DevOps Institute released its annual Upskilling the Enterprise survey and the results are as interesting as last year. The organization of DevOps teams and its interaction with speed/success was one area that intrigued me, and sent me off looking for more information on the topic. This led me to this interesting site that does a great job of delving deeper than “We’ve all heard of Conway’s law.” Good descriptions there on what works and why that will be useful to many organizations. The only true weakness in the content that I found was the “vacuum syndrome” that doesn’t delve deeply enough into what’s right for your organization, which certainly impacts your choices.
DevOps Institute’s discussion of soft skills and DevOps roles being hybrid is also interesting. It creates a bit of a conundrum. We all wish the technical genius was also a charming personality, but often that is not the case. In the end, our job is technical, and we need to deliver technical solutions. There is a balance between making the genius more personable and finding personable people capable of achieving the goals. Considering that hiring is currently a struggle, we often do not get to choose. Training can help a lot, and in the end, finding a balance that works for a given organization is going to be a bit of work for management.
What comes as no surprise is the finding that CI/CD are the entry level required skills for DevOps. No matter how far along on your DevOps journey you are, CI and CD are core to the job at this point. Expect that to change over time as deployment and security become more core and commonplace. In the end, great CI/CD is not much help if deployment and monitoring are weak, so the tools that win these battles will rise in importance over time without taking away from CI/CD.
Their idea of the E-shaped human is interesting, but in diagramming, some detail is lost in the abstraction.
I once worked with a super-genius DBA that could do anything with the database. We (managers) met with him on issues and let him tell us how impossible it was and that we were destroying the enterprise’s data integrity. Then gave him a day and let him tell us how it would get done effectively without major disruptions. Only after we’d met with him the second time did we move forward with the project, talking to business owners. Essentially, we became the wall between him and anyone who would be put-off by his face going red and his angered declarations. It was an acceptable arrangement, and he never let us down. I worked with him on dozens of projects, and only once did I see him exposed to outside consultants (against the wishes of several of us), it was ugly, and they pegged him as a stone-waller. He wasn’t, just needed to vent first.
This person was responsible for the stability of our data, for upping the volume of throughput when needed and for making sure SQL didn’t get past DBAs without being safe. Would we have liked him but with a sunny disposition? Sure, but given a choice, I for one was happy with him and an angry disposition. I worked other places I wished I had someone with his unparalleled skills on the DBA side. So, all of IT needs to get better at interpersonal communications in a DevOps world, but “better” is relative. I’d still keep him in the back, making sure our systems got what they needed.
The survey head-nods to this reality where soft-skills came in third as important skills. Still high on the list because it is important, but it shows that technical skills are why we have the job. Soft skills are how we do the job with less friction.
Considering that I am the communicator/negotiator, it might sound strange for me to stand for tech skills first, but that is who we are–technicians. Highly skilled and highly compensated, but technicians. There are few (as a percentage) people who can handle both technical and communications, but by the same token, there are few people who can be an absolute boss at their technical responsibilities and see each unexpected event as a challenge to be overcome. I love to learn new things, and at that job I learned a ton of Oracle stuff from our tech genius. But I would be foolish to believe I’d ever match him in both domain and tech knowledge when it came to databases and our employers’ needs.
Anyway, I picked three of the points that interested me to expound upon. The entirety of the report is definitely worth a read to get a feel for where others are on their DevOps journey and offer some ideas for yours.
Meanwhile, keep kicking it. We’re in the midst of COVID-19, and I hear you, some of you are simply buried in organizations that weren’t prepared, others are suddenly looking for work because your previous employer is suddenly not a viable business. Here’s hoping it gets better for each of you, while the rest of us struggle on.