8 Key Skills for a Successful DevOps Career
July 08, 2020

Stephen Chin
JFrog

As technology evolves, new solutions are introduced to the market on what seems like a daily basis. Many enterprises large and small have realized the value of DevOps as a key enabler to digital transformation and ensuring rapid and consistent delivery of software and security updates across the organization. As DevOps continues to gain popularity and enterprises increasingly invest in this trend, one major challenge to implementing a DevOps culture stands out — hiring.

Companies adopting a DevOps culture will need to hire more DevOps engineers, so it is important to understand what skills employers are looking for and how to acquire the right skills to stand out from the crowd. The most crucial roles call for a range of soft and hard skills, and every DevOps engineer should focus on these in order to succeed.

1. Not Only Coding, But Scripting

Many DevOps engineers are not master coding gurus; however, they possess the skills required to not only understand the code but also develop script and tackle integration. Successful DevOps engineers are aware of Linux fundamentals and possess knowledge of scripting languages that can automate many manual tasks, such as Bash, Node, Shell, Pearl, Python, and Ruby.

2. Ability to Understand and Embrace Automation

Automation is an essential element of the software development process, making it important to understand the skills and knowledge related to infrastructure automation. Through automation workflows, DevOps engineers can speed up the development and deployment process, while increasing accuracy, improving consistency reliability, and reducing errors.

While it is unlikely that you will know all of the languages in the previous section, some of the more simple and popular ones like Python will help you build the basis for learning automation skills.

3. Get Comfortable With the Cloud

As enterprises increasingly turn to the cloud, it's important for software developers and engineers to understand how to leverage cloud environments for every application in the technology stack. With the dramatic shift to remote work due to COVID-19, businesses have accelerated the move from on-premises data centers to cloud infrastructure, which is more broadly accessible outside the office.

DevOps engineers know that the cloud can offer speed and agility across the business, and it's an ideal platform for a distributed workforce. Cloud also helps through orchestration and often results in better control and coordination for the DevOps automation processes while ensuring that resources and associated costs are efficiently monitored, tracked and adjusted.

4. Version and Source Control Systems

As DevOps brings different teams together, understanding the role of source and version control systems are important when tracking changes in an application and maintaining different versions that could affect DevOps performance level by eliminating dependency issues. It's important to learn about the various DevOps tools that provide these capabilities, such as Git-based source control systems which focus on the code.

5. Security From Start to Finish

Being a DevOps specialist today means also being a security specialist. With a faster cycle of code development and deployment, the job of securing applications against vulnerabilities cannot wait until the last step but must be a continuous part of the process.

DevOps engineers need to understand the full gamut of security including static code analysis, binaries and runtime in order to build the end-to-end security stack that protects the entire platform that's deployed into production.

They also need to be aware of the libraries they're using to ensure they do not introduce vulnerabilities into their environment. This means getting familiar with tools that help analyze code to uncover security risks and being able to write secure code that protects applications from attacks, such as XSS or SQL attacks, throughout the lifecycle of development and deployment — rather than addressing security at the end.

Additionally, it's critical to understand how to implement systems that have defense mechanisms in place to address common cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

6. Embracing Soft Skills Through Communication and Collaboration

While hard skills play a major role in the success of any DevOps engineer, soft skills are equally as important to the DevOps culture. Inability to communicate and collaborate can break DevOps in any organization. In order to successfully deliver applications with few errors, lower costs and improved quality of code, developers must know how to build and work with teams, listen, negotiate and solve problems.

Finally, integrity is one of the most important soft skills for DevOps practitioners. Because it is the responsibility of DevOps to bring various IT teams together, you must maintain the highest level of honesty and trust within your team and across the IT sectors.

7. Container Orchestration Supports a Multi-Cloud World

DevOps specialists need to have expertise in multiple clouds in order to support the cloud-first approach that most businesses have adopted. Container orchestration systems like Kubernetes make it easier for developers to build and deploy applications across multi-cloud environments.

Containers also enable DevOps engineers to separate the software and provide quick feedback to customers — ultimately streamlining the testing process. They provide a single source of reference for what developers are building and put into production making it easier to maintain and deploy.

8. Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery Theories, Tools and Systems

Continuous integration (CI) is a methodology of DevOps that continually merges source code with updates from developers on specific software builds. CI tools allow you to notify teams of any failures in the process.

In addition to CI tools, there are Continuous Delivery (CD) theories, concepts and real-world use cases. By having intimate knowledge of the CD tools and systems, you will be able to integrate them together and create fully functioning, cohesive delivery pipelines.

As companies look for many of these skills, it is important to focus on these competencies as a way to help yourself stand out from other candidates. The skills listed here take time, experience and effort to learn. So, go out there and start on your path to becoming a DevOps expert.

Stephen Chin is Senior Director, Developer Relations, at JFrog
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