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Career paths for devops engineers and SREs

It can be hard to focus on your career when you spend your work days meeting very challenging implementation deadlines or resolving the latest priority incidents. But focusing too much on today’s challenges or using job changes as a prompt for career planning can lead you down a path you’ll be less excited about over time.

Although everyone should have medium- and long-term career goals, my experience is that people who work in IT struggle to define them. “Are you on a technical or leadership track?” Human resources asked me when I was younger, and they followed up with courses to develop technical skills. Once HR identified me as a “high potential,” they made available generic leadership programs that were not specific to technology, data, or transformation responsibilities.

Marcus Merrell, Vice President of Technology Strategy at Sauce Labs, says, “It’s no secret that career growth varies from company to company and person to person, but this is especially true for developers and SREs. [site reliability engineers] whose career growth goals are often not as clearly defined or standardized as in other industries.

I advise you to take control of your career path, especially if you are interested in leadership roles. I have a career checklist for people who work in product, developer, and data management roles. For this article, I asked several DevOps experts to offer recommendations for developers and site reliability engineers who want to further their career goals and identify a career path.

A commitment to permanent learning

Engineers know that they must learn new technology and develop their skills, but that is just the beginning of a commitment to lifelong learning. Here are some questions to consider:

  • What types of problems and technologies do you like to work on?
  • What industries arouse your interest?
  • Do you prefer to work with small teams or enjoy the challenges of large-scale innovations?
  • What leadership roles do you enjoy and want to invest in to build your confidence?

Engineers must also stay informed about industry trends, especially the long-term impacts of machine learning and automation. AIops platforms help resolve incidents faster and enable SREs to perform more accurate root cause analysis, while DeepMind AlphaCode beat 47.5% of programmers in coding competencies. Does that mean developers and SREs will be obsolete over the next decade?

“While impressive, AI will not replace humans. Rather, it will help them by automating repetitive tasks and analyzing large amounts of data in real time,” says Marko Anastasov, co-founder of Semaphore CI/CD and RenderedText. “AIops will mature DevOps practices, and engineers and SREs must be prepared to embrace and take advantage of these new boundary-pushing technologies.”

A commitment to lifelong learning requires investing time to develop skills, study trends, and step out of your comfort zone into different experiences. Over time, you’ll learn where growth opportunities match up with your long-term interests.

You may be wondering how to pursue lifelong learning without it becoming a second job. To advance your desired career path, Merrell recommends finding synergies with your employer’s goals:

  • Understand and address the needs and risks of the organization
  • Take time to innovate and think about the journey your business is on
  • Participate in training programs.
  • Identify experience and mentoring opportunities.

The following is a list of possible career paths for DevOps and SRE Engineers.

If you like technology, become a complete expert

I define expert in two ways: first, engineers who develop a deep understanding of selected technologies and aspire to master them; second, engineers who develop the skills to develop technical acumen across many domains, platforms, tools, and methodologies. Technological acumen means running efficient proofs of concept, gaining objectivity about how to apply different technologies, and getting rid of biases towards technologies that worked well before.

So where should you focus on building your expertise when there are so many technology domains? Here are two suggestions.

If you’re a developer, Dave Thompson, Blameless’ head of engineering, suggests: “Continued advancements in product engineering practices and tools present the opportunity for employers to gain competitive advantages in terms of productivity, reduced time to market, and operational reliability. Employees who understand these practices and develop expertise in the tools to support them will be highly sought after and well compensated.”

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For cloud and infrastructure engineers, David Ben Shabat, Quali’s vice president of R&D, says provisioning remains a challenge. “With innovation around infrastructure provisioning and management being driven by highly trained professionals, there is a complexity that is not accessible to all skill levels. This opens the doors for devops engineers to accumulate a broad knowledge base that they can apply to different roles as technologies, methodologies, and practices evolve.”

If you love solving problems, switch to the left and right of your current role

Solving today’s business challenges requires multidisciplinary teams and integrated solutions. If you’re a problem solver, move on to other organizational roles and develop broader perspectives on what it takes to deliver holistic solutions.

One opportunity for developers is to shift into data science and machine learning roles. Tiago Cardoso, Product Manager at Hyland, says, “Career paths for developers have become much more flexible and individualized, and I see many new developer roles emerging, such as data engineers, ML engineers, ML architects, and more. MLops. engineers

He adds: “Common career paths for those in development and SRE include positions such as system administrator, infrastructure engineer, and cloud architect.” I also recommend moving away from traditional infrastructure and operations responsibilities to consider roles in information security, business service management, and capacity planning.

Technical experts who influence agile teams become architects

The roles and responsibilities of architects vary considerably from organization to organization, but successful architects are more than just technical experts. Architects extend their expertise by helping agile teams learn, apply, and create self-organizing standards around the use of technology to deliver business solutions.

Anastasov says that scale technology organizations need to address the expansion of tools and stacks. “As tech companies grow, they must juggle dozens of different stacks, with each team having their preferred tools and frameworks. At some point, complexity slows down development,” he says.

Cody De Arkland, director of developer relations at LaunchDarkly, says, “As technologies have matured and implementations have grown, senior people in development and SRE roles have the opportunity to move into architecture roles or even management roles. internal consulting, helping to ensure that the platforms are built and running. delivered in high quality.”

Therein lies the opportunity for devops engineers and SREs to become architects and evolve platform engineering practices. De Arkland continues: “Individuals can become domain experts and be responsible for helping guide organizations to implement these technologies successfully.”

Partner with HR and IT leaders

You don’t have to discover your career path on your own. HR and IT leaders should be included in your discovery efforts. Partnering with your organization’s leaders will allow them to introduce you to opportunities, including mentoring, special projects, and outside-in learning opportunities.

Dayna Perry, Conga’s director of people, shares an HR leader’s perspective on helping employees develop their career paths. “In the midst of a tumultuous job market and unprecedented economic change, HR leaders need to remember that it’s all about attracting talent and people,” she says. “This means spending the time and resources to establish a well-defined foundation for company culture, various learning opportunities, and a clear career path for employees.”

Perry continues: “These tactics will enable digital pioneers, such as devops engineers and SREs, to continue to invest in growing their foundational skill development and prepare for when their companies or clients are ready to expand and adopt the key technologies they oversee.” “.

In other words, architects focus on implementing current technologies in a standard way, while digital pioneers think about next steps to transform their organizations.

You invested money in your education and now you invest your energy with your employers. It’s time to think about taking ownership of your career path.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

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