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It’s easier to build essential DevOps skills than find them

DevOps requires the right tools and culture, but a shortage of IT talent will hinder any organization's efforts. The good news? Talent isn't hard to find.

While an effective culture shift may, on the surface, seem like the most difficult aspect of implementing DevOps, there's one very real problem that arguably poses an even greater challenge: a shortage of IT workers with the essential DevOps skills.

Don Rheem, CEO of E3 Solutions, recently mentioned in a piece from SearchITOperations that the U.S. is hovering around 4.4% unemployment; yet, there are still 5.9 million unfilled jobs. What that gap suggests, in short, is that training and retention are more important than ever, especially when it comes to highly skilled technical workers.

Efforts to grow DevOps competency within your organization simply cannot afford to rely on outsiders, given how rare IT talent is these days. If a worthwhile hire happens to come along, that's great, but your plan shouldn't count on it. Instead, use the resources at hand: The use of internal training programs to help the talent you already have improve and acquire new essential DevOps skills is a more reliable way to plan for the future.

Kevin Burnett, Senior Software Engineer, Rosetta StoneKevin Burnett

Perhaps more importantly, relying on existing IT talent can help in the shift toward DevOps because of the cachet that those employees may already have within the company. Someone with experience, demonstrated abilities and familiarity with the company is more likely to command the respect of their colleagues. As Kevin Burnett, the DevOps lead for Rosetta Stone, astutely pointed out to SearchITOperations, "If people don't listen to your DevOps people, your change initiatives will not get anywhere."

Training and retention are more important than ever, especially when it comes to highly skilled technical workers.

It's not just a matter of building essential DevOps skills internally and "creating talent." You need to hold onto it, too. The takeaway here is that technical skills are in high demand in today's market, so businesses need to give their IT workers a reason to stick around. While offering various perks and incentives can help to some extent, it's more important to foster a sense of ownership among DevOps talent.

And, hopefully, this shouldn't be too difficult. If your training programs and focus on internal development are revolving around certain existing employees, there's a good chance that the reason they're ideal candidates is because of their experience with the company. Encouraging that genuine connection to the organization and its goals helps create a sense of ownership and, more importantly, it's what helps keep employees engaged.

DevOps skills transform sysadmins into SREs

If they want a future in DevOps, IT ops pros need to know how the write and script code. Sysadmins who've yet to adapt to DevOps face extinction. Those who've made the jump from sysadmin to site reliability engineer have some advice for you.

There's one last thing to keep in mind, though: Everything in moderation. While it's good for employees to have well-defined sectors of accountability, the responsibility of managing entire systems shouldn't fall on the shoulders of just one or two workers. If your company is using on-call rotations, keep them within reason, and be sure to offer an amount of paid time off that's fair. Burnout isn't just a threat to employees' quality of work -- it could end up being the reason they take their IT talents elsewhere in a market that desperately needs them.

Next Steps

The role of IT managers in enterprise-wide DevOps adoption

Why we're hiring DevOps talent

Apply DevOps practices to legacy IT

This was last published in October 2017

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