How to find devops staff who are good at both technology and people


A new study shows that to optimize devops you need a mix of hard technology skills and soft people skills. But how do you get that combination?

Do cloud-oriented devops people need to be people-oriented, as well as technology-oriented? That seems to be the case, according to a new report by the Devops Institute.

When it comes to recruitment, the study found that there is an equal balance in enterprises in looking for soft skills and in looking for technical skills. This desired balance is for both promoting people from within and finding skilled people outside the company.

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For C-level executives and IT management, business skills were considered particularly important, of course. The study found a distinct correlation between must-have and nice-to-have skill sets. Automation, cited by 57 percent of respondents as must-have, beat out process (55 percent) and soft skills (53 percent). But as the numbers show, not by much.

Devops is more about people and culture than it is about tools and technology. But people and culture are not typically what we do in technology. We focus on technology-oriented devops skills, such as configuration management, automated testing, and automated deployment. However, those skills won’t do you much good if you don’t have the ability to get people on the dev and ops sides marching to the same approaches, processes, thought processes, and, most important, a continuous-improvement culture.

The difficulty is hiring for both types of skills. You can find the deep technology people who are not the best people people, and you can find the people people who do not get technology as well. But how can you find the combination? I’m not sure you can, at least not consistently.

But you can hire people who are somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between technology people and people people. They are not overly social or overly technology-focused, though they are closer to one side of the spectrum than the other. So, they do need help in adjusting their skills for the side of the spectrum, where they are weaker—but at least they are already part way there.

To help them make the adjustment, you use positive reinforcements such as bonuses around desired outcomes. Or, you can use mentors who have the desired skills and are cultural leaders.

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There is no easy answer to this one. It’s a process involving compromises at the outset that you try to overcome over time.

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