This is perhaps the toughest issue for all of us to acknowledge: The longer you are in the space, the more skills you have filled out on LinkedIn (or wherever you are tracking your career for HR reps to look at) but the skills you possess today are, by definition, a subset of the skills you will possess even a couple of months from now if you change roles. Note that I said “change roles,” not “change employers.” The fact is that we use an insane number of tools in the development, DevOps and operations environments, and we’re addicted to adding new ones (that might be a hint about part three of this series). Changing roles within a company can involve minor changes, or it can take you to a whole new environment where no one cares that you are a Java genius; they want to know how fast you can pick up Python and be truly productive. Or they nod at your talk of configuring servers and ask if you can do that with Ansible on containers. It’s just not as important anymore for most employees to have a specific skillset. That’s a major contributor to the problems I talked about in part one.
Of course, there are roles in IT that involve far less change. Email administration, for example, isn’t all that different from the way it has been since, well, forever. We have changed how/where the server is configured and many orgs have added SSO or multifactor authentication, creating new issues, but it’s all evolutionary. When NoSQL systems came out, it looked like a major change in DBA work, but it really wasn’t. Within a year, reality put SQL over top of NoSQL stores and DBAs kept chugging along.
But DevOps has impacted both development and operations in profound ways. We pretty much standardized on Java, with all of its warts, because it was object oriented, general purpose and could be compiled if needed. Though embedded largely stayed with C, there was no serious competition in the enterprise for Java and Java-like (.NET) languages. Knowing them meant you could do everything but real-time/embedded development jobs—and even some embedded work shifted to Java as prices for miniaturized compute power dropped.
I chose languages to fit the whole story into a blog because they see less change than the operations side, where we’ve gone from annual big releases to rolling deployments updated frequently and all the support tools changed in the process. Infrastructure has changed, data stores have changed, mobility has changed, UI targets have changed—basically, it’s a chaotic mess.
And you’re in the heart of it, keeping the data flowing and the org running. It’s astounding, and you deserve more kudos than you’re likely getting. So approach hiring differently. Some orgs are already there, but skill-based hiring is still too prevalent. Hire broad technical knowledge and a desire to know more. As someone I know honestly said in a job interview once, “No, I never used it, but it is just another programming language. I’ll be productive in a week.” She got the job and delivered as promised. For all but those few corner-case roles, hire for potential and achievements and skills will follow.