, it is the human element that plays a crucial role in the success of any DevOps initiative. If you are on the verge of becoming one of them, you have full right to be proud of your decision and take the education approach from a much broader perspective, not limiting yourself to technical knowledge solely.
We’ve all been here- the hassle of filling out job applications, sending resumes, writing personalized cover letters, and reaching out to the recruiting manager. Yet, applying for each role that suits you feels challenging and hard to get shortlisted.
Want to earn some easy money at your leisure? Are you interested in traveling and reckoning exciting places? Do you enjoy answering survey questions that make technologies better? If yes, you will love Google Task Mate.
Soft skills mean a person’s social skills and personal qualities, reflecting their ability to interact with others. Soft skills complement hard skills, including knowledge and professional talents in their work area.
Power Your Business
Some of the tools and services to help your business grow.
The text-to-speech tool that uses AI to generate realistic human-like voices.