Why “Junior DevOps” Is Not a Real Thing
The development world can be rather harsh for those trying to break into the DevOps arena.
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No Country for Young Men
When engaging technology talent for our Clients, we came across an interesting observation. With software engineers, we are guided by a widely-accepted system, which implies graduation from junior- to senior-level specialists. However, when it comes to DevOps, the gradation starts at the middle level and candidates must have at least 3 years of experience.
Our experience at NCube shows that it is impossible to create DevOps remote teams of junior software developers. Let’s delve into the reasoning behind this fact.
Stiff Requirements and A High Level of Responsibility
First off, let’s take a look at the challenges of setting up a DevOps development environment:
- Rolling out development, testing, pre-prod and production environments;
- Configuring data transition cross the environments;
- Development of backup and rollout mechanisms;
- Implementing effective monitoring with some prediction, data visualization And Logging;
- Conducting testing of accident scenarios;
- Continuously developing changes and integrations;
- Documenting settings and change requests;
- Reporting to engineering management.
Too much to have on one plate for a junior, isn’t it? Such specialists, no matter how good he or she is, will only be able to cover monitoring and some basic installation tasks. A tiny mistake caused by the lack of relevant experience can bring a development team down, resulting in release delay or even a solution failure. Incidents like this one are often exacerbated by financial losses and reputational damages:
2. Repetitive Tasks vs. Smart Tasks
An accomplished DevOps specialist can set up a fully automatic system, identify failures before they occur and eliminate any issues hassle-free and with minimum impact.
DevOps engineers’ performance cannot be simply measured in terms of hours or cups of coffee. Our CTO and CSO prefer to use such parameters as RPO (recovery point objective), RTO (recovery time objective), plus costs of data leak and costs of downtime. There is nothing groundbreaking about this approach. We recall that Ford’s service workers only received money for hours when they rested. When the conveyor belt was working smoothly, they had a rest. But while the red lamp marking its breakdown was lit, the hours they spent repairing were unpaid. Thus, it was in the workers’ interest to fix the belt as fast as possible and ensure high quality.
A junior has fingers in many pots wasting too much time on self-education, which is often reduced to googling. For this reason, they find it hard to make proper decisions in a complex situation. If we look at tasks that can be completed up to the highest levels of standard in juniors and seniors, the number will be in favor of the letter.
3. Lack of Formal Education
Strangely enough, DevOps is a craft you cannot simply learn in college. DevOps are mostly people who switched from related fields and are often self-taught. Programming and computer networks are two disciplines that are most close to this field. The lion’s share of knowledge can be gained through online courses or self-education that involves reading specialized manuals. However, skilled programmers or network engineers do not necessarily want to switch to DevOps.
4. DevOps Is Tied to The Experience-Job Circle
We all know how hard it is to start from square one, especially for college graduates. Programmers, on the other hand, can get involved in internships or start with pet projects pushing code to the public Github account. Even simple activities like these will help in building up a programmer’s background for further career development based on knowledge and experience.
The simplest way to become a DevOps engineer is not to pursue this career path straight away. Instead, it’s best to take time to study a related specialization like system administration and then to make a smart switch. The requirements are stiff even for an assistant of Lead DevOps in distributed teams. It means that a professional we sometimes mistake for a junior DevOps is already an accomplished specialist in another related field. Besides, it is hard to call someone at the age of 30 and with 8 years of commercial experience, a “junior.”
5. High Demand in The Tech Recruiting World
DevOps is one of the most complicated vacancies to fill. Companies usually target seniors with salaries going through the roof. In a market like this, it is irrational to invest in educating junior specialists. Only huge service companies and enterprises like banks and telecommunication can afford that. For a small studio, it makes no sense to invest in growing a DevOps team, as the specialists will be looking for new opportunities after 1-2 years.
6. How Developers Work in DevOps Teams
Developers tend to be extremely picky when choosing teammates. They can tolerate entry-level experience for QA engineers, coordinators, and in some instances, for software developers. However, the team will certainly advise against junior DevOps. More likely, they will ask their experienced colleagues to set up the systems to avoid the risks associated with junior specialists.
If you like to automate IT system functioning, now is the perfect time to switch to DevOps path. The barrier to entry is high, but this career is one of the most profitable. Additionally, switchers to DevOps are going to meet more intense competition in 2-3 years because this position will become as common as a programmer or QA engineer.
To Employers and Recruiters:
Aim at DevOps engineers with system administration or networks engineering experience, as career switchers are usually fast learners and will drive more value as part of software engineering teams in the future. If you want to nurture juniors by investing in long-term education (3 months and more), have a hold down strategy because other companies will probably attempt to poach them.
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