5 Ways Ambitious DevOps Engineers Can Advance Their Careers

DevOps engineers have much to offer their organizations beyond developing CI/CD pipelines, configuring infrastructure as code, enabling AIOps capabilities, and other engineering practices that align with dev and ops objectives.

DevOps Careers

DevOps, Product Management, Career Checklist

If you’re an ambitious DevOps engineer, I’ve already published a career checklist to help you roadmap learning experiences that prepare you for leadership roles. I also wrote an article for InfoWorld on career paths for devops engineers and SREs.

Today’s post focuses on the here and now. What can you, as a DevOps engineer, do in your daily work that can help advance your career? Here are five recommendations.

1.      Sign up for the most challenging assignments

 “Taking on new challenges and volunteering for projects accelerates the career growth of DevOps engineers because it fosters adaptability and the continuous pursuit of expertise,” says Marko Anastasov, co-founder of Semaphore CI/CD.

As I said in my book, Digital Trailblazer, “Step out of your comfort zone.” If you’re doing work today that you learned how to do yesterday, it’s hard to advance your career. Whether you work with new people, learn new technologies, or partner on complex assignments, stepping into the unknown and building your confidence are keys to advancing your career.

2.      Define DevOps as services with customers and value propositions

Shadi Rostami, SVP of Engineering at Amplitude, recommends, “To promote an engineer’s growth and advancement to the next level, firsthand experience with customers is extremely valuable. For DevOps engineers, customers may include internal teams as they create tools for external teams, and engineers meet with internal and external customers regularly.”

StarCIO Vision Statement Template

I am a strong proponent of designating customers, identifying value propositions, and documenting vision statements for all programs. Without this alignment, it’s easy for DevOps engineers to get lost in the weeds chasing KPI improvements that make little impact.

Rostami continues, “When DevOps engineers directly connect with customers, they can better comprehend their problems and goals. They can also gain insight into what additional solutions customers require to achieve their objectives. Engineers who can internalize the context of customer problems can create an impact ten times greater than that of other technologists.”

3.      Focus on collaboration, demonstrate innovation, drive outcomes

Identifying customers and value propositions is an important first step, but achieving true DevOps objectives occurs when they collaborate with teams and stakeholders.

DevOps want to be able to show stakeholders, “When we implement X, it drives Y innovation capabilities aiming for Z outcomes.” For example, “We’re implementing AIOps for these mission-critical customer-facing applications to help identify problem root causes and reduce the mean time to resolve incidents.”

“DevOps extends beyond tools and processes, and DevOps teams are successful when operations engineers are well-rounded team players,” says Anant Adya, EVP at Infosys Cobalt. “To advance a career in DevOps, engineers must prioritize collaboration and continued innovation. Innovative and collaborative teams focused on calculated risk-taking drive DevOps success.“

4.      Become a DevOps teacher and drive platform engineering practices.

If you want to advance your career, don’t just implement, become a teacher. Show others how to implement the best practices you develop, document, and institutionalize as standards.

“One way DevOps engineers can advance their careers is to learn paired scaling,” says Bryon Kroger, founder, and CEO of Rise8. “Paired scaling is the practice wherein two knowledge workers collaborate over the same asset in real-time.”

Kroger explains how paired scaling works. He says, “Often, one serves as the driver, directly advancing the work product, while the other acts as the navigator, providing real-time evaluation and feedback. Team members switch roles frequently. By learning this technique, DevOps engineers can launch and scale their very own fully compliant DevSecOps software better, faster, and cheaper.”

If you’re in a large enterprise, you may also want to lead the evolution of DevOps to platform engineering practices.   

5.      Identify career opportunities that target growth objectives and learning cultures

Is DevOps only a productivity and quality driver at your organization? Or do executives seek to use DevOps practices and capabilities to improve customer experiences, create new products, and drive revenue?

Is DevOps only about automation, or do business and technical leaders acknowledge that digital transformation is a core competency and promote a culture of lifelong learning?

Kroger shared this second recommendation for DevOps engineers. “I would also suggest looking for the right work environments at companies that lead with a growth mindset where DevOps engineers can learn and thrive. Get that right, and the rest just follows.”

I couldn’t agree more. If you haven’t reviewed this already, please review my career checklist.

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About Isaac Sacolick

Isaac Sacolick is President of StarCIO, a technology leadership company that guides organizations on building digital transformation core competencies. He is the author of Digital Trailblazer and the Amazon bestseller Driving Digital and speaks about agile planning, devops, data science, product management, and other digital transformation best practices. Sacolick is a recognized top social CIO, a digital transformation influencer, and has over 900 articles published at InfoWorld, CIO.com, his blog Social, Agile, and Transformation, and other sites. You can find him sharing new insights @NYIke on Twitter, his Driving Digital Standup YouTube channel, or during the Coffee with Digital Trailblazers.