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The Problems With Having 'DevOps' in a Job Title

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The Problems With Having 'DevOps' in a Job Title

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Have you recently changed your job title to include the word devops in it? What were your reasons? Has it given the results you hoped for? It’s been a while since I posted about why devops makes sense in a job title and a few weeks and a few discussions later I have a some thoughts that you might find useful if you decide to go down the same path.

If you look at the entire landscape opinions are pretty mixed. I’ve posted about this on the devops mailing list and on the devops group on Linkedin and in both cases there were people angry I even proposed such a thing.  But there were also people saying it made a lot of sense to them and that they got good results from including devops in their job title.

The trend is clear and unlikely to change, make no mistake, devops as a job title is here to stay. The recruiting industry is crazy about it, candidates and offers for devops positions have gone up considerably on all job sites.

There are however some good arguments against devops in a job title as there are good arguments in resisting the formalization of devops. In the bigger picture however we are probably better off figuring out how to fix the bad bits rather than obstructing that change in the first place, which we probably won’t succeed at anyway.

So what’s the bad stuff?

Yet another silo

The biggest issue by far is the creation of a new silo. If you a hire a bunch of ‘devops engineers‘ you might end up (or be purposely trying to) creating a ‘devops group‘. For a movement that has its origins in the silo breakdown between dev and ops, that seems to be a major fail. There might be some circumstances, especially in larger entities in the enterprise world, in which it might make sense to add a layer, even if temporarily, to bring two other parts together. You are however highly encouraged not to try this at home.

The thing is, you don’t have to create a new silo.

If you properly use devops in your job title, as a qualifier, you will still be easily recognizable as a sysadmin or a developer and there won’t be any need to add another silo. We say stuff like ‘large scale linux sysadmin’ as a way to qualify what kind of sysadmin we’re looking for, so in the same vein it makes sense to look for a ‘devops systems engineer‘.

A bunch of elitists

Going off of a post by Patrick Debois on what devops is it’s not that infrequent to run into someone believing in the equivalent of

devops is just a bunch of European sysadmins, many of whom know each other. Is this just an elitist club? Some kind of rebranding exercise?

Adding devops to a job title might only worsen that situation and when its brought into a new organisation with developers and sysadmins.  It might just create unnecessary tension. But this is also entirely avoidable. You can hire a senior developer that is experienced with large scale codebases to beef up your team and have the same problem because they will throw around that ‘senior’ or ‘large scale’ words. Perceived elitism derived from a title won’t survive the impact with reality if the person is humble and focused on generating values for others.

Companies looking for devops want someone to do two jobs

It has never happened to me directly, but I have heard several people talking about this. I feel like this is a direct consequence of ignorance about the true meaning of devops and something you’re bound to have with any job offering if you run into clueless companies.

This is effectively easy to spot the moment you get to talk to someone for an interview. The best we can do to fix this is to keep educating people as a community and promote the right values in our current businesses.

Your responsibilities do not change, so why should your title?

Maybe I’m conflating the meaning of the word ‘responsibilities‘, but just the other day one of the ops guys I work with told me: we need to go to their meeting because it will help us re-opening a dialog with the other devs. It caught me almost by surprise, but that’s exactly it, in that statement there was a sense of responsibility when it comes to communications and dialog with developers. Like it’s been said many times you could just say that this change is part of the evolution of positions that already existed and that there is no need to add a new one, but nobody is, at least not I.

There is a difference between saying ‘I am a devops‘ and creating a silo devops team, and saying ‘I am a devops sysadmin‘ part of the sysadmin team. It may sound redundant, but it actually makes a huge difference in broadcasting that communication and dialog with other departments are not just a nice to have, but a core part of what you believe your responsibilities to be.

What’s your devops challenge?

If you work in a company that’s hiring devops people I’d love to hear from you and about your current challenges. I’ve heard from a lot of recruiters in the past few months and it’s been very interesting to see their side of their story. It’d be great to hear from more people on the ground, especially sysadmins and developers, that have ran into any of the problems above and would like to share their experience so that we can learn from them. Thanks.


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