When did DevOps culture get so complicated? DevOps isn’t a technology. Lots of people will argue it’s not a job title either, and it’s definitely not a pipeline. But over the last decade it’s become an increasingly complicated area, spurting new job titles and career paths with lots of overlap, and different meanings depending on who you speak to and what company you work for.
We brought together a panel of Cloud & SRE Leaders to cut through the buzzwords and share their approaches to embedding and maintaining a modern, effective DevOps culture. We had a lively debate over the use of 'DevOps' as a job title and why moving away from it can help nurture DevOps culture in a more productive way, sharing the responsibility of cloud engineering and automation across the entire engineering function.
We've rounded up some highlights from the conversation below. A huge thank you to our panellists and to Slalom for hosting in their incredible office, bringing all the Manchester sunset views. 🌇
Temitope Faro, Staff Engineer @ Depop
Tina Howell Chief Cloud Officer @ XDesign
Jason Hughes, Head of SRE @ Jaguar Land Rover
So, what is 'DevOps'?
DevOps is the combination of cultural philosophies, practices, and tools that increases an organisation’s ability to deliver applications and services at high velocity: evolving and improving products at a faster pace than organisations using traditional software development and infrastructure management processes. This speed enables organisations to better serve their customers and compete more effectively in the market. (AWS)
Tina: "DevOps was invented to reduce silos. It’s about people, process and technology. It's making sure that you can scale with people and process; it’s making sure you can automate through process and technology; and it's making sure you can innovate with people and technology.”
Why do some companies get DevOps so wrong?
According to Tina, the main reason DevOps fails is when it becomes about technology rather than about people and adapting your culture. If you bring automation into your business, you need to deal with your silos and adapt your culture in able for it to work in process.
"If you’ve brought in automation, and believe you’ve fixed your processes and silos, but you still need an all hands event to implement a change, you’ve failed, and you haven’t implemented DevOps."
Source: Tina Howell Presentation
How can you implement a DevOps culture effectively?
Invest in your capabilities by bringing in new people to innovate and changing up how you do things. As a start up scales and grows, the same engineers are relied on to scale software and build on what’s already there. But more often than not, those foundations that are being built on may not be what’s best for the business now. Don’t fall into the trap of doing things a certain way because that’s just how they’ve always been done. Instead…
👉 Breakdown silos. Foster a culture of shared responsibility and encourage cross-functional teams to work together throughout the entire software development lifecycle.
👉 Don't just do what you've always done. Establish metrics and monitoring systems to track the performance and effectiveness of DevOps practices. Use data-driven insights to identify areas for improvement and make informed decisions and don’t be afraid to move away from what you know, as it may not be right for your business.
👉 Assess whether 'DevOps' is the best job title for the role. Using specialised titles and sharing responsibilities rather than grouping everything under the term ‘DevOps’ helps reinforce the fact that the focus is about culture, process and people, and using technology for innovation.
What job roles sit within DevOps and what skills are required?
Tina is a firm believer that the title Cloud Engineer is much more accurate than 'DevOps' Engineer. Cloud Engineering has become a huge area in technology. When it was first introduced back in 2006 it had 12 services. Today, it has over 327. So how can you expect one Cloud Engineer to know everything? Tina says, you can’t.
"Cloud engineering is about building landings and solid foundations. It's about making sure that you have the observability when you build a product, and realistically, it's about migration. So it's taking your legacy and moving them in. Putting Cloud into your organisation is not easy. And your biggest issue will be not having the right capability."
Here’s a breakdown of some of the core areas that sit within Cloud, DevOps & SRE and the core responsbilities attached to them.
Source: Tina Howell Presentation
I want to move into Cloud & SRE, where do I start?
Here’s some advice from our speakers:
When starting off your career in Cloud, year 1 is generally spent getting the lay of the land. Focus on strategic work to build up your knowledge and fundamentally learn the basics, working towards becoming a mid-level engineer over a 2 – 3 year period. By year 4 or 5 you’ll be building big things on your own, but as you start to learn and take on more responsibility this is when imposter syndrome often creeps in. It’s important to push yourself out of your comfort zone to push past this. Ask your manager to take on different work loads and be exposed to new challenges. Your future career will thank you later.
Use your 20% time and spare time effectively. If you haven’t got managers who will help you develop in your role, be proactive about selling ideas to the business and seeing if they can allow you to try them. If not, find mentors and peers you can lean on in the industry.
Think about what you’re putting on your CV and how that looks to a hiring manager. CVs quickly become a game of buzzword bingo and it’s hard to find candidates that genuinely stand out. Be honest in your experiences. Complete technical backgrounds aren’t always necessary, but soft skills are crucial.
There’s nothing wrong with being honest about applying for an SRE role when you’ve not previously been an SRE. Don’t let it put you off and focus on the transferable skills that you can bring to the role.
You pick up so many different skills from your past roles and people have got into SRE and Cloud from all sorts of backgrounds. My journey started in Software Engineering, and I was a Developer for 10+ years before transitioning into SRE. Some of the key skills I picked up that I use everyday as an SRE are:
-Experience developing & running different kinds of applications
-Understanding application runtime behaviours and common pitfalls in a variety of languages
-Understanding the development lifecycle and ways of working; communicating is easier when you can understand the same coding language
-Testing/automated testing; learning practices that can ensure quality and keep apps reliable
-Product and user focused: user testing and metrics that can affect performance
-DevOps culture – CI/CD, automation, IaC, tools and processes, ownership
After talking to peers in my network about how they were doing SRE I found a lot of it was leveraging skills and experience I’ve already practiced, just with more focus. The DevOps and SRE field is evolving quickly so be curious and focus on the transferable skills you can bring to a role.
A big thank you to everyone who joined us for the event. If you'd like to look at the speakers slides, you can do so here. If you're looking for a new role within the world of Cloud, SRE & 'DevOps', reach out to Daniella so she can tell you all about her latest opportunities.